Göttinger Graduiertenschule für Neurowissenschaften, Biophysik und Molekulare Biowissenschaften

Pena, Vladimir, Dr.

Research Group Leader at the MPI for Biophysical Chemistry


  • since 2014: Research group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Goettingen, Germany
  • 2010-2013: Group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Goettingen, Germany
  • 2006-2010: Postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Goettingen, Germany
  • 2001-2005: PhD at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), Heidelberg, Germany
  • 1999-2001: Research assistant at the Institute of Biochemistry, University of Bucharest, Romania
  • 1995-2000: Study of Biochemistry at the University of Bucharest, Romania



Major Research Interests

The majority of genes in higher eukaryotes contain protein-coding exons that can be joined in a combinatorial fashion. The process, termed pre-mRNA splicing, is an essential step in gene expression, and it expands tremendously the proteome and the complexity of an organism. Our goal is to understand the structural basis of pre-mRNA splicing. Here we place particular emphasis on the spliceosome's regulation, as well as on the misregulation that causes various diseases.

DNA catalysts are an increasingly important topic in the work pursued in our laboratory. The surprisingly complex fold that these molecules adopt raises questions about the structural importance of DNA in the cell, and it enables us to manipulate the molecules' properties for technological applications.

For our investigations we make use of biochemistry, X-ray crystallography and - increasingly - electron microscopy.



Homepage Department/Research Group

http://www.mpibpc.mpg.de/home/pena/


Selected Recent Publications


  • Cretu C., Schmitzová J., Ponce-Salvatierra A., Dybkov O., De Laurentiis E.I., Sharma K., Will C.L., Urlaub H., Lührmann R., Pena V. (2016). Molecular architecture of SF3b and structural consequences of its cancer-related mutations. Molecular Cell (in press)
  • Rauhut R., Fabrizio P., Dybkov O., Hartmuth K., Pena V., Chari A., Kumar V., Lee CT., Urlaub H., Kastner B., Stark H., Lührmann R. (2016). Molecular architecture of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae activated spliceosome. Science (in press)
  • Ponce-Salvatierra A., Wawrzyniak-Turek K., Steuerwald U., Höbartner C. and Pena V. (2016). Crystal structure of a DNA catalyst. Nature 529(7585):231-4
  • De I., Schmitzova J., Pena V. (2016). The organization and contribution of helicases to RNA splicing. WIREs RNA 7(2):259-74
  • De I., Bessonov S., Hofele R., dos Santos K., Will C.L., Urlaub H., Lührmann R., Pena V. (2015). The RNA helicase Aquarius exhibits structural adaptations mediating its recuitment to spliceosomes. Nature Struct Mol Biol 22(2):138-44
  • Schmitzová J. and Pena V. (2012). Emerging views about the molecular structure of the spliceosomal catalytic centre. RNA Biol 9 (11), 1311-1318
  • Schmitzová J., Rasche N., Dybkov O., Kramer K., Fabrizio P., Urlaub H., Lührmann R., and Pena V. (2012). Crystal structure of Cwc2 reveals a novel architecture of a multipartite RNA-binding protein. EMBO J. 31, 2222-34