Sina Wittmann joins IMB as a Group Leader


The Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB) is proud to announce that Dr Sina Wittmann has been appointed as our newest group leader. Sina joins us from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Germany. Her new research group will investigate how protein disorder and phase separation help regulate transcription.

Transcription is the process by which cells produce RNAs, which are in turn translated into proteins. To ensure that the correct protein is produced at the right time and place, transcription is tightly regulated by transcription factors – proteins which scan the DNA looking for binding sites that indicate the beginning of a gene, and once they bind, begin recruiting the hundreds of proteins needed to activate transcription.

One notable feature of transcription factors is that they contain an extremely high amount of protein disorder – that is, they have regions which do not fold into a fixed 3D structure, but instead are flexible and dynamically change their shape. These so-called intrinsically disordered regions allow transcription factors to interact with and recruit other proteins, as well as to separate themselves from the surrounding medium through a phenomenon called phase separation.

Phase separation occurs when biomolecules (such as proteins) condense to form droplets within another liquid, like droplets of oil forming in water. This allows the proteins to become concentrated and physically separate themselves from the surrounding nucleoplasm, creating a transcriptional ‘bubble’ on the DNA. Sina’s group is working to investigate how phase separation helps regulate transcription. They are particularly interested in finding out how transcriptional droplets form, which proteins they contain and how they control gene activation. By characterising and studying the proteins in transcriptional droplets, Sina’s work will help us to gain new insights into how transcription factors work together to ensure that the correct genes are always activated at the right place and right time, and how this may be perturbed in disease.

Further details

Sina Wittmann is a Group Leader at IMB. Further information about research in the Wittmann lab can be found at www.imb.de/wittmann

About the Institute of Molecular Biology gGmbH

The Institute of Molecular Biology gGmbH (IMB) is a centre of excellence in the life sciences that was established in 2011 on the campus of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU). Research at IMB focuses on the cutting-edge fields of epigenetics, genome stability, ageing and RNA biology. The institute is a prime example of successful collaboration between a private foundation and government: The Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation has committed 154 million euros to be disbursed from 2009 until 2027 to cover the operating costs of research at IMB. The State of Rhineland-Palatinate has provided approximately 50 million euros for the construction of a state-of-the-art building and is giving a further 52 million in core funding from 2020 until 2027. For more information about IMB, please visit: www.imb.de.

Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation

The Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation is an independent, non-profit organization that is committed to the promotion of the medical, biological, chemical, and pharmaceutical sciences. It was established in 1977 by Hubertus Liebrecht (1931–1991), a member of the shareholder family of the Boehringer Ingelheim company. Through its funding programmes Plus 3, Exploration Grants and Rise up!, the Foundation supports excellent scientists during critical stages of their careers. It also endows the international Heinrich Wieland Prize, as well as awards for up-and-coming scientists in Germany. In addition, the Foundation funds institutional projects in Germany, such as the Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB) and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg. www.boehringer-ingelheim-stiftung.de/en

Press contact for further information

Dr Ralf Dahm, Director of Scientific Management

Institute of Molecular Biology gGmbH (IMB), Ackermannweg 4, 55128 Mainz, Germany

Phone: +49 (0) 6131 39 21455, Email: press(at)imb.de