Michael is an internationally recognised expert in the field of transcriptomics, next-generation sequencing technologies and bioinformatics. His current scientific interest focuses on investigations of gene expression and alternative splicing patterns in distinct structures and cell types of the healthy human brain and perturbation of transcriptome profiles during the onset and progression of neurological disorders including multiple system atrophy, epilepsy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and chronic fatigue syndrome. Michael is also interested in exploration of cancer-specific alterations in transcriptome profiles towards identification of novel biomarkers such as circular and non-protein coding RNAs.
During his PhD studies and subsequently as a postdoc at the German Centre for Rheumatism Research, Michael specialised in investigating the influence of the sequence polymorphism within the promoter regions of MHC class II genes in several inbred mice strains (Janitz et al. 1997; Janitz et al. 1998; Cowell et al. 1998).
Joining the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics (MPIMG) converged with Michael’s growing interest in studying transcription at the genome-wide level. Amongst others, he was involved in collaborative projects to characterise cDNA sequences on the level of the whole transcriptome in mice T helper cells and bovine brain (Gutjahr et al. 2005; Jann et al. 2006), respectively.
While at the MPIMG, Michael and his research group focused on developing a transfected-cell array as a high-throughput genomic tool for functional analysis of genes and their products (Vanhecke and Janitz 2004). This resulted in application of the cell arrays for subcellular protein localisation studies (Hu et al. 2006; Hu et al. 2009; Hu et al. 2010), protein-protein interaction screens (Fiebitz et al. 2008), and functional promoter analysis (Cheng et al. 2010). In addition, with collaborative partners in national and European Community research programs, he applied gene expression profiling studies to identify the genes involved in T helper lymphocytes type 1 immune response (Niesner et al. 2008) and differentiation of murine palatal development (Nogai et al. 2008). His research group also developed miniaturised microarray platforms for DNA hybridization studies using PNA- (Bauer et al. 2004) and LNA-modified oligonucleotide probes (Guerasimova et al. 2006; Liu et al. 2006 and 2007), thus contributing to more efficient exploration of the genome structure and function.
Since his appointment at UNSW Michael has been focused on exploration of different segments of human and mouse transcriptome using combination of Illumina and nanopore DNA and RNA sequencing as well as unique analytical pipeline combining in-house and publicly available bioinformatics tools. He and his team provided first insights into non-protein coding transcriptome of different regions of the human cortex, both in health (Mills et al. 2013; Mills et al. 2015a; Mills et al. 2015b; Bliim et al. 2019) and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease (Twine et al. 2011; Mills et al. 2013; Mills et al. 2014), multiple system atrophy (MSA)(Mills et al. 2015c; Mills et al. 2016) and epilepsy (Mills et al. 2020) as well as cancer (Takenaka et al. 2016; Chen et al. 2017a). His recent research has been concentrated on circular RNAs (circRNAs) genome-wide expression patterns in the normal human (Chen et al. 2019) and mouse brain (Chen et al. 2018) as well as MSA (Chen et al. 2016) and endometrial cancer (Chen et al. 2017b).
Current research projects aim at understanding of circRNA-miRNA-mRNA networks in epilepsy and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis as well as gynaecological malignancies. Another emerging avenue of Michael’s research is exploration of RNA post-transcriptional modifications in healthy human tissues and cancer using nanopore direct RNA sequencing. Michael’s quest for the discovery of circRNAs, which might serve as molecular biomarker for MSA and endometrial cancer, constitutes another important element of his research program.
- Investigation of circular expression patterns in mesial temporal lobe epilepsy; in collaboration with Dr James Mills and Prof. Eleonora Aronica form University of Amsterdam, The Netherland and Prof Orrin Devinsky from New York University Langone Medical Center, U.S.A.
- Determination of the transcriptome perturbation in endometrial cancer; in collaboration with A/Prof Kyle Hoehn from School of BABS, UNSW Australia and A/Prof Rhonda Farrell from Prince of Wales Private Hospital Sydney.
- Investigation of changes in circular transcriptome patterns in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; in collaboration with Dr Sam Brennan and Dr Matt Keon from GenieUs Genomics Pty Ltd, Sydney, Australia.
- Investigation of the transcriptome specific for the mouse synaptosome and aging-related alterations in lncRNAs profiles; in collaboration with Prof. Thomas Arendt and Dr. Uwe Ueberham from Paul Flechsig Institute for Brain Research, University of Leipzig, Germany.
- Ashton Curry-Hyde, PhD candidate, APR.Intern
- Si-Mei Xu, PhD candidate
- Konii Takenaka, MSc candidate
- Grace Lindner, MSc candidate
- Yuning Cheng, Honours student
- Harry Fisher, Honours student
- Mills JD, van Vliet EA, Chen BJ, Janitz M., Anink JJ, Baayen JC, Idema S, Devore S, Friedman D, Diehl B, Thom M, Scott C, Thijs R, Aronica E, Devinsky O (2019) Coding and non-coding transcriptome of mesial temporal lobe epilepsy: Critical role of small non-coding RNAs. Neurobiol Dis 134:104612. Advance online publication.
- Chen, Byrne FL, Takenaka K, Modesitt SC, Olzomer EM, Mills JD, Farrell R, Hoehn KL, Janitz, M. (2017) Analysis of the circular RNA transcriptome in endometrial cancer. Oncotarget 9:5786–5796.
- Chen BJ, Byrne FL, Takenaka K, Modesitt SC, Olzomer EM, Mills JD, Farrell R, Hoehn KL, Janitz M (2017) Transcriptome landscape of long intergenic non-coding RNAs in endometrial cancer. Gynecol Oncol 47:654-662.
- Chen BJ, Mills JD, Takenaka K, Bliim N, Halliday GM, Janitz M (2016) Characterization of circular RNAs landscape in multiple system atrophy brain. J Neurochem 139:485-496.
- Mills JD, Kavanagh T, Kim WS, Chen BJ, Waters PD, Halliday GM, Janitz M (2015) High expression of long intervening non-coding RNA OLMALINC in the human cortical white matter is associated with regulation of oligodendrocyte maturation. Mol Brain 8:2.
- Mills JD, Kim WS, Halliday GM, Janitz M (2015) Transcriptome analysis of grey and white matter cortical tissue in multiple system atrophy. Neurogenetics 16:107-122.
- Twine NA, Janitz K, Wilkins MR, Janitz M (2011) Whole transcriptome sequencing reveals gene expression and splicing differences in brain regions affected by Alzheimer's disease. PLoS One 6:e16266.
- Warnatz HJ, Querfurth R, Guerasimova A, Cheng X, Haas SA, Hufton AL, Manke T, Vanhecke D, Nietfeld W, Vingron M, Janitz M, Lehrach H, Yaspo ML (2010) Functional analysis and identification of cis-regulatory elements of human chromosome 21 gene promoters. Nucleic Acids Res 38:6112-6123.
- Niesner U, Albrecht I, Janke M, Doebis C, Loddenkemper C, Lexberg MH, Eulenburg K, Kreher S, Koeck J, Baumgrass R, Bonhagen K, Kamradt T, Enghard P, Humrich JY, Rutz S, Schulze-Topphoff U, Aktas O, Bartfeld S, Radbruch H, Hegazy AN, Löhning M, Baumgart DC, Duchmann R, Rudwaleit M, Haeupl T , Gitelman I, Krenn V, Gruen J, Sieper J, Zeitz M, Wiedenmann B, Zipp F, Hamann A, Janitz M, Scheffold A, Burmester GR, Chang HD, Radbruch A (2008) Autoregulation of Th1-mediated inflammation by twist1. J Exp Med 205:1889-1901.
- Cowell LG, Kepler TB, Janitz M, Lauster R, Mitchison NA (1998) The distribution of variation in regulatory gene segments, as present in MHC class II promoters. Genome Res 8:124-134.
- 2009 - current, Senior Lecturer, School of BABS, UNSW Sydney
- 2000 - 2008 Group Leader, Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics (Department Prof. Hans Lehrach), Berlin, Germany
- 1998 -1999 Postdoctoral Fellow, German Centre for Rheumatism Research, Berlin, Germany
HONOURS & AWARDS
- Member of Editorial Board, Genomics (since 2020)
- Member of Editorial Board, Non-coding RNA (since 2020)
- Guest Editor, Special Issue Neuroscience Letters (2020)
- Guest Scientist at Paul Flechsig Institute for Brain Research, University of Leipzig (since 2017)
- NSW Brain Banks Scientific Review Committee member (since 2017)
- Member of Editorial Board, Gene (since 2014)
- Member of Editorial Board - Frontiers in Epigenomics (2011 - 17)
- Consultant to German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment regarding application of genomic methods as an alternative to animal experiments (2009)
- Consultant to Gerson Lehrman Group concerning next-generation sequencing technologies and future development perspectives (2007 – 09)
- Consultant to the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research concerning development of funding schemes in the field of genomic technologies (2007)