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Brian Luke

RNA-DNA hybrids, telomere biology & genomic instability

Telomeres make up the physical ends of chromosomes and ensure that they are not mistakenly recognized as DNA damage. Each time a cell divides the telomeres shorten. Short telomeres drive replicatively “old” cells into a non-proliferative state referred to as replicative senescence. Accelerated telomere shortening leads to the premature accumulation of senescent cells, a scenario seen in the degenerative disease dyskeratosis congenita.

Recent findings demonstrate that telomeres are transcribed into a long non-coding RNA, dubbed TERRA (Telomeric repeat-containing RNA). We employ genetic, biochemical, molecular and proteomic -based approaches to understand how TERRA regulates telomere length in yeast and human cells.

Research website

Positions held

  • Since 2017: Adjunct Director, Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB), Mainz
  • Since 2017: Professor, Faculty of Biology, Johannes Gutenberg University (JGU), Mainz
  • 2014 - 2017: Group Leader, Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB), Mainz
  • 2009 - 2014: Group Leader, ZMBH, University of Heidelberg
  • 2005 - 2009: Postdoc, EPFL Lausanne
  • 2005: Postdoctoral Fellow, Biochemistry, ETH Zürich


  • 2005: PhD ETH, Zurich
  • 1999: Bachelor of Science, Biology, Queen’s University

Selected publications by Brian Luke

Niehrs C* and Luke B* (2020) Regulatory R-loops as facilitators of gene expression and genome stabilityNat Rev Mol Cell Biol, 21:167–178 (*indicates joint contribution) Link

Pérez-Martínez L, Öztürk M, Butter F# and Luke B# (2020) Npl3 stabilizes R-loops at telomeres to prevent accelerated replicative senescenceEMBO Rep, 21:e49087 (#indicates joint correspondance) Link

Kellner V# and Luke B# (2019) Molecular and physiological consequences of faulty eukaryotic ribonucleotide excision repairEMBO J, 12:e102309 (#indicates joint correspondence) Link

Graf M*, Bonetti D*, Lockhart A*, Serhal K, Kellner V, Maicher A, Jolivet P, Teixeira MT and Luke B (2017) Telomere length determines TERRA and R-loop regulation through the cell cycle. Cell, 170:72–85 (*indicates joint contribution) Link

Rippe K# and Luke B# (2015) TERRA and the state of the telomereNat Struct Mol Biol, 22:853–858 (#indicates joint correspondence) Link