Faculty of Medical Sciences

Staff Profile

Dr Andreas Werner

Reader in Molecular Biology

Background

The genome of every one of us shows small variations that make each individual special. Genome sequencing has made the detection of mutations quick and affordable. How the many different variations affect each individual is much more difficult to establish. We are investigating how mutations affect the function of various membrane proteins in order to understand the mechanism of particular diseases. Moreover, we are interested in the function of noncoding RNAs in the organisation of the genome and the regulation of individual genes.

Our lab uses a wide variety of techniques including next generation sequencing, protein expression, immunological visualisation, RT-qPCR, molecular biology and microbiology. We are also engaged in collaborative research with groups in the UK, Germany, Switzerland, USA and Australia.

Our lab has a long track record of successful PhD supervision including students from Europe, America, Asia and Arabic countries. Our lab welcomes PhD applications from overseas students. Please drop me an email for more information.  

I have professional qualifications in biochemistry, physiology, teaching and journalism and worked in Switzerland, Germany, UK, USA and Australia. In my spare time,I am a keen tango dancer; together with my wife, Angela, we organise Argentinean tango events and teach tango in Tynemouth, UK.

Research

The research of my group focuses on two major areas: 
• Gene regulation by natural antisense transcripts
• Epithelial Na/phosphate transport

We are happy to receive applications from prospective PhD students with funding.


Natural antisense transcripts (NATs)

Large proportions of the human genome do not code for proteins and were long considered as junk or ‘the dark matter of the genome’. Recent studies, however, have shown that much of the noncoding regions of the genome are actively transcribed.  The resulting noncoding RNAs have emerged as essential and abundant regulators of eukaryotic gene expression. Interestingly, noncoding RNAs are implicated in cancer, Alzheimer’s and thalassemia.

Our research mainly focuses on a particular family of noncoding RNAs, so-called natural antisense transcripts (NATs). NATs are long regulatory RNAs that are transcribed in the opposite direction of protein-coding transcripts and potentially regulate their expression level. Moreover, NATs are hypothesised to enable the evolution of complex organisms.

Wight M, Werner A. The functions of natural antisense transcripts. Essays Biochem. 2013; 54: 91-101.

 

Inorganic phosphate (Pi)

Inorganic phosphate (Pi) homeostasis is tightly regulated in humans and both un-physiologically high and low levels of Pi have deleterious consequences. The level of Pi is controlled in the kidney and a membrane transport protein, NaPi-IIa, is particularly important. Mutations in the NaPi-IIa protein have been found in patients with kidney stones, for example. We use molecular modelling and functional expression of the protein to find out how the mutations affect Pi transport and cause disease.  

Structural Fold and Binding Sites of the Human Na+-Phosphate Cotransporter NaPi-II.Biophys J. 2014;106: 1268-79


PhD Students:

Hany Zinad

Heba Ali

Ben Allison


Teaching

Undergraduate Teaching

Biomedical Sciences Course, third year: Research in Physiology, Module Leader
Dental Medicine, first year: Respiratory Physiology, Integrative Physiology
Biomedical Sciences Course, third year: RNA biology and Project supervision


Postgraduate Teaching

PhD, MSci and MRes project supervision


 


Publications