Michael has extensive experience in the field of transcriptomics and functional genomics. His current scientific interest focuses on investigations of gene expression and alternative splicing patterns in distinct structures and cell types of the healthy human brain and perturbation of transcriptome profiles during the onset and progression of multiple system atrophy (MSA).
- 2000-2008 Group Leader, Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics, Berlin
- 1998-1999 Postdoctoral Fellow, German Centre for Rheumatism Research, Berlin
During his PhD studies and subsequently as a postdoc at the German Centre for Rheumatism Research, Michael specialised in investigating the influence of the sequence polymorphism within the promoter regions of MHC class II genes in several inbred mice strains (Janitz et al. 1997; Janitz et al. 1998; Cowell et al. 1998).
Joining the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics (MPIMG) converged with Michael’s growing interest in studying transcription at the genome-wide level. Amongst others, he was involved in collaborative projects to characterise cDNA sequences on the level of the whole transcriptome in mice T helper cells and bovine brain (Gutjahr et al. 2005; Jann et al. 2006), respectively.
While at the MPIMG, Michael and his research group focused on developing a transfected-cell array as a high-throughput genomic tool for functional analysis of genes and their products (Vanhecke and Janitz 2004). This resulted in application of the cell arrays for subcellular protein localisation studies (Hu et al. 2006; Hu et al. 2009; Hu et al. 2010), protein-protein interaction screens (Fiebitz et al. 2008), and functional promoter analysis (Cheng et al. 2010). In addition, with collaborative partners in national and European Community research programs, he applied gene expression profiling studies to identify the genes involved in T helper lymphocytes type 1 immune response (Niesner et al. 2008) and differentiation of murine palatal development (Nogai et al. 2008). His research group also developed miniaturised microarray platforms for DNA hybridization studies using PNA- (Bauer et al. 2004) and LNA-modified oligonucleotide probes (Guerasimova et al. 2006; Liu et al. 2006 and 2007), thus contributing to more efficient exploration of the genome structure and function.
Since his appointment at the UNSW, Michael has been focused on studying the complexity of the human brain transcriptome using next-generation sequencing, in particular RNA-Seq. In the last five years Michael published 21 papers in the field of genome research and neurodegenerative diseases. As early adopter of RNA sequencing technology his team characterised, for the first time, transcriptomic landscape for distinct regions of the Alzheimer’s disease brain (Twine et al. 2011; cited over 100 times). Recently, using RNA-Seq, Michael’s group discovered new splicing and promoter usage patterns specific for human hippocampus and cerebellum (Twine et al. 2013) and white and grey matter of the frontal cortex (Mills et al. 2013). Michael’s recent paper in Molecular Brain (Mills et al. 2015) describes first lincRNA, termed OLMALINC, involved in regulation of oligodendrocyte maturation, a crucial cellular component of the mammalian cerebellar cortex. Michael’s team was also the first to characterise perturbations of the brain transcriptome in multiple system atrophy (MSA) which led to identification of antisense non-coding transcripts and lincRNAs of which expression is perturbed in MSA (Mills et al. 2015 and 2016). Michael is also editor of the first textbook on next-generation sequencing techniques and applications published by Wiley-VCH in 2008.
- Investigation of long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) expression patterns in the grey and white matter of the human neocortex and determination of their role in molecular pathology of MSA; in collaboration with Prof Glenda Halliday from the Neuroscience Research Australia.
- Determination of the transcriptome perturbation in endometrial cancer; in collaboartion with Kyle Hoehn and Frances Byrne from School of BABS, UNSW Australia.
- Investigation of changes in transcriptome patterns during memory formation in primary hippocampal mouse neurons; in collaboration with Dr Vladimir Sytnyk from School of BABS, UNSW Australia.
- Investigation of the transcriptome specific for the mouse synaptosome and aging-related alterations in lncRNAs profiles; in collaboration with Prof. Thomas Arendt and Dr. Uwe Ueberham from the University of Leipzig, Germany.
Nicola Bliim, PhD candidate
Ashton Curry-Hyde, PhD candidate
Lachlan Gray, MSc candidate
Konii Takenaka, MSc candidate
Zeeshan Siddiqui, Honours student
Kathy Fan, GradDip candidate
PROSPECTIVE HONOURS STUDENTS:
There are a number of opportunities to perform honours project in the lab related to investigation of gene candidates, including long non-coding RNAs, involved in human brain physiology and multiple system atrophy. Please contact Michael to discuss research opportunities (email@example.com).