April 2020: Anja Zeigerer

Anja's scientific work in one sentence

Coupling intracellular membrane trafficking to metabolic regulation in physiology and disease

Short CV

Highest Level of education: Diploma in Biology, 2000, University of Heidelberg<
Promotion:  2004, University of Heidelberg
Actual Position: Research Group Leader
Research Group Endocytosis & Metabolism

What is - in your opinion - your best publication?

Seitz S, Kwon Y, Hartleben G, Jülg J, Sekar R, Krahmer N, Najafi B, Loft A, Gancheva S, Stemmer K, Feuchtinger A, Hrabe de Angelis M, Müller TD, Mann M, Blüher M, Roden M, Berriel Diaz M, Behrends C, Gilleron J, Herzig S and Zeigerer A. Hepatic Rab24 controls blood glucose homeostasis via mitochondrial metabolic reprogramming. (2019) Nature Metabolism Oct 15. doi: 10.1038/s42255-019-0124-x

What are your most important prizes and memberships?

Marie Curie Intra-European Research Award
1st price at the 17th Annual NSW Cell and Developmental Cell Biology Meeting, Sydney, Australia

European Association for the Study of Diabetes; German Center for Diabetes Research

5 questions about research - past, present, future

1. What are your primary tasks and responsibilities in your actual position?
Science management, innovation, administration and networking. I am responsible for project design, supervision, funding, presentation at scientific meetings and writing of manuscripts. The development of new ideas comes together with intensive networking and interaction with the scientific community. I am engaging with administrative sites to ensure that projects can run smoothly. Sometimes I am still at the bench or the microscope, which helps me to stay closely connected to my group.

2. What is it that gives you pleasure and/or satisfaction the most?
Being able to follow my dreams and ideas and solve puzzling scientific questions. I am bridging two fields (cellular membrane trafficking and metabolic regulation), which gives me the opportunity to study my favorite membrane trafficking proteins and organelles and understand how they contribute not only to cellular and organ physiology but also to pathological conditions in metabolic diseases. Seeing how the function of a membrane trafficking component can have systemic effects on metabolism and how this might be altered in metabolic diseases, such as type-2 diabetes and obesity also in humans, gives me the most rewarding feeling of my work.

3. Which research question(s) affects you at the moment? What is its social significance?
I am very much interested in bringing together our knowledge on endosomal trafficking with metabolic regulation. These two fields have been mainly studied in isolation, but it is becoming clear that they can participate in regulating each other. Many of the components of the endosomal system are altered in expression in metabolic diseases in humans, but we don’t understand yet their physiological function in metabolism, and how and why they contribute to the development of type-2 diabetes and obesity. I think there are many exciting new findings waiting for us to be discovered, which is the focus of my group right now.

4. Which publication influenced you the most?
The discovery of the SNAREs and its concept of directed membrane trafficking.

5. What do you like most about the IDC?
It’s a great and open environment to develop your group and get helpful insights into metabolic research, mouse models and variety of different techniques. We run the open lab system, which enables fruitful collaborations, sharing of equipment and expertise and brings together bright minds from different backgrounds. There is also an open discussion and sharing of ideas amongst group leaders and excellent administrative support system at the IDC, which helps tremendously to focus on your research. Thank you IDC!

4 questions beyond research

1. What are your experiences with reconciliation of family or private and working life?
Balancing family and work is sometimes challenging, but we have very flexible working hours and also home office options, which help a lot. My husband and grandparents are super supportive in busy times and when I am travelling and I am thankful for their help. However, one thing I learned right after the birth of my daughter is to be even more efficient in things I do and to stay focused.

2. What is the
experience during your PhD you will remember all your life?
I have two memories: Going to the lab in Weill Cornell Medical College early in the morning of September 11th 2001, where I made some essential discoveries on the microscope for my PhD at the same time as the World Trade Centers were hit and collapsed. That was a very sad day for New York and such an important day for my PhD.
And writing my thesis in a time-share apartment in Manhattan in 20 m2, where my Hungarian friend usually worked there from home over the day and I used the apartment at night. Now being home for writing, we got to know each other much more and became best friends.

3. What are your hobbies?
Running, belly dancing, yoga. I love hanging out with friends, cooking together, enjoying good wines and discussions (while the kids are busy ;) ).

4. What is your favorite color, season and/or football (or other sports) club?
I am a sunny person, so it would be spring and summer. The first BBQ outside or a walk through Nature, when it starts to bloom, creates the most enjoyable colors for me.