|Maite Aguado is interested in biodiversity, evolution and development of different groups of invertebrates. Her research is currently focused in the postembrionary development of Syllidae, a particularly abundant group of annelids. Her lab has recently worked with gene expression patterns during sexual reproduction and regeneration of syllids.
|Christoph Bleidorn is working on the evolution of Wolbachia bacteria and their arthropod hosts using genomic approaches. He led studies unravelling and dating the evolutionary history of Wolbachia supergroups. Besides Wolbachia, he is working on annelid evolution and the development of phylogenetic methods. Being involved in teaching phylogenomics at different levels, including bachelor, master and graduate school courses, he summarized his experience in the textbook “Phylogenomics – an introduction” published in 2017 by Springer.
|Sven Bradler: My research focuses on the study of macroevolutionary patterns of taxononomic diversity, morphological disparity and biogeographic distribution in a phylogenetic framework. I use stick and leaf insects (insect order Phasmatodea) as a model system. Phasmatodeans form a mesodiverse lineage of large terrestrial herbivores with predominantly tropical distribution and few species inhabiting more temperate regions. These insects are usually nocturnal and exhibit extreme forms of masquerade crypsis, imitating various parts of plants such as twigs, bark and live or dead leaves.
|Gregor Bucher is interested in the gene regulatory network of head development and the evolution of the brain focusing on the central complex. Further, his lab has been contributing to efforts applying RNAi to eco-friendly pest control. He led a genome wide RNAi screen in the red flour beetle Tribolium castaneum and his lab has been developing novel transgenic tools.
|Mette Handberg-Thorsager: How does a complex organism develop from a single cell? Mette Handberg-Thorsager studies the embryo of the ragworm Platynereis dumerilii to understand the interplay between molecular and cellular-physical mechanisms acting during spiralian development. She combines mRNA injections, whole-embryo live-imaging, single cell sequencing and in situ whole mount hybridization to capture the dynamics and molecular players of development. Her specific aim is to shed light onto the contribution of the cell division patterns and the differentiation path of a cell to the formation of the spiralian cell types and tissues.
|Ralf Heinrich is interested in apoptosis and pharmacological intervention with apoptotic processes to support cell survival, functionality and regeneration. In this context, we have characterized the orphan cytokine receptor CRLF3, which is expressed in various tissues throughout eumetazoan species, as an ancient receptor that is sensitive to erythropoietin-like ligands. Ongoing studies find more parallels between the complex apoptosis regulatory networks of vertebrates with locusts and beetles, but not with dipteran flies.
|Conrad Helm is interested in the development and anatomy of organ systems in Annelida and related taxa. In this respect, he is using a broad range of methods including immunohistochemical analyses, histological staining procedures and ultrastructural investigations as well as gene expression analyses and phylogenomic approaches. With focus on invertebrate evolution, ontogenetic analyses of marine larvae and evolutionary questions related to the origin of organ systems and cell types, he is culturing and investigating several marine invertebrate species – a vast majority of them Annelida.
|Daniel J. Jackson is interested in the molecular mechanisms of molluscan shell formation and the way in which these processes evolved. His efforts are focused on the identification of the complete set of biomineralizing effector genes in the pulmonate gastropod Lymnaea stagnalis, and on identifying the gene regulatory and cellular communication events that coordinate the initiation of shell formation in the early snail embryo. To these ends his team is also developing methods to characterize gene function in this nontraditional model organism.
|Peter Lenart is interested how the actin and microtubule cytoskeleton organizes oocytes and early embryos; how cytoskeletal elements position centrosomes, nucleus, the division plane and stored mRNAs in these exceptionally large cells, and how this leads to the establishment of the primary animal-vegetal polarity. The lab uses marine model systems including the starfish, Patiria miniata and the jellyfish, Clytia hemisphaerica that are exceptionally suited for high-resolution livecell microscopy assays, which are frequently combined in his lab with quantitative image analysis and biophysical modeling to reveal conserved principles of cellular organization.
|Marieke Oudelaar studies the 3D organisation of the genome in the nucleus and how regulatory elements function within this context to control gene expression. To this end, her lab develops high-resolution Chromosome Conformation Capture (3C) techniques, which they use in combination with other genomic techniques, genetic perturbations, and computational approaches. They focus on the interplay between genome organisation and regulation during differentiation and development, and how perturbations in these processes contribute to disease.
|Nico Posnien: The size and shape of a complex organ is defined during its development by the action of gene regulatory networks, which ensure the tightly controlled expression of developmental genes. Changes in the function and regulation of those genes during development account for variation in various morphological traits. Nico Posnien combines genomics, quantitative genetics, developmental genetics and geometric morphometrics approaches to identify the molecular changes underlying morphological evolution in flies and beetles.
|Jochen Rink: Our group is fascinated by tissue formation. What determines shape, size and proportions of developing tissues? How is the balance set between addition of new cells and removal of old ones? Or during regeneration, how can the remaining tissue rebuild exactly the body parts that have been lost due to injury? We are addressing these questions in a fascinating new model system with a long lab history, planarian flatworms.
|Vera Terblanche Hunnekuhl is interested in the insect brain and ventral nervous system, with a focus on the genetic control of neurosecretory cell type specification. Currently her work focusses on the beetle Tribolium castaneum. However, with a strong interest in diverging developmental patterns, Vera has previously worked in a range of non-traditional model systems including annelids, amphipod crustaceans and centipedes. In the lab we combine genetic cell labelling techniques with analysis of gene function using RNAi, CRISPR-Cas9 and further molecular techniques.
|Miquel Vila Farré: I am a zoologist with broad interest in animal diversity and life history traits. Currently I am studying the evolution of regeneration in planarians. For that I use the MPI collection of living wild planarians that contains species with varied ability to regenerate. I plan to continue using this collection in the future, combined with further field work to understand the evolutionary process that shape planarian diversity.
|Ernst Wimmer: The research in the department of developmental biology covers a variety of developmental processes, their molecular basis, and their evolutionary conservation or diversification. In addition, novel approaches to insect pest management are developed using developmental genes and molecular biology tools. The animal model systems used at the department include a series of arthropods (insects, crustaceans).