Welcome to the eilslabs

The eilslabs form a joint research group between the division "Theoretical Bioinformatics" at the German Cancer Research Center (dkfz) and the department Bioinformatics and Functional Genomics at the Institute of Pharmacy and Molecular Biotechnology (IPMB) at Heidelberg University. The group is headed by Prof. Roland Eils.


New joint study of the eilslabs and the UFZ in Leipzig decrypts the epigenetic impact of smoking on the gene regulatory machinery

Numerous epidemiological studies have demonstrated that maternal smoking has a strong negative impact on the health of newborn child, for example laying the ground for later allergic affections. However, the molecular mechanisms involved remained so far obscure. Several members of the eilslabs under the lead of Roland Eils and Carl Herrmann have now published a study in Molecular Systems Biology in collaboration with a team from the UFZ Leipzig led by Irina Lehmann. In the study they describe the epigenetic mechanisms that are perturbed by maternal smoking, both in mothers and in children. Thanks to a comprehensive epigenetic dataset (whole genome bisulfite sequencing and ChIP-seq), they were able to show that enhancers, regulating the gene expression of distal genes, appear to be specifically targeted by DNA methylation changes.  These hypo/hyper methylations modulate the activity of these regulatory elements, leading to downstream changes in the expression of genes involved in important developmental pathways such as the Wnt pathway. These results raise the intriguing hypothesis that distal regulatory hubs, rather than gene promoters, are prone to be perturbed by environmental cues, explaining their widespread downstream effects.

Maternal Smoking is Harmful!

Cover Image of Molecular Systems Biology featuring the study: Smoking during pregnancy causes epigenetic reprogramming in mothers and children. © Molecular Systems Biology, EMBOpress


  • Bauer T, Trump S, Ishaque N, Thürmann L, Gu L, Bauer M, Bieg M, Gu Z, Weichenhan D, Mallm J, Röder S, Herberth G, Takada E, Mücke O, Winter M, Junge KM, Grützmann K, Rolle-Kampczyk U, Wang Q, Lawerenz C, Borte M, Polte T, Schlesner M, Schanne M, Wiemann S, Geörg C, Stunnenberg HG, Plass C, Rippe K, Mizuguchi J, Herrmann C, Eils R, Lehmann I (2016). Environment-induced epigenetic reprogramming in genomic regulatory elements in smoking mothers and their children. Molecular Systems Biology http://dx.doi.org/10.15252/msb.20156520

This research was supported by the DKFZ’s Heidelberg Center for Personalized Oncology (DKFZ-HIPO).

Press Coverage:

Further information:

Dr. Irina Lehmann
UFZ Department of Environmental Immunology
Department of Environmental Immunology
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Prof. Dr. Roland Eils
German Cancer Research Center and the University of Heidelberg
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