Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg

Henrik Kaessmann
ZMBH Research Group Leader

Im Neuenheimer Feld 282
69120 Heidelberg, Germany
Tel. +49 (0) 6221 - 545854

Lab Website



Welcome to the Kaessmann lab!



The molecular and cellular origins and evolution of vertebrate organs

Our lab has been interested in a range of topics related to the origins and evolution of organs in mammals and other vertebrates as well as the various underlying genomic/molecular changes. In the framework of our research, we have generated and analyzed comprehensive genomics (e.g., RNA-seq) datasets based on samples from our large organ collections. We have thus illuminated the origins and functional evolution of protein-coding genes, alternative splicing, long noncoding RNAs, microRNAs, and sex chromosomes across organs and species, as well as associated phenotypic implications. More recently, we have begun to bring the work of our lab to the level of individual cells using state-of-the-art single-cell genomics technologies and bioinformatics procedures. In a major set of new projects, we seek to scrutinize the origins and evolution of the vertebrate brain and its constituent tissues and cell types based on samples from representatives of all major vertebrate lineages, ranging from jawless vertebrates (e.g., the sea lamprey) to mammals (e.g., platypus and human). In other current projects, we investigate the evolution and development of gonads, liver and intestine (dietary adaptations), and the placenta across representative mammals.


Selected publications

Original papers

Sepp, M., Leiss, K., Murat, F., Okonechnikov, K., Joshi, P., Leushkin, E., Spänig, L., Mbengue, N., Schneider, C., Schmidt, J., Trost, N., Schauer, M., Khaitovich, P., Lisgo, S., Palkovits, M., Giere, P., Kutscher, L. M., Anders, S., Cardoso-Moreira, M., Sarropoulos, I., Pfister, S. M., and Kaessmann, H. (2023) Cellular development and evolution of the mammalian cerebellum. Nature (online ahead of print). URL

Rodríguez-Montes, L., Ovchinnikova, S., Yuan, X., Studer, T., Sarropoulos, I., Anders, S., Kaessmann, H.*, and Cardoso-Moreira, M.* (2023) Sex-biased gene expression across mammalian organ development and evolution. Science 382:6670.  *joint senior author. URL

Lamanna, F., Hervas-Sotomayor, F, Oel, A.P., Jandzik, D., Sobrido-Cameán, D., Santos-Durán, G.N., Martik, M.L., Stundl, J., Green, S.A., Brüning, T., Mößinger, K., Schmidt, J., Schneider, C., Sepp, M., Murat, F., Smith, J.J., Bronner, M.E., Rodicio, M.C., Barreiro-Iglesias, A., Medeiros, D.M., Arendt, D., and Kaessmann, H. (2023) A lamprey neural cell type atlas illuminates the origins of the vertebrate brain. Nat. Ecol. Evol. 10:1714-1728. URL

Murat, F., Mbengue, N., Boeg Winge, S., Trefzer, T., Leushkin, E., Sepp, M., Cardoso-Moreira, M., Schmidt, J., Schneider, C., Mößinger, K., Brüning, T., Lamanna, F., Riera Belles, M., Conrad, C., Kondova, I., Bontrop, R., Behr, R., Khaitovich, P., Pääbo, S., Marques-Bonet, T., Grützner, F., Almstrup, K., Heide Schierup, M., Kaessmann, H. (2022) The molecular evolution of spermatogenesis across mammals. Nature 613:308-316. URL

Sarropoulos, I., Sepp, M., Frömel, R., Leiss, K., Trost, N., Leushkin, E., Okonechnikov, K., Joshi, P., Giere, P., Kutscher, L.M., Cardoso-Moreira, M., Pfister, S.M., and Kaessmann, H. (2021) Developmental and evolutionary dynamics of cis-regulatory elements in mouse cerebellar cells. Science 373:eabg4696. URL

Mazin, P.V., Khaitovich, P., Cardoso-Moreira, M., and Kaessmann, H. (2021) Alternative splicing during mammalian organ development. Nat. Genet. 53:924-935. URL

Wang, Z.Y., Leushkin, E., Liechti, A., Ovchinnikova, S., Mößinger, K., Brüning, T., Rummel, C., Grützner, F., Cardoso-Moreira, M., Janich, P., Gatfield, D., Diagouraga, B., de Massy, B., Gill, M.E., Peters, A.H.F.M., Anders, S., and Kaessmann, H. (2020) Transcriptome and translatome co-evolution in mammals. Nature 588: 642-647. URL

Cardoso-Moreira, M., Halbert, J., Valloton, D., Velten, B., Chen, C., Shao, Y., Liechti, A., Ascenção, K., Rummel, C., Ovchinnikova, S., Mazin, P.V., Xenarios, I., Harshman, K., Mort, M., Cooper, D.N., Sandi, C., Soares, M.J., Ferreira, P.G., Afonso, S., Carneiro, M., Turner, J.M., VandeBerg, J.L., Fallahshahroudi, A., Jensen, P., Behr, R., Lisgo, S., Lindsay, S., Khaitovich, P., Huber, W., Baker, J., Anders, S., Zhang, Y.E., and Kaessmann, H. (2019) Gene expression across mammalian organ development. Nature 571: 505-509. URL

Sarropoulos, I., Marin, R., Cardoso-Moreira, M., and Kaessmann, H. (2019) Developmental dynamics of lncRNAs across mammalian organs and species. Nature 571: 510-514. URL

Cortez, D., Marin, R., Toledo-Flores, D., Froidevaux, L., Liechti, A., Waters, P.D., Grützner, F., and Kaessmann, H. (2014) Origins and functional evolution of Y chromosomes across mammals. Nature 508: 488-493. URL

Necsulea, A., Soumillon, M., Warnefors, M., Liechti, A., Daish, T., Zeller, U., Baker, J.C., Grützner, F., and Kaessmann, H. (2014) The evolution of lncRNA repertoires and expression patterns in tetrapods. Nature 505: 635-640. URL

Brawand, D., Soumillon, M., Necsulea, A., Julien, P., Csárdi, G., Harrigan, P., Weier, M., Liechti, A., Aximu-Petri, A., Kircher, M., Albert, F.W., Zeller, U., Khaitovich, P., Grützner, F., Bergmann, S., Nielsen, R., Pääbo, S., and Kaessmann, H. (2011) The evolution of gene expression levels in mammalian organs. Nature 478: 343-348. URL


Necsulea, A. and Kaessmann, H. (2014) Evolutionary dynamics of coding and noncoding transcriptomes. Nat. Rev. Genet. 5: 734-48. URL

Kaessmann, H. (2010) Origins, evolution and phenotypic impact of new genes. Genome Res. 20: 1313-1326. URL

Kaessmann, H., Vinckenbosch, N., and Long, M. (2009) RNA-based gene duplication: mechanistic and evolutionary insights. Nat. Rev. Genet. 10: 19-31. URL