ERC Advanced Grant supports research on ubiquitin in DNA repair and genome stability

Professor Helle Ulrich, Executive Director of the Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB) and Professor at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU), has been awarded an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council (ERC). She will receive €2.5 million over the next five years to support her research into how a small regulatory protein called ubiquitin contributes to DNA repair and maintaining genome stability. ERC Advanced Grants are among the most competitive and prestigious grants awarded to senior scientists in Europe.

Ulrich’s team specializes in understanding how cells repair DNA damage caused by genotoxic agents, such as UV radiation or mutagenic chemicals, and ensure that their DNA replicates accurately when the cell divides. This is essential for preventing mutations that can cause aging and cancer. The ERC Advanced Grant will allow her to investigate how a small highly conserved regulatory protein called ubiquitin contributes to DNA replication and repair. Ubiquitin is a post-translational modifier attached to many proteins, including key proteins in DNA replication and repair pathways), and regulates their interactions, stability and activities in the cell.

Our project is based on a powerful technique we recently developed in our laboratory to manipulate and target the binding of ubiquitin to proteins in cells. By purposefully directing the ubiquitylation of a relevant target protein, such as a DNA repair factor, we can look at its effects in isolation from other cellular processes and thereby gain a deeper mechanistic understanding of its function.”

Professor Helle Ulrich, Executive Director of the Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB) and Professor at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz

Using this new technique, Professor Helle Ulrich and her group hope to decipher how cells direct different DNA replication and repair pathways, and how this can be dysregulated in disease.

ERC Advanced Grants are awarded to outstanding researchers to enable them to work on projects that are considered highly speculative due to their innovative approach, but which, because of this, may open up new approaches in relevant field of research. Only researchers who have made significant progress and have worked successfully for at least ten years at the highest levels of international research are eligible for the grant. The only criteria taken into account in awarding funds from the ERC are the academic excellence of the researcher in question and the nature of their research project. An ERC Advanced Grant thus represents significant recognition of the recipient’s individual achievements.


Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz

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