Exploring synthetic biology for tissue regeneration

The Janovjak Group conducts research at the interface of synthetic biology and mammalian physiology.

The group has established new methods to control cellular signalling pathways (e.g. those activated by receptor tyrosine kinases and GPCRs) and cellular behaviours (e.g. proliferation and survival of nerve cells, cancer cells and key cell populations involved in metabolism). Their methods offer spatial precision (e.g. to activate only selected cells or tissues ex vivo and in vivo) and temporal precision (e.g. to intervene with specific stages during development and disease progression) and included but were not limited to optogenetics.

The group is currently applying these methods to understand and manipulate cells and tissues affected by degeneration, with a particular focus on type I diabetes and Parkinson's disease. Their interdisciplinary research combines the development of new molecular tools and the study of disease using the mouse and fruit fly.

For more information about their research, please also visit the Janovjak Group website.

A full list of publications can be found here at PubMed.

Funding acknowledgEmentS:

  • European Union Seventh Framework Programme
  • Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP)
  • Austrian Science Fund (FWF)
  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF)
  • Synthetic biology strategies to maintain cell survival and initiate cell proliferation in degenerative disorders
  • Developing new methods for controlling cell behaviour with high spatio-temporal precision (e.g. optogenetics)
  • Engineering of new genes and proteins for synthetic biology
  • Deciphering the function and physiology of orphan receptors

Highlight publications

Published In

Zhang WH, Herde MK, Mitchell JA, Whitfield JH, Wulff AB, Vongsouthi V, Sanchez-Romero I, Gulakova PE, Minge D,  Breithausen B, Schoch S, Janovjak H, Jackson CJ, Henneberger C.

Monitoring hippocampal glycine with the computationally designed optical sensor GlyFS.

Nat. Chem. Biol.  (2018)​ 14: 861–869.

Morri M, Sanchez-Romero I, Tichy AM, Kainrath S, Gerrard EJ, Hirschfeld PP, Schwarz J, Janovjak H.

Optical functionalization of human Class A orphan G-protein-coupled receptors.

Nat. Commun. (2018) 9: 1950.

Kainrath S, Stadler M, Reichhart E, Distel M, Janovjak H.

Green-light-induced inactivation of receptor signaling using cobalamin-binding domains.

Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. (2017)​ 56: 4608-4611.

Mitchell JA, Whitfield JH, Zhang WH, Henneberger C, Janovjak H, O'Mara ML, Jackson CJ.

Rangefinder: A semisynthetic FRET sensor design algorithm.

ACS Sensors (2016)​ 1: 1286-1290.

Sako K, Pradhan SJ, Barone V, Inglés-Prieto Á, Müller P, Ruprecht V, Čapek D, Galande S, Janovjak H, Heisenberg CP.

Optogenetic control of nodal signaling reveals a temporal pattern of nodal signaling regulating cell fate specification during gastrulation.

Cell Rep. (2016)​ 16: 866-877.

Reichhart E, Ingles-Prieto A, Tichy AM, McKenzie C, Janovjak H.

A phytochrome sensory domain permits receptor activation by red light.

Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. (2016) 55: 6339-6342.

Inglés-Prieto Á, Reichhart E, Muellner MK, Nowak M, Nijman SM, Grusch M, Janovjak H.

Light-assisted small-molecule screening against protein kinases.

Nat. Chem. Biol. (2015) 11: 952-954.

Whitfield JH, Zhang WH, Herde MK, Clifton BE, Radziejewski J, Janovjak H, Henneberger C, Jackson CJ.

Construction of a robust and sensitive arginine biosensor through ancestral protein reconstruction.

Protein Sci. (2015) 24: 1412-1422.

Hühner J, Ingles-Prieto Á, Neusüß C, Lämmerhofer M, Janovjak H.

Quantification of riboflavin, flavin mononucleotide, and flavin adenine dinucleotide in mammalian model cells by CE with LED-induced fluorescence detection.

Electrophoresis (2015) 36: 518-525.

Grusch M, Schelch K, Riedler R, Reichhart E, Differ C, Berger W, Inglés-Prieto Á, Janovjak H.

Spatio-temporally precise activation of engineered receptor tyrosine kinases by light.

EMBO J. (2014) 33: 1713-1726.

Janovjak H, Sandoz G, Isacoff EY.

A modern ionotropic glutamate receptor with a K(+) selectivity signature sequence.

Nat. Commun. (2011) 2: 232.

Janovjak H, Szobota S, Wyart C, Trauner D, Isacoff EY.

A light-gated, potassium-selective glutamate receptor for the optical inhibition of neuronal firing.

Nat. Neurosci. (2010) 13: 1027-1032.