Prof. Dr. Konstanze F. Winklhofer, Department of Molecular Cell Biology

Konstanze F. Winklhofer

Research Programme:

A common feature of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's or Huntington's disease, is the prominent role of aging in the disease pathogenesis. Aging cells are characterized by a decrease in the efficiency of cellular quality control systems. Indeed, there is increasing evidence that the fidelity of cellular machineries implicated in the removal of damaged and dysfunctional proteins and organelles are compromised in aged individuals, leading to an increase in proteotoxic stress.

The major aim of our research activities is to identify key biochemical pathways implicated in neurotoxicity and neuroprotection, which is a prerequisite to develop strategies to delay or halt the progressive neurodegenerative process. Specifically, we are studying a protective role of cellular quality control mechanisms which maintain neuronal homeostasis and integrity, such as the ubiquitin-proteasome system, autophagy and lysosomal degradation, the unfolded protein response, and the chaperone network.

Another focus of our work is the role of mitochondria as key organelles in orchestrating cell death and viability and regulating neuronal bioenergetics. In this contex we are analyzing a possible impact of PD-associated genes, such as parkin and PINK1, on mitochondrial integrity.