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Institute of Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology
Biochemistry III - House of the Ribosome
Christoph Engel
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Cramer Engel Whole Op Pol I

Cryo-EM reconstruction of the yeast RNA polymerase I initially transcribing complex including Rrn3 and Core Factor (Engel et al., Cell, 2017)

Research Topic

Assembly of eukaryotic ribosomes is centered around the four ribosomal RNAs (rRNAs). The nascent ribosomal RNA precursor contains three of these rRNAs and is transcribed by the RNA polymerase (Pol) I machinery. In contrast to other polymerases, Pol I has evolved a minimal, but extremely specific and highly regulated set of transcription factors for the synthesis of its sole target.

Over the past years, structural analysis of Pol I and its transcription machinery has revealed stunning differences but also striking similarities with Pol II and Pol III. We used X-ray crystallography to solve the first 3D structure of the entire 14-subunit, 590 kDa Pol I enzyme from yeast at atomic resolution (Engel et al., Nature 2013). Combining results from crystallography with recent advances in cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) now allows the application of an integrated structural biology hybrid approach for the analysis of transient, regulatory complexes. This enabled us to study transcription initiation intermediates (Engel et al., Nature Communications 2016), elongation complexes (Neyer et al., Nature 2016) and multi-factor DNA/RNA/protein assemblies active in transcription (Engel et al., Cell 2017).

Continuing and expanding the structural analysis of Pol I and its transcription machinery with this integrated approach holds the promise to generate textbook knowledge about the critical process of rRNA synthesis common to all eukaryotic cells. In combination with biochemical analysis (Lisica, Engel et al, PNAS 2016 and Engel, Meth.Mol.Biol. 2016) we pursue a hypothesis-driven experimental approach.

Short Cv

Christoph Engel

Awards and Honors


Emmy-Noether Fellowship


Bayer Early Excellence in Science Award


National PhD Award of the GBM (Promotionspreis der Gesellschaft für Biochemie und Molekularbiologie)

2013 Award of the Dr. Klaus Römer Foundation
2011 Boehringer Ingelheim Fonds PhD Fellowship


Since 2018

Emmy-Noether Groupleader at the University Regensburg

2014 - 2017

Research Associate at the Max-Planck-Institute for Biophysical Chemistry Göttingen, Department of Molecular Biology

2010 - 2014

PhD studies at the Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich with Prof. Patrick Cramer, Gene Center


Masters at BZH Heidelberg with Prof. Irmgard Sinning


International Exchange with University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada (Prof. Tom Beatty)


B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Molecular Biotechnology, Ruprecht-Karls University Heidelberg


Selected Publications

Christoph Engel$, Simon Neyer, and Patrick Cramer$ Distinct Mechanisms of Transcription Initiation by RNA Polymerases I and II. Annu Rev Biophys 2018. 47, 425-446

Christoph Engel*, Tobias Gubbey*, Simon Neyer*, Sarah Sainsbury, Christiane Oberthuer, Carlo Baejen, Carrie Bernecky, and Patrick Cramer Structural basis of RNA polymerase I transcription initiation. Cell, 2017, 169(1), 120-131.

Simon Neyer*, Michael Kunz*, Christian Geiss, Merle Hantsche, Victor-Valentin Hodirnau, Anja Seybert, Christoph Engel, Margot Scheffer, Patrick Cramer, and Achilleas S. Frangakis Structure of RNA polymerase I transcribing rDNA gene. Nature, 2016, 540 (7634), 607-610.

Christoph Engel, Jürgen Plitzko, and Patrick Cramer RNA polymerase I-Rrn3 complex at 4.8 Å resolution. Nature Communications, 2016 Jul 15;7:12129.

Christoph Engel$ Purification of crystallization-grade RNA polymerase I from S. cerevisiae. Methods Mol Biol, 2016, 1455, 85-97.

Ana Lisica, Christoph Engel*, Marcus Jahnel*, Eric A. Galburt*, Edgar Roldan, Patrick Cramer and Stephan W. Grill: Mechanisms of backtrack recovery by RNA polymerases I and II. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2016, Mar 15;113(11):2946-51.

Dirk Kostrewa*, Claus Kuhn*, Christoph Engel and Patrick Cramer: An alternative RNA polymerase I structure reveals a dimer hinge. Acta Crystallogr D, 2015, Sep;71(Pt 9):1850-5.

Christoph Engel, Sarah Sainsbury, Alan C. Cheung, Dirk Kostrewa and Patrick Cramer: RNA polymerase I structure and transcription regulation, Nature, 2013, 502(7473):650-5.

Gert Bange*, Nico Kuemmerer*, Christoph Engel, Gunes Bozkurt, Klemens Wild and Irmgard Sinning: FlhA provides the adaptor for coordinated delivery of late flagella building blocks to the type III secretion system, Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2010 Jun 22; 107(25):11295-300.

* These authors contributed equally

$ Corresponding author


Emmy Noether Logo

Since January 2018

Emmy Noether Independent Junior Research Group Leader


Dr. Christoph Engel

Department of Biochemistry III
Biochemistry Center Regensburg
University of Regensburg
Universitaetsstr. 31
Room: VKL 1.0.10E
D-93053 Regensburg

T: +49-941-943-2846
F: +49-941-943-2474
E: christoph.engel@ur.de

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Christoph Engel



Phone: +49 (941) 943 2718
Room: VKL 1.0.10