Directors’ Research covers two thematically distinct research groups, headed by the Director of EMBL and the Director of EMBO, an organisation of more than 1,500 leading researchers that promotes excellence in the life sciences.

Research in the Directors' Research Unit

Hentze Group RNA biology, metabolism and molecular medicine
Leptin Group Cell shape and morphogenesis: subcellular and supracellular mechanisms

The Hentze group combines biochemical and systems-level approaches to investigate the connections between gene expression, cell metabolism, and their role in human disease. Key goals of the group include collaborative efforts to: uncover the biological roles of unexpected RNA-binding proteins (‘enigmRBPs’) in cell metabolism, differentiation, and development; explore, define, and understand REM networks; help elucidate the role of RNA metabolism in disease, and to develop novel diagnostic and therapeutic strategies based on this knowledge; and to understand the molecular mechanisms and regulatory circuits underlying physiological iron homeostasis.

In investigating the mechanisms and forces that determine cell shape in Drosophila, the Leptin group studies two cell types. They look at how the cells at the tips of the fruit fly’s tracheal system rearrange their components as they grow rapidly and branch out to carry air to the animal’s tissues. And at the tissue level, the group investigates how forces generated by single cells give the embryo’s ventral furrow its final shape. The group also studies medaka and zebrafish to understand how signals from damaged cells are recognised by the innate immune system. They are developing methods to assay immune and stress responses in real time as the fish’s cells encounter pathogens and stress signals.