Saarland University Faculty of Medicine
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Junior Research Group Human Genetics Prof. Dr. Jens Mayer

The Junior Research Group Human Genetics was initiated by the University of Saarland in 2001 as one out of six junior research groups within the Center for Human and Molecular Biology at the university's Medical Faculty. The laboratory is accommodated at the Department of Human Genetics, headed by Prof. Dr. Eckart Meese.

The various Junior Research Groups are furthermore engaged in lecturing and practical courses for students in Human Biology with emphasis on Human and Molecular Biology.


Research Objectives:

We are interested in the biology of repetitive elements. About 50% of the human genome mass consists ofrepetitve sequences. In the course of evolution, repetitive elements played a significant role in shaping thegenome. Repetitive elements therefore had a significant impact on genome structure and functions. We areespecially interested in two classes of repetitive elements; so-called Long Interspersed Elements (LINE or L1) and human endogenous retroviruses (HERV).

About 17% of the human genome consist of LINE sequences. They still form new copies in the genome by acopy-and-paste mechanism involving an RNA-intermediate. In some instances, L1 activity caused disease whennewly formed L1 elements interfere with gene integrity. Recent work in our group addressed the mechanism of transcription initiation of human L1 elements.

We are furthermore interested in HERVs; retroviral elements that integrated into the genome of ancestor speciesand were fixed in the population many million years ago. Probably all vertebrate species harbor significant amounts of endogenous retroviruses. The human genome contains about 8% of sequences that stem fromretroviral elements, so-called human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs). Endogenous retroviruses, likewise, hada great impact on the host genome due to formation of proviral progeny following germ line infection. HERVsequences are of significant interest regarding (i) their normal functions in the genome when, for instance, beingpart of cellular genes, and (ii) their potential role(s) in human disease.

Recent work in our group addressed various aspects of the biology of HERV sequences in both normal anddisease conditions, such as their evolution following initial germ line integration, actual status in the humangenome, and their activity, regulation and role in human disease. In this context, we employ various moleculargenetic as well as computer-based methods.

You may refer to the Publications sections for more information


Research Grants:

Our research is supported by grants from

- Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

- Medical Faculty of the University of Saarland (HOMFOR)

- University of Saarland








Prof. Dr. rer. nat.

Mayer, Jens

Head of Junior Research Group Human Genetics

+49 6841 16 26627

+49 6841 16 26185





Maldener, Esther

AG Mayer

+49 6841 16 26638

+49 6841 16 26189

+49 6841 16 26185





Rigogliuso, Giuseppe

AG Mayer

+49 6841 16 26638

+49 6841 16 26189

+49 6841 16 26185


AG Mayer





Prof. Dr. rer. nat.

Jens Mayer


Junior Research Group

Human Genetics

Saarland University

Building 60

66421 Homburg



Tel.:     +49 6841 16 26627

Fax:     +49 6841 16 26186

E-Mail: jens.mayer