The Department of Genetics and Microbiology currently has ten research groups (see below) which are engaged in the study of various areas of molecular and cellular biology, genetics, microbiology and virology. The research is supported by a number of national as well as international grants. The results obtained in the course of various scientific projects are regularly published in renowned scientific journals. Members of five of these research groups (the Laboratory of Virology, the Laboratory of Immunotherapy, the Laboratory of Molecular Epidemiology of the Viruses, Laboratory of Proteases of Human Pathogens and the Laboratory of Biology of Yeast Colonies) also participate in the Cellular Biology and Virology program of the Biotechnology and Biomedicine Center of the Academy of Sciences and Charles University ("BIOCEV").
The research teams of the Department of Genetics and Microbiology frequently co-operate with the other departments of the Faculty of Science, the other faculties of the Charles University in Prague, and various scientific institutes and universities both in the Czech Republic and abroad. For lists of the current collaborations, see the web pages of the individual research groups (below). If you are interested in our research and would like to establish a scientific collaboration, please contact the heads of the respective research groups.
The research in the Laboratory of Virology (head: Jitka Forstová, Ph.D.) is focused on small DNA viruses from the Polyomaviridae family, their interaction with host cell structures and the possible utilization of viral capsids and pseudocapsids in gene therapy and/or the import of biologically active compounds into cells. Current projects are aimed at i) the delivery of viral genomes into the cell nucleus and the role of minor capsid proteins in this process, ii) protein-protein interaction of viral structural proteins in host cells, iii) the utilization of virus-like particles for the targeting and transport of substances to cancer cells, iv) the development of recombinant vaccines against porcine circovirus 2 and bovine papillomavirus, and v) the development of new diagnostic tools for the detection of species-specific antibodies against clinically important human pathogens from the Polyomaviridae family (Viral Nanotechnology Group, head: Hana Španielová, PhD). Another subgroup of this Laboratory (head: Ivan Hirsch, Ph.D.) focuses on the role of natural immunity in the elimination of Hepatitis B viral genome from the nuclei of infected cells. This team also studies the possibility of eradication of HIV resistant to combined therapy.
The Laboratory of Molecular and Tumour Virology (head: Ruth Tachezy, Ph.D.) has been involved in the study of small non-enveloped DNA viruses associated with tumours in humans. Apart from human papillomaviruses, the laboratory team focuses on human polyomaviruses and other small DNA viruses (anelloviruses or human bocavirus). It has developed several approaches to characterize the viral etiology of tumours.
The Laboratory of Immunotherapy (head: Michal Šmahel. Ph.D.) focuses on the immunotherapy of tumours induced by human viruses. Experimental research of immunotherapeutic protocols is carried out on murine models of tumours in which human papillomaviruses are known to play a role. DNA vaccines targeting antigens of tumour cells and cells supporting tumour growth have been developed. The activation of adaptive immunity by DNA vaccines is combined with the activation of innate immunity cells and blockade of immunosuppressive mechanisms that inhibit anti-tumour immune responses. Attention is also paid to reduced expression of MHC class I molecules on tumour cells and to the development of suitable murine models. Moreover, the properties of murine and human tumours have been analysed from the immunotherapeutic perspective.
Laboratory of Proteases (head: Klára Grantz Šašková, Ph.D.), is the newest research group of the Department (from 2016, originally at the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the Czech Academy of Sciences). The main object of research of this group is the family of DDI1-like proteins involved in DNA repair and transcription regulation. Members of the Laboratory are also interested in biology of Hepatitis B Virus; they try to develop new strategies for degradation of cccDNA of this virus (this molecule resides in the nucleus of infected hepatocytes and serves as a transcriptional template for HBV).
The Laboratory of Bacterial Physiology (head: Radovan Fišer, Ph.D.) investigates: i) the function of bacterial toxins that affect the cytoplasmic membrane of the target cell, ii) the adaptation of the bacterial membrane to various stresses and the interaction of the membrane with membrane-active compounds, iii) the interaction of bacterial cells with nanomaterials. Together with usual microbiological methods, a wide range of biophysical approaches is used: methods based on fluorescence spectroscopy and microscopy, conductance measurements on lipid bilayers, X-ray crystallography, analytical methods including gas and liquid chromatography and also computational modelling methods for protein structures.
The research of the Laboratory of Bacterial Genetics (head: Irena Lichá, Ph.D.) is focused on the regulation of the general stress response in a model Bacillus subtilis bacterium and the adaptive mutagenesis as a result of the impact of physical stress factors. Further topics include the study of bacterial persistence, the ability of bacteria to survive an antibiotic treatment without genetically determined resistance to the given antibiotics.
The extracellular signalling and communication in yeast colonies, the expression of genes associated with the development of specific morphological features of these colonies and the possible analogy to tissue formation in higher eukaryotic organisms are studied by the Laboratory of Biology of Yeast Colonies (head: Zdena Palková, Ph.D.).
Research in the Laboratory of RNA Biochemistry (head: Martin Pospíšek, Ph.D.) is focused mainly on the control of translation initiation in the context of various models of eukaryotic cells. The original interest of the Laboratory in yeast molecular biology has expanded to include a number of other model organisms with the aim of broadening the scope of the research. Both bioinformatics as well as wet-bench methods are applied. The current scientific interest is in three main topics: i) cap-dependent translation initiation (unexpected roles of 4E translation initiation), ii) cap-independent translation (HCV IRES and pGKL plasmids), and iii) the study of protein-protein interactions and nuclear function of Interleukin-1α using yeast and human cell line cultures.
The Laboratory of Plant Genetics (head: Dana Holá, Ph.D.) has, for a long time, been engaged in the study of intraspecific variability in various crop species with special regard given to possible causes of heterosis. Currently, its members concentrate on three main topics: i) plant tolerance to abiotic stressors (particularly drought), ii) the role of brassinosteroids and ecdysteroids in the regulation of photosynthetic processes and the inter- and intraspecific variability in plant response to exogenously applied steroidal compounds, and iii) the study of genetic variability in selected physiological parameters in conifers.
Research efforts of the Laboratory of Arachnid Cytogenetics (head: Jiří Král, Ph.D.) are focused on the karyotype evolution of Arachnida, one of the major and oldest classes of arthropods, which exhibits enormous species diversity. Some of the most intriguing subjects of contemporary evolutionary cytogenetics are studied by the members of this team, e.g. the evolution of holokinetic and sex chromosomes, genome modifications in parthenogens, and the co-evolution of genome and social behaviour.