Address: Calwerstraße 14
72076 Tübingen

Person profile: 07071 29-82311

Fax number: 07071 29-4141

Molecular psychiatry

The research group "Molecular Psychiatry" investigates the genetic and epigenetic basis of psychiatric diseases. Psychiatric disorders are complex diseases to which various genetic, epigenetic and environmental factors contribute.

By studying the biological basis of these disorders, we aim to better understand the development and progression of mental illnesses and thus contribute to the development of more effective treatment and prevention.

What is epigenetics?

The term epigenetics describes, on the one hand, chemical modifications to DNA and proteins that bind to DNA and, on the other hand, RNAs that can interact with DNA. These epigenetic mechanisms are influenced by environmental factors and regulate the activity of genes.

Current projects

Alcohol dependence is a serious disease that contributes substantially to the so-called "Global Burden of Disease". Both genetic and environmental factors contribute to the susceptibility to alcohol dependence. Both factors act through epigenetic mechanisms, among others. In our study we investigate the influence of chronic alcohol dependence on the epigenome on the one hand and on the other hand we are interested in how the epigenome changes in the course of alcohol withdrawal treatment. For this purpose, we investigate specific genes with respect to their epigenetic regulation in the form of DNA methylation, miRNA expression and histone modifications. Our results should contribute to a better understanding of the biological mechanisms underlying alcohol dependence in order to contribute to improved prevention and therapy measures in the long term.

Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental illnesses. Both genetic and environmental factors play a role in their development. In particular, negative life experiences, especially in childhood and adolescence, seem to increase the risk of an anxiety disorder. The relationship between these early experiences and the later onset of anxiety disorders is not yet well understood, but there is increasing evidence that epigenetic regulation plays a role.

In our study, we want to investigate this association of anxiety disorders with early negative life experiences on an epigenetic and brain structural and functional level.

Early childhood stress in childhood and adolescence increases the risk of developing depression about threefold later in life.

This effect presumably has not only psychological but also biological causes, such as a dysregulation of the body's stress system due to the persistent stresses in childhood, and a resulting susceptibility to mental illness. We investigate to what extent this connection is mediated by epigenetic changes.

Mental illnesses and personality disorders are complex diseases that are based on an interplay of environmental and genetic factors. In addition, there is increasing evidence that epigenetic changes also play a role. In several studies we want to investigate the influence of psychotherapy on epigenetics. We are particularly interested in identifying predictive markers, i.e. differences in epigenetics that are associated with a particular clinical picture and may change in the course of therapy, thus providing an objective measure of therapeutic success.


frontend.sr-only_#{element.contextual_1.children.icon}: Calwerstraße 14,72076

Scientific direction:
Apl. Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Vanessa Nieratschker

+49 7071 29-85523


Technical management
in the laboratory:
Gisbert Farger

+49 7071 29-82345


Working Group

07071 29-5903

Diana Thoma

+49 7071 29-86119


The team

Selected Publications

  • Nieratschker, V., Massart, R., Gilles, M., Luoni, A., Suderman, M. J., Krumm, B., ... & Syzf, M. (2014). MORC1 exhibits cross-species differential methylation in association with early life stress as well as genome-wide association with MDD. Translational psychiatry, 4(8), e429-e429.
  • Brückmann, C., Di Santo, A., Karle, K. N., Batra, A., & Nieratschker, V. (2016). Validation of differential GDAP1 DNA methylation in alcohol dependence and its potential function as a biomarker for disease severity and therapy outcome. Epigenetics, 11(6), 456-463.
  • Brückmann, C., Islam, S. A., MacIsaac, J. L., Morin, A. M., Karle, K. N., Di Santo, A., ... & Nieratschker, V. (2017). DNA methylation signatures of chronic alcohol dependence in purified CD3+ T-cells of patients undergoing alcohol treatment. Scientific reports, 7(1), 1-11.
  • Knoblich, N., Gundel, F., Brückmann, C., Becker-Sadzio, J., Frischholz, C., & Nieratschker, V. (2018). DNA methylation of APBA3 and MCF2 in borderline personality disorder: potential biomarkers for response to psychotherapy. European Neuropsychopharmacology, 28(2), 252-263.
  • Thomas, M., Knoblich, N., Wallisch, A., Glowacz, K., Becker-Sadzio, J., Gundel, F., ... & Nieratschker, V. (2018). Increased BDNF methylation in saliva, but not blood, of patients with borderline personality disorder. Clinical epigenetics, 10(1), 109.

Further publications (PubMed)

Certificates and Associations