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Research Profile

Research in the Institute of Toxicology and Genetics focuses on the elucidation of molecular and cellular interactions at functional interfaces.

A major aim is the identification of molecules that play key roles in cellular signaling, in differentiation and proliferation, during embryonic development, and under pathophysiological conditions. Further topics cover proteomics, genomics and molecular toxicology. Through close cooperation with chemists and physicists, these new findings will be used to guide the rational design of new tools for controlling the behaviour of cells in vivo and in vitro. These tools include for example pharmacological substances, so-called ‘smart drugs’ and biofunctionalized surfaces for the cultivation of stem cells.


All research projects are part of the ‘BioInterfaces’ programme of the research area ‘Key Technologies’ of the Helmholtz Association. The aim of this program is to enable the control of cell function and behavior, especially that of stem cells, through an transdisciplinary approach involving close collaboration with physics, chemistry, and engineering.


  • Signal transduction from cell surface to nucleus to control proliferation, differentiation, and migration
  • Transcription factors (AP-1, AP-2, bHLH-factors, tumor suppressors) and their target genes
  • Mode of action of steroid hormone receptors
  • Functional characterization of genes that play a role in tumor metastasis
  • Generation of blood and lymph vessels (angiogenesis)
  • Investigation of control genes that act early in the development of the zebrafish
  • Development of the nervouse system and the eye
  • Generation of mouse mutants to study human diseases, e.g. muscular dystrophies
  • Toxicity of nanoparticles, fine and ultra-fine particulate matter and organo-metallic compounds
  • Cell damage by UV-light and g-rays
  • Endocrine and metabolic regulation of the cell cycle
  • Function, expression, and regulation of ‘circadian clock’ genes that govern diurnal rhythms
  • Regulation of intracellular signaling pathways and biochemical modifications of the proteins involved
  • Visualization of signaling pathways in skeletal muscle in vivo; linking function and pathology
  • Cell polarity and proliferation
  • In situ sum-frequency-generation spectroscopy of biomolecules at interfaces
  • High-content screening, image processing and bioinformatic information harvesting
  • Development of functional and stimuli-responsive polymer materials