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    Institute of Organic Chemistry

    Claudia Höbartner Portrayed

    01/30/2018

    Claudia Höbartner, since July 2017 Chair of Organic Chemistry I at the University of Würzburg, explores the blueprint of life – the nucleic acids DNA and RNA.

    Prof. Dr. Claudia Höbartner
    Professor Claudia Höbartner (photo: Robert Emmerich)

    DNA and RNA - these biomacromolecules are found in all creatures. The two nucleic acids store, transport, and regulate genetic information. Since quite some time, research has also revealed that DNA and RNA can function like enzymes. Enzymes are biocatalysts that trigger biochemical reactions.

    Chemist Claudia Höbartner already dealt with nucleic acids in her dissertation at the University of Innsbruck. Ever since she has been fascinated by the functional variety of DNA and RNA. She aims to apply these functions in research – for example, by synthesizing molecular tools that can be applied at the interface between chemistry and biolog.

    DNA-Enzymes visualised in detail

    “We synthesize chemically modified DNA and RNA, we develop catalysts from DNA and RNA, and we explore their functions and possible applications," that’s how she summarizes the focus of her work.

    Her team achieved an amazing success in 2016: Together with colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, she published in the journal “Nature” the first spatial structure of a DNA enzyme down to atomic detail. This proved that DNA also folds into complex three-dimensional structures in order to be catalytically active.

    ERC Grant for RNA Research

    Claudia Höbartner is also working on RNA enzymes. One of these projects, for which the European Research Council has granted her an "ERC Consolidator Grant", is funded with over two million euros. Here, the goal is to develop fluorescent RNA-Enzymes that can be inserted into living cells whose activity will become visible “live” via fluorescence signals.

    "We want to make sure that the fluorescence is switched on only when the enzymes are working", explains the Professor. On the way there, her team has recently conquered a hurdle. After modification of a RNA molecule with a fluorescent building block, the researchers discovered that their construct did not remain stable for a longer time in a cell extract: A cellular enzyme quickly removed the attached building block. Bye alterations of the fluorescent dye they finally managed to stop the activity of the enzym.

    Modifications of mRNA

    In nature, RNA molecules aren’t often found “naked” but carry different appendices. Hundreds of such modifications are known, such as methylations. However it’s a relatively new discovery that these also occur on messenger RNA (mRNA).

    "The functions of these modifications in mRNA is unknown but currently under intense investigation", explains Höbartner who also gets funds from a Priority Program of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.

    Teaching: educate students solidly

    Students can expect a solid education in Organic Chemistry from Höbartner. In her lectures, she will also build bridges to bimolecular chemistry and her field of research. Those who want to achieve a bachelor's, master’s or doctoral degree in her group should also be curious about how life works on a molecular level.

    Career of Professor Höbartner

    Claudia Höbartner, born in Krems a. d. Donau in 1977, studied Technical Chemistry at the Technical University of Vienna.

    After completion of her diploma thesis at the ETH Zurich she moved to the University Innsbruck to work on her Doctoral thesis. In 2005 she took on a position as a postdoc at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign (USA).  

    Claudia Höbartner came to Germany in 2008: She became a research group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen and worked there for two years as a chemistry Professor. In July 2017 she moved from Göttingen to the University of Würzburg as the Chair of Organic Chemistry I.

    Contact

    Prof. Dr. Claudia Höbartner, Institute of Organic Chemistry, University of Wuerzburg, T +49 931 31-89693, claudia.hoebartner@uni-wuerzburg.de

    Website of the Höbartner group

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