Wolf Reik

Research Summary

Epigenetic modifications such as DNA methylation and histone marks are often relatively stable in differentiated and in adult tissues in the body, where they help to confer a stable cell identity on tissues. The process of epigenetic reprogramming, by which many of these marks are removed from DNA, is important for the function of embryonic stem cells and in reprogramming stem cells from adult tissue cells. When this erasure goes wrong there may be adverse consequences for healthy development and ageing, which can potentially extend over more than one generation.

​Our insights into the mechanisms of epigenetic reprogramming may help with developing better strategies for stem cell therapies and to combat age related decline. We have also recently initiated work on epigenetic regulation of social behaviours in insects, where we are interested in how patterning and regulation of DNA methylation in the brain is linked with the evolution of sociality.

Latest Publications

LifeTime and improving European healthcare through cell-based interceptive medicine.
Rajewsky N, Almouzni G, Gorski SA, Aerts S, Amit I, Bertero MG, Bock C, Bredenoord AL, Cavalli G, Chiocca S, Clevers H, De Strooper B, Eggert A, Ellenberg J, Fernández XM, Figlerowicz M, Gasser SM, Hubner N, Kjems J, Knoblich JA, Krabbe G, Lichter P, Linnarsson S, Marine JC, Marioni J, Marti-Renom MA, Netea MG, Nickel D, Nollmann M, Novak HR, Parkinson H, Piccolo S, Pinheiro I, Pombo A, Popp C, Reik W, Roman-Roman S, Rosenstiel P, Schultze JL, Stegle O, Tanay A, Testa G, Thanos D, Theis FJ, Torres-Padilla ME, Valencia A, Vallot C, van Oudenaarden A, Vidal M, Voet T,

LifeTime aims to track, understand and target human cells during the onset and progression of complex diseases and their response to therapy at single-cell resolution. This mission will be implemented through the development and integration of single-cell multi-omics and imaging, artificial intelligence and patient-derived experimental disease models during progression from health to disease. Analysis of such large molecular and clinical datasets will discover molecular mechanisms, create predictive computational models of disease progression, and reveal new drug targets and therapies. Timely detection and interception of disease embedded in an ethical and patient-centered vision will be achieved through interactions across academia, hospitals, patient-associations, health data management systems and industry. Applying this strategy to key medical challenges in cancer, neurological, infectious, chronic inflammatory and cardiovascular diseases at the single-cell level will usher in cell-based interceptive medicine in Europe over the next decade.

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Nature, 1, 1, 07 Sep 2020

PMID: 32894860

DNA methylation repels binding of hypoxia-inducible transcription factors to maintain tumor immunotolerance.
D'Anna F, Van Dyck L, Xiong J, Zhao H, Berrens RV, Qian J, Bieniasz-Krzywiec P, Chandra V, Schoonjans L, Matthews J, De Smedt J, Minnoye L, Amorim R, Khorasanizadeh S, Yu Q, Zhao L, De Borre M, Savvides SN, Simon MC, Carmeliet P, Reik W, Rastinejad F, Mazzone M, Thienpont B, Lambrechts D

Hypoxia is pervasive in cancer and other diseases. Cells sense and adapt to hypoxia by activating hypoxia-inducible transcription factors (HIFs), but it is still an outstanding question why cell types differ in their transcriptional response to hypoxia.

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Genome Biology, 21, 1, 27 Jul 2020

PMID: 32718321

Michael John Owen Wakelam 1955-2020.
Spener F, Wolfrum C, Reik W

Michael John Owen Wakelam passed away on 31 March, 2020 at the age of 64, much too early. He became known to colleagues and friends as a scientist highly regarded for his research. He was honoured in 2018 with the Morton Lectureship of the Biochemical Society and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Biology. In 2019, he was elected a member of the Academia Europaea.

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Nature metabolism, 2, 6, Jun 2020

PMID: 32694735