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Alwin Köhler

Alwin Köhler


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Alwin Köhler is scientific director of the Max Perutz Labs Vienna and professor of mechanistic cell biology. He led the Tardinomis–Decrypting Cryptobiosis in Tardigrades project.

Born in Transylvania, Romania, he studied medicine and music in Würzburg, Germany, and performed his doctoral work at Harvard Medical School, where he was trained in biochemistry. Following a pediatric residency and postdoctoral work in Heidelberg, Köhler became a junior group leader at the Max Perutz Labs in Vienna in 2010 and in 2018 was appointed professor of mechanistic cell biology. He received the 2003 Young Investigator Award of the Medical Faculty at Heidelberg University, an ERC Starting Grant in 2011, the START Award of the Austrian Science Fund in 2011 and an ERC Consolidator Grant in 2017. He is a member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (Young Academy).

Köhler’s research focuses on the nuclear envelope, a signature element of all eukaryotes. It separates nucleoplasm from cytoplasm and serves as the protective vessel for the genome. The nuclear envelope combines disparate features: durability with plasticity, selective traffic with mass transport, spatial enclosure with sophisticated signaling. In doing so, it enables cells to protect, decode and regulate their genome. How a single “intelligent boundary” can achieve this multitude of functions remains one of the biggest puzzles in biology. His NOMIS-supported research focused on tardigrades, microscopic animals with an outstanding robustness to all kinds of stresses including extreme heat, dehydration and radiation. Here, he sought to understand how nuclear envelope architecture and genome integrity are preserved under conditions that no human being could survive.

Alwin Köhler | Awards Film

Alwin Köhler | Insights Film

Alwin Köhler's News

NOMIS researcher Alwin Köhler and colleague Anete Romanauska have successfully transformed cell nuclei, which are typically round, into cell nuclei with edges. This spectacular shape change was accomplished by genetic […]

NOMIS researcher Alwin Köhler has been elected as a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO). Every year EMBO selects distinguished scientists who have made outstanding contributions in the […]

Alwin Köhler's Insights

Abstract: Nuclear pore complexes (NPCs) mediate the bidirectional transport of cargo across the nuclear envelope (NE). NPCs are also membrane remodeling machines with a capacity to curve and fuse the membranes of the NE. However, little is known about the interplay of NPCs and lipids at a mechanistic level. A full
Abstract: The nuclear envelope (NE) is a spherical double membrane with elastic properties. How NE shape and elasticity are regulated by lipid chemistry is unknown. Here we discover lipid acyl chain unsaturation as essential for NE and nuclear pore complex (NPC) architecture and function. Increased lipid saturation rigidifies the NE and
Abstract: Non-membrane-bound biomolecular condensates have been proposed to represent an important mode of subcellular organization in diverse biological settings. However, the fundamental principles governing the spatial organization and dynamics of condensates at the atomistic level remain unclear. The Saccharomyces cerevisiae Lge1 protein is required for histone H2B ubiquitination and its N-terminal