The Cellular Phenotype at a Molecular Level
Coding Computer Programs to Decode Cellular Programs
I am interested in understanding the processes involved in the projection of information encompassed by the genome into a population of biomolecules of defined concentrations – which in the end determine the specific phenotype of a cell at the molecular level. RNA molecules are playing a key role here, as transcription is in all organisms an indispensable step of gene expression, regardless whether the produced RNA is proteinogenic or not. Experimental methods to survey a cell’s RNA content were until very recently restricted to interrogations of sequences that were known to be transcribed. With the successful application of high-throughput sequencing technologies to investigate the cellular RNA complement without any a priori knowledge about its composition, the path is now open for a plentitude of novel analyzes.
In my work, I try to study systematically the molecular mechanisms that act during the expression of genes by explorative bioinformatics approaches backed up with corresponding sequencing experiments. During the development of in silico models, a special focus is put on the aspect of thermodynamics, i.e., the quantities and kinetics of mutual interactions amongst different players in a cell. My students and me we aim at establishing an integrative bioinformatics paradigm that can be applied to answer open questions about cellular RNA compositions as the net balance between synthesis, differential processing, and targeted degradation. Along our way we find many interesting insights about biology that piece by piece shed light on the mechanisms that drive a cell‘s program.