Biochemistry and cell biology

    How chromosomes take shape


    Christian Häring has moved from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg to the Biocenter of the University of Würzburg. Here, the chromosome researcher is heading the Chair of Biochemistry and Cell Biology.

    Professor Christian Häring erforscht, welche molekularen Maschinen die Architektur der Chromosomen bestimmen.
    Professor Christian Häring erforscht, welche molekularen Maschinen die Architektur der Chromosomen bestimmen. (Image: privat)
    The entire human genome is packed within 46 chromosomes. These small rod-shaped structures cannot always be recognized in the body cells. They only form when cell division is imminent. Before that, 
    the human DNA looks very different - namely, like a ball of wool that a cat played with.
    The biochemist Christian Häring is interested in how the entangled ball becomes the clearly structured chromosomes. "This process is called chromosome condensation and has a key function in the cell cycle," 
    says the researcher. Only when the chromosomes are properly formed can they be correctly distributed to the daughter cells during cell division.
    If something is going wrong with the division of the chromosomes, this can have serious consequences. For example, many cancer cells do not have the correct chromosome set. 
    So, spontaneous miscarriages usually occur when the chromosomes are incorrectly distributed during the development of the embryo.
    Condensin as the architect of the chromosomes
    Christian Häring studies the molecular machines that organize the three-dimensional architecture of the chromosomes. One key player in this process is condensin. This complicated protein complex has 
    hardly changed in the course of evolution. The structure of condensin in amoeba is very similar to that of mushrooms, birds and humans.
    Häring's research team has found out, among other things, that condensin surrounds and moves along the DNA like a large ring structure: “We suspect that the condensin uses this motor activity to lay the 
    DNA strands of the disordered coil structure into large loops, from which the chromosomes then are formed. "
    How these molecular machines work in a regulated manner is still unknown to a large extent. However, a basic insight into these mechanisms will be essential to understand how the division of the chromosomes 
    proceeds, just as Theodor Boveri first described it in Würzburg over a century ago.
    Strong interdisciplinary research
    In the past twelve years, Häring has conducted research as a group leader at the EMBL (European Molecular Biology Laboratory) in Heidelberg. On April 1, 2020, he accepted a call to the University of Würzburg. 
    Here he succeeds Professor Manfred Schartl in the Chair of Biochemistry and Cell Biology at the Biozentrum.
    At the University of Würzburg, the new professor wants to continue his work in a highly interdisciplinary manner in order to better understand the molecular machines that control genome architecture.
     "We combine approaches from Biochemistry, Molecular cell biology and Structural biology," says the scientist.



    Career of the new professor

    Christian Häring, born in 1974, studied biochemistry at the University of Regensburg. For his doctoral thesis, which he completed in 2003, he went to the University of Vienna. 
    As a postdoc, he conducted research in Vienna and Oxford; In 2007 he moved to EMBL in Heidelberg as a group leader. There he worked in the departments for Gene Expression, Cell Biology and Biophysics 
    and Structural and Computational Biology.


    Prof. Dr. Christian Häring, Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Biocenter of the University of Würzburg, T +49 931 31-89247, christian.haering@uni-wuerzburg.de

    Homepage of the Häring group at EMBL