Welcome to Neuroscience Center Zurich

Prof. Dr. Michael Hengartner



Institute of Molecular Life Sciences
University of Zurich

Winterthurerstrasse 190
Y 55 L 22
8057 Zurich

Tel.  +41 44 63 53140
Fax: +41 44 63 56861

Main Goals, Keywords

We aim to understand how the C. elegans nervous system develops and functions. We are particularly interested in the following two topics – programmed cell death during nervous system development, and axonal guidance and pathfinding (developmental neurobiology, apoptosis, axon guidance, C. elegans, genetics).

Group Members

1 professor, 1 scientific associate, 3 postdoctoral fellows, 8 PhD students, 2 technicians

Previous and Current Research

The nematode C. elegans provides a powerful model system for the study of conserved biological processes. Its small size and relative simplicity allow us to readily address complex problems at the genetic and molecular levels. We are using "the worm" to better understand nervous system development and function. Our current interest focuses on the function of the small protein UNC-69, which we have shown to play an important role in axonal guidance in C. elegans. We are also investigating the role of syndecan in nervous system development and function; our preliminary results suggest that loss of C. elegans sdn-1 function results in aberrant neurite outgrowth in vivo.

Future Projects

We plan to continue our analysis of the role of UNC-69, its interacting partners, and other proteins in axonal guidance. We are particularly interested in extending our studies to other species, to determine if the UNC-69 pathway is also required for axonal guidance in vertebrates.

Techniques and Equipment

We are relying largely on a combination of forward and reverse genetic techniques (enhancer and suppressor screens, RNAi, gene knockouts, transgenic animals) for our C. elegans studies. For structure/function studies, we also take advantage of various biochemical techniques. For large-scale screens and mapping projects, we take advantage of our functional genomics platform: worm sorter and Genesis 2000 Tecan robot.
DIC and fluorescence microscopy, stereo microscope, biolistic gene gun and micro-injection facility, worm sorter, robot, many thousand mutant strains and over 16'000 RNAi clones.

Selected Publications

Selected Lectures, Seminars or Colloquia


Swiss National Science Foundation, Ernst Hadorn Foundation, EU FP5 APOCLEAR project, Josef Steiner Cancer Foundation, Roche Research Foundation



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