Structure and Stability of the Epi(Genome) Working Group

The Structure and Stability of the Epi(Genome) working group, led by Robert Hänsel-Hertsch, PhD, is researching the existence and significance of age-related structural changes in the epigenome and their effects on the development of disease. It is therefore possible that the structure of the genome changes significantly with age and that mammals can be predisposed to the development of diseases such as cancer or degenerative disorders. The working group is also investigating whether specific age-related or cancer-related structural changes in the epigenome are of diagnostic and therapeutic value.

The working group is addressing the following conceptional questions:

  • Are epigenome changes “passengers” or “drivers” of age in mammals?
  • Are there certain epigenome structural states that promote genome stability and disease development?
  • Can age-related epigenome changes be suppressed and extend the lifespan of mammals?
  • Are specific epigenome states of diagnostic and therapeutic value?

We develop and use genomics technologies to answer these questions.

Selected publications

R. Hänsel-Hertsch, J. Spiegel, G. Marsico, D. Tannahill, S. Balasubramanian.
Genome-wide mapping of endogenous G-quadruplex DNA structures by chromatin immunoprecipitation and high-throughput sequencing.
Nature Protocols (2018), 13: 551-564, 5-year IF 2018: 15.1.
PubMed PMID: 29470465

R. Hänsel-Hertsch, Simeone A, Shea A, Hui WWI, Zyner KG, Marsico G, Rueda OM, Bruna A, Martin A, Zhang X, Adhikari S, Tannahill D, Caldas C, Balasubramanian S.
Landscape of G-quadruplex DNA structural regions in breast cancer.
Nat Genet. 2020 Sep;52(9):878-883
PubMed PMID: 32747825

A. Parry, M. Hoare, D. Bihary, R. Hänsel-Hertsch, S. Smith, K. Tomimatsu, S. Balasubramanian, H. Kimura, S. Samarajiwa, M. Narita.
NOTCH-mediated non-cell autonomous regulation of chromatin structure during senescence.
Nature Communications (2018), 9: 1840, 5-year IF 2018: 13.8.
PubMed PMID: 30275516

R. Hänsel-Hertsch, M. Di Antonio, S. Balasubramanian.
DNA G‑quadruplexes in the human genome: detection, functions and therapeutic potential.
Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology (2017), 18: 279-284, 5-year IF 2018: 49.6.
PubMed PMID: 28225080

R. Hänsel-Hertsch, D. Beraldi, S.V. Lensing, G. Marsico, K. Zyner, A. Parry, M. Di Antonio, J. Pike, H. Kimura, M. Narita, D. Tannahill, S. Balasubramanian.
G-quadruplex structures mark human regulatory chromatin.
Nature Genetics (2016), 10: 1267-72, 5-year IF 2018: 31.1.
PubMed PMID: 27618450

R. Hänsel, F. Löhr, L. Trantirek, V. Dötsch.
High-resolution insight into G-overhang architecture.
Journal of the American Chemical Society (2013), 135: 2816-24, 5-year IF 2018: 14.7.
PubMed PMID: 23339582

L.M. Luh, R. Hänsel, F. Löhr, D.K. Kirchner, K. Krauskopf, S. Pitzius, B. Schäfer, P. Tufar, I. Corbeski, P. Güntert, V. Dötsch.
Molecular crowding drives active Pin1 into nonspecific complexes with endogenous proteins prior to substrate recognition.
Journal of the American Chemical Society (2013), 135: 13796-803, 5-year IF 2018: 14.7.
PubMed PMID: 23968199

I. Krstić, R. Hänsel, O. Romainczyk, J.W. Engels, V. Dötsch, T.F. Prisner.
Long Range Distance Measurements on Nucleic Acids in cells by Pulsed EPR Spectroscopy.
Angewandte Chemie International Edition (2011), 50: 5070-4, 5-year IF 2018: 12.3.
PubMed PMID: 21506223

R. Hänsel, F. Löhr, S. Foldynova-Trantirkova, E. Bamberg, L. Trantirek, V. Dötsch.
The parallel G-quadruplex structure of vertebrate telomeric repeat sequences is not the preferred folding topology under physiological conditions.
Nucleic Acids Research (2011), 39: 5768-75, 5-year IF 2018: 11.2.
PubMed PMID: 21450807

R. Hänsel, S. Foldynova-Trantirkova, F. Löhr, J. Buck, E. Bamberg, H. Schwalbe, V. Dötsch, L. Trantirek.
Evaluation of parameters critical for observing nucleic acids inside living Xenopus laevis oocytes by in-cell NMR spectroscopy.
Journal of the American Chemical Society (2009), 131: 15761-8, 5-year IF 2018: 14.7.
PubMed PMID: 19824671

Curriculum Vitae
Academic education
06/13-11/13 Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, University of Cambridge, UK
(Mentor: Sir Prof. Shankar Balasubramanian)
11/09-06/13 PhD in Biochemistry (summa cum laude, 27/11/2013), Goethe University, Department of Biophysical Chemistry, Frankfurt/Main, Germany
(Mentor: Prof. Volker Dötsch)
01/12-03/12 University of Tokyo, Grad. School of Pharm. Sciences, Japan (JSPS Predoctoral Fellowship)
(Mentor: Prof. Ichio Shimada)
10/03-10/09 Diploma in Biochemistry (summa cum laude, 05/10/2009), Goethe University, Frankfurt/Main, Germany
(Mentor: Prof. Volker Dötsch)
Clinical course / work experience 
Since 08/2019 Junior group leader, Center for Molecular Medicine Cologne (CMMC), University of Cologne
11/13- 07/19 Postdoc, Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, University of Cambridge, UK
(Mentor: Sir Prof. Shankar Balasubramanian)
Awards and fellowships
2017 Herchel Smith Postdoc-Fellowship
2013 EMBO Long-Term Fellowship  
2013 DAAD Postdoc-Fellowship 
2011 JSPS Predoctoral Fellowship (short-term) for North American and European Researchers 
2011 Richard-Ernst-Award for innovative contributions within the magnetic resonance field 
2010 Fund of the Chemical Industry PhD fellowship for 2-years 
2009/10 Procter & Gamble Award for best diploma work in Biochemistry 
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