We are very interested in molecules called RNAs, which are produced when particular sections of DNA are ‘read’ and are thought to be involved in controlling gene activity and differentiation.

Folkert van Werven : Areas of interest


The aim of the research group is to elucidate mechanisms of gene regulation that control cell differentiation.

Distribution of IME1 and the lncRNA IRT1 transcripts among single cells.

Figure 1: Distribution of IME1 and the lncRNA IRT1 transcripts among single cells.

The following research questions drive the Cell Fate and Gene Regulation Laboratory:

  • How do long noncoding RNAs and mRNA isoforms control cell fate?
  • How do cells limit the expression of “unwanted” RNAs?
  • How RNA modifications regulate cell fate?
  • How do multiple signals integrate at a master regulatory gene for cell differentiation?

Signal integration at master regulatory genes

Multiple signals are required to initiate gametogenesis in budding yeast: nutrients such as nitrogen compounds and glucose need to be absent from the medium, cells need to respire (use a non-fermentable carbon source) and must be diploid.

These signals drive entry into gametogenesis and all converge on the IME1 promoter. This promoter is one of the largest and highly regulated promoters in budding yeast. To understand how these signals are integrated to make a binary cell fate decision, it is essential to identify all the molecular players and pathways involved in acting at the IME1 promoter. The lab will use proteomic and genetic approaches to identify these factors.