27 Jul 2018 - ERC Starting Grant for Christian Münch.

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The European Research Council (ERC) awarded one of its prestigious Starting Grants to Emmy Noether group leader Christian Münch. The grant provides € 1.44 Mio to carry out a challenging project dubbed ‘mitoUPR’, in which Christian plans to unravel the impact of the mitochondrial unfolded protein response (UPRmt) on the cellular environment in mammalian cells. The UPRmt is a poorly understood mitochondrial stress response that activates upon protein misfolding in mitochondria.

Münch’s interest in protein quality control processes dates back to his PhD at University of Cambridge (UK), when he was the first to describe the prion-like behavior of mutant SOD1 in ALS. During his postdoctoral tenure at Harvard University (Boston, USA), he discovered a new branch of the UPRmt controlling mitochondrial translation. Within his ERC project, Christian now plans to analyze how the UPRmt influences processes outside the mitochondrion. According to his central hypothesis, the regulation of cellular stress responses is centrally integrated, and he plans to unravel the role of UPRmt within those signaling networks.

A second focus is on mitochondrial RNA granules, which are commonly associated with the organelle’s protein production machinery. Despite the fact that mutations in components of those granules are commonly associated with disease, so far little is known about their architecture and especially their regulation upon stress. To achieve his challenging aims, Christian relies on a range of technologies established at IBC2 and aims at developing an in vivo model for studying the UPRmt.