Emmy Noether Research Group

The role of chromatin structure and protein interaction networks in cell-fate decisions of cardiac progenitor cells


Group Leader:
Dr. rer. nat. Gergana Dobreva

Research focus:

Stem (progenitor) cells possess the unique capacity to either self-renew or to differentiate into a variety of specialized daughter cells, which are necessary both for embryonic organogenesis and for tissue regeneration. During embryonic heart development two distinct mesodermal progenitor populations, referred to as first and second “heart field”, play vital roles. Recent studies have demonstrated that these cells are multipotent and can give rise to the diverse cell types of the heart (cardiac muscle, smooth muscle and endothelial cells). The LIM-homeodomain transcription factor Isl1 marks the second population of cardiac progenitors, but little is known about the molecular mechanisms through which it regulates progenitor cell fate in the heart. In a recent screen we identified a number of novel Isl1 targets, which regulate multiple aspects of cardiac development. Interestingly, a large subset of the identified targets is involved in the regulation of chromatin structure and dynamics. The establishing of a cell-type-specific chromatin pattern is a key event during cell commitment and differentiation, which is heritable and serves as a cellular memory of lineage restriction. The goal of Dr. Dobreva’s research group is to understand the dynamics of chromatin structure and the role of gene regulatory networks in cell-fate decisions of cardiac progenitor cells.

Group members:

Post Docs:
Evgeniy Chichelnitskiy
PhD students:
Hagen Witzel
Luca Caputo
Joaquim Vong
Nitin Tyagi
Technical assistant:
Ingrid Konrad



Emmy Noether Research Group

Dr. Gergana Dobreva

Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research

Parkstrasse 1

D-61231 Bad Nauheim

Tel.: +49 (0)6032 705-225

Fax: +49 (0)6032 705-211

About Gergana Dobreva

Gergana Dobreva did her PhD at the Gene Center, Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich, Germany, followed by a postdoc at the Gene Center and the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology in Freiburg in the group of Prof. Rudolf Grosschedl. Her work during this period focused on the function of nuclear matrix attachment regions (MARs) and MAR-binding proteins in gene regulation. In 2006 she joined the group of Prof. Laugwitz at the Technical University, Munich as a postdoctoral fellow, working on the role of the LIM-domain transcription factor Isl1 during heart development. Since 2008 she is an Independent Scientific Research Group Leader, funded by the Emmy Noether Award from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.

© 2018 Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research, Bad Nauheim, Germany