The research of the Janovjak Group lies at the interface of synthetic biology and mammalian physiology. The group has established new methods to control cellular signalling pathways, e.g. those activated by receptor tyrosine kinases and GPCRs, and behaviour, e.g. proliferation and survival, of nerve cells, cancer cells and key cell populations involved in metabolism. Their methods offer spatial precision, e.g. to activate only selected cells or tissues ex vivo and in vivo, and temporal precision, e.g. to intervene with specific stages during development and disease progression, and included but are not limited to optogenetics.

The group is currently applying these methods to understand and manipulate cells and tissues affected by degeneration, with a particular focus on Type I diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. Their interdisciplinary research combines the development of new molecular tools and the study of disease using mouse and the fruit fly.

For more information about our research, please also visit the Janovjak Group website (

Funding acknowledgment:

Group Members

Research Themes

  • Developing new methods for controlling cell behaviour with high spatio-temporal precision (e.g. optogenetics)
  • Engineering of new genes and proteins for synthetic biology
  • Deciphering the function and physiology of orphan receptors
  • Controlling cell proliferation and survival in models of degenerative disorders

Featured Publications

Authors Title Published In

Morri M, Sanchez-Romero I, Tichy AM, Kainrath S, Gerrard EJ, Hirschfeld PP, Schwarz J, Janovjak H.

Optical functionalization of human Class A orphan G-protein-coupled receptors.

Nat. Commun. (2018) 9: 1950.

Kainrath S, Stadler M, Reichhart E, Distel M, Janovjak H.

Green-light-induced inactivation of receptor signaling using cobalamin-binding domains.

Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. (2017) 56: 4608-4611.

More Publications

Authors Title Published In

Mitchell JA, Whitfield JH, Zhang WH, Henneberger C, Janovjak H, O’Mara ML, Jackson CJ.

Rangefinder: A semisynthetic FRET sensor design algorithm.

ACS Sensors (2016) 1: 1286-1290.

Sako K, Pradhan SJ, Barone V, Inglés-Prieto Á, Müller P, Ruprecht V, Čapek D, Galande S, Janovjak H, Heisenberg CP.

Optogenetic control of nodal signaling reveals a temporal pattern of nodal signaling regulating cell fate specification during gastrulation.

Cell Rep. (2016) 16: 866-877.

Reichhart E, Ingles-Prieto A, Tichy AM, McKenzie C, Janovjak H.

A phytochrome sensory domain permits receptor activation by red light.

Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. (2016) 55: 6339-6342.

Inglés-Prieto Á, Reichhart E, Muellner MK, Nowak M, Nijman SM, Grusch M, Janovjak H.

Light-assisted small-molecule screening against protein kinases.

Nat. Chem. Biol. (2015) 11: 952-954.

Whitfield JH, Zhang WH, Herde MK, Clifton BE, Radziejewski J, Janovjak H, Henneberger C, Jackson CJ.

Construction of a robust and sensitive arginine biosensor through ancestral protein reconstruction.

Protein Sci. (2015) 24: 1412-1422.

Hühner J, Ingles-Prieto Á, Neusüß C, Lämmerhofer M, Janovjak H.

Quantification of riboflavin, flavin mononucleotide, and flavin adenine dinucleotide in mammalian model cells by CE with LED-induced fluorescence detection.

Electrophoresis (2015) 36: 518-525.

Grusch M, Schelch K, Riedler R, Reichhart E, Differ C, Berger W, Inglés-Prieto Á, Janovjak H.

Spatio-temporally precise activation of engineered receptor tyrosine kinases by light.

EMBO J. (2014) 33: 1713-1726.

Janovjak H, Sandoz G, Isacoff EY.

A modern ionotropic glutamate receptor with a K(+) selectivity signature sequence.

Nat. Commun. (2011) 2: 232.

Janovjak H, Szobota S, Wyart C, Trauner D, Isacoff EY.

A light-gated, potassium-selective glutamate receptor for the optical inhibition of neuronal firing.

Nat. Neurosci. (2010) 13: 1027-1032.