Prof. Dr. Peter Rehling, director of the Institute for Cell Biochemistry, UMG. Photo: MBExC

European top funding for investigating the exciting mechanisms of mitochondrial gene expression

Prof. Dr. Peter Rehling, cell biochemist at the University Medical Center Göttingen recives for the second time an Advanced Grant of the European Research Council (ERC).

(umg/mbexc) Prof. Dr. Peter Rehling, Director of the Institute of Cellular Biochemistry at the University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG), spokesperson of the Göttingen Collaborative Research Center 1190 “Compartmental Gates and Contact Sites in Cells” and member of the Cluster of Excellence “Multiscale Bioimaging: From Molecular Machines to Networks of Excitable Cells” (MBExC), has received another Advanced Grant from the European Research Council (ERC). The ERC will fund his research project “Mitochondrial gene expression ‘MiXpress'” on the mechanisms of gene expression in mitochondria, the power plants of the cell, for five years with a total of around 2 million euros.

The Research funding through ERC Grants of the European Union distinguishes particularly high-ranking scientists and their projects. The ERC Advanced Investigator Grant is awarded annually to scientists who have already made significant contributions to science.

“‘MiXpress’ promises to be the next big step in understanding gene expression in mitochondria. We want to understand in detail how the genetic material of mitochondria is translated into proteins to build the power plant. We hope to find answers to the question of how the cell influences the transcription of genes in order to adapt the mitochondria to the cell’s needs. Using newly-developed techniques, we are tackling our questions experimentally,” says Prof. Dr. Peter Rehling.

“The renewed ERC award for Prof. Peter Rehling confirms the excellent quality of basic research at the UMG and the Göttingen Campus”, says Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Brück, Chairman of the Executive Board at the UMG and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine. “We are very pleased that Professor Rehling has once again succeeded in the competition for funding for top European research. This is a great distinction for Prof. Rehling in particular and an important basis for the research focus Molecular Cell Biology at the UMG and for the area of “Mitochondrial Gene Expression” in the Cluster of Excellence MBExC.”

PROJECT “‘MiXpress’ – Mitochondrial gene eXpression“

The mitochondria are the power stations of the cells. Here, food components are converted in a complicated process and the cellular energy currency, adenosine triphosphate (ATP), is produced. ATP is the currency with which the cells pay the energy costs for their services. This process consumes about 95 percent of the oxygen we breath in every day.

The genes that direct our life processes are mainly located in the nucleus of our cells. However, mitochondria, the power plants of cells, also have their own genetic material, which must be read and translated in order to build up the mitochondrial machinery. Disturbances in these processes are associated with a variety of diseases, including cardiovascular diseases and diseases of the nervous system. However, it is still largely not understood when these genes are read, how they are translated into proteins, and how the cell regulates the genes in the mitochondria. This is due to the fact that there has been a lack of methods to analyse gene expression in mitochondria so far.

Peter Rehling’s research group has only recently succeeded in developing a new technique that now allows the targeted intervention in gene expression in the mitochondria. This new technology forms the basis for the newly funded ERC project, which aims to solve longly unanswered questions. “We want to understand which proteins are involved in the transcription of the genetic material and how they work. In addition, we want to understand how the cell can influence the transcription of genes in mitochondria. We hope that new findings will help us to better understand mitochondrial diseases,” says Prof. Rehling.

Prof. Dr Peter Rehling, born in 1966, has headed the Institute of Cellular Biochemistry at the University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) since 2007. Peter Rehling is a biochemist and investigates the power plants of the cell. He is interested in how proteins are synthesized in mitochondria and how proteins pass through mitochondrial membranes. He further investigates disorders of mitochondrial function and their role in the development of diseases.

Prof. Rehling has already received various awards and prizes for his research, such as an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) in 2013. In 2016, the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Foundation for Polish Science (FNP) recognised his services to German-Polish cooperation in science with the Copernicus Award. Since 2019, he has been a member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, where he is a member of the Biochemistry and Biophysics in the Life Sciences Section (Class II). He is also an elected member of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities and the Academy of Europe “Academia Europaea”. Since 2022, he has been an elected member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO).

About the ERC Advanced Grant
With the ERC Advanced Grant, the European Union supports outstanding, already established scientists in projects that promise groundbreaking new insights.
More information:

Please download the PDF
Link to the press release (in German)

Link to the Department of Cellular Biochemistry website
Link to the European Research Council website

University Medical Center Göttingen, University of Göttingen
Institute for Cellular Biochemistry
Prof. Dr. Peter Rehling
Telefon 0551 / 39-65947