My research interest is focused on questions relating to chromosome structure and function.  The research in Shanghai was focussed on:

  • Function of the transcription factor E2f of Drosophila

We investigate the temporal and cell-specific changes in the expression of the transcription factor E2f. This protein has important regulatory during cell cycle progression and DNA replication. A mutant cause by the insertion of a P element into the E2f gene sheds new light on the tasks of E2f. We have repressed the function of E2F1 transcripts with RNAi methods. This repression shows inheritable epigenetic effects. We try to undertstand the mechnism of this process.

  • DNA and histone methylation in the male germ line of Drosophila

This part of our work is related to earlier studies in my laboratory on Drosophila spermatogenesis. The molecular events leading to the differentiation of a spermatozoon, in particular at the level of the chromatin structure, are almost entirely unknown. In the course of our work, which has, for example, included the discovery of new myosin heavy chain forms in testes, we have become particularly interested in the Y chromosomal fertility genes displaying unusual functional and structural properties. This work has led to the discovery of two new transcription factor-like proteins (RHADA and TZF) which are chromatin constituents in the germ line. Recent work has been adressed to histone expression in the male germ line. We have studied some aspects of polyadenylation of the histone H3.3 variant. This work has been continued with a study of histone modifications (lysine-methylation and acetylation) in testes, which display specific and variable patterns in germ cells. Although there exists DNA methylation in male germ cells, as can be shown with 5-methyl-C antibodies, the major primary regulatory mechanisms in gene activation and inactivation occurs probably at the histone level. Transformed de novo-DNA methlases do not show any effect on the male germ cell development.

It has become clear that micro-RNAs play important roles for chromatin structure and might therefore also be involved in the regulation of epigenetic effects. We have initiated a study of micro-RNAs in the male germ line of Drosophila which may help understanding the epigenetic effects discribed before.


A publication summarizing various aspects of the earlier work of my laboratory:

Hennig WSpermatogenesis in DrosophilaEur J Cell Biology 40:167-176 (1996)

Further selected papers:

Akhmanova A, Miedema K, Wang Y, van Bruggen M, Berden JH, Moudrianakis EN, Hennig W The localization of histone H3.3 in germ line chromatin of Drosophila males as established with a histone H3.3-specific antiserumChromosoma 106:335-347 (1997)

Akhmanova A, Hennig W: A Drosophila melanogaster histone H2B retropseudogene is inserted into a region rich in transposable elementsGenome 41:396-401(1998)

Hennig W: Heterochromatin. Chromosoma 108:1-9 (1999) (Review)

Hennig W:  The Revolution of the Biology of the Genome. Cell Research 2003 (click here to download) 
Feng R, Tang X, Becker A, Berger A, Ye J, Akhmanova A, Hennig W: Regulation of the expression of histone H3.3 by differential polyadenylationGenome (2005)

W. HennigBioethics in ChinaEMBO Reports 7:850-854 (2006)

A. Weyrich, X. Tang, Guoliang X., C. Hunzinger, A. Schrattenholz, W. Hennig.  Male germ line of Drosophila is not methylated. NCB(2008)

A.R. Gruber, C. Kilgus, A. Mosig, I.L. Hofacker, W. Hennig, P.F. Stadler. Arthropod 7SK RNA. Mol. Biol. Evol. Doi 10.1093/molev/nsu140

W. HennigResearch in China.  Experiences from 23 years of molecular genetics research in China. EMBO Reports 10, 545 (2009)

W. Hennig, A. WeyrichHistone modifications in the male germ line of Drosophila. BMC Developmental Biology 13:7 (2013)

(The background of this website is a part of a “Miller spread” of a Y chromosomal gene of Drosophila. Growing transcripts are visualized with the aid of the electron microscope in my laboratory by Ingrid Siegmund and Wolfgang Hennig.)