Est. 2018

Klengel Lab



Work in the Klengel Lab focuses on the underlying molecular mechanisms of neuropsychiatric diseases and towards the development of novel preventive and therapeutic approaches.

Psychiatric disorders are highly prevalent; yet, our understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms leading to the development of these devastating disorders is unfortunately scarce. As a consequence, we also currently lack effective preventive and therapeutic strategies, which leads to an enormous burden for individuals, families, and our societies. The goal of our group is to contribute to a better understanding of psychiatric diseases and thus better interventions. Pursuing a translational approach, we integrate clinically derived data sets and samples, animal models and a diverse set of molecular approaches to identify factors contributing on the molecular level to risk or resilience for psychiatric diseases.


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Giovanie Yacorps, Undergraduate Researcher


Lakshmi Linkedin Profile pic .jpg


Lakshmi Haferman, BSc - Research Assistant (Together with Sabina Berretta)



Megan Shevenell, MSc - Research Assistant (Together with Kerry Ressler and Lucy Allbaugh)

Google Scholar | ResearchGate | NCBI | Email



Sharvari Narendra, MSc - Undergraduate Researcher (Together with Jung Suh and Kerry Ressler)




Peter Durning, BSc - Research Assistant (Together with Sabina Berretta)

NCBI | Email



Melanie Bückner, MSc - Research Assistant (Together with Susann Boretius)




Roy Lardenoije, PhD - Bioinformatician

ResearchGate | NCBI | Email



Claudia Klengel, MD - Lab Manager (Together with Kerry Ressler)

ResearchGate | NCBI | Email



Torsten Klengel MD, PhD - Principle Investigator

Google Scholar | ResearchGate | NCBI | Email



You are interested in Neurobiology, Psychiatric Disorders, and Molecular Biology? - Become a Lab Member!

If you are interested in working with us, please contact us. We are always looking for curious and motivated researchers.



Translational Environmental Epigenetics

Environmental factors strongly contribute to the development of psychiatric disorders. Evidence suggest that environmental cues as early as in antecedent generations and throughout the lifespan can substantially influence developmental trajectories towards health and disease. We are specifically interested in the effects of early life stress and how these adverse factors influence the risk for stress-related disorders including major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. However, how the environment affects long-term brain function remains unclear. We focus on epigenetic changes, broadly defined as functionally relevant changes to our genome without alterations of its sequence. In particular, we investigate DNA methylation profiles in humans and animal models to detect epigenetic signatures that are predictive of disease trajectories or provide insight into disease mechanism.


Non-Coding RNAs in the Mammalian Brain

Only about 2% of our genome is actively translated into proteins, however, up to 80% of the entire genome is transcribed into RNA. Despite good evidence for a portion of our DNA being indeed “junk-DNA”, more recent evidence suggest that the non-coding part of our genome has relevant function in genome stability, regulation and overall function. Among the broad variety of non-coding RNAs expressed from the mammalian genome, we focus on circular RNAs, which form a unique closed-loop structure. Circular RNAs are expressed from many neuron-specific loci and show an enrichment in the brain. However, their function is largely unknown. We investigate circular RNAs in post-mortem brain tissue and in animal models to better understand their role in the healthy brain as well as in disease.


Effects of Type and Timing of Childhood Maltreatment on Disease Trajectories

Childhood maltreatment is one of the most important environmental contributors to the development of a wide range of psychiatric disorders. However, not everyone exposed to traumatic events during childhood develops mental health problems. In addition, disease trajectories in individuals exposed to maltreatment show a broad variation in symptom type and severity later in life. This may be due to a specific impact of type and timing of maltreatment on later symptom development with discernable sensitive periods mediating the effects of maltreatment on outcomes. Using clinical data and animal models, we seek to understand how type and timing of environmental factors influence outcomes and how genetic and other molecular mechanisms interact with exposure to maltreatment.



PGC-PTSD GWAS paper published

The Psychiatric Genomics Consortium published a GWAS on PTSD including over 30,000 PTSD cases and 170,000 controls. Lead by the labs of Caroline Nievergelt, Karestan Koenen, Israel Liberzon and Kerry Ressler, this study shows that risk for PTSD after a traumatic event is partially heritable with a significant shared liability between PTSD and other psychiatric disorders. Notably, this study included individuals from diverse ethnic groups and suggest that the genetic risk for disease may be ancestry-specific. This is the bioRxiv link.


Effects of Infant Maltreatment across Generations in Monkeys

In collaboration with Mar Sanchez’ lab at the Yerkes National Primate Center at Emory University, we published a paper on the effects of infant maltreatment in rhesus monkeys on epigenetic programming across generations. Maltreatment in mothers leads to functional DNA methylation changes in FKBP5 in offspring even when they were raised by foster mothers providing evidence for intergenerational effects of maltreatment on epigenetic programming in non-human primates. This is the bioRxiv link.



Lucy Allbaugh | University of Dayton

Sabina Berretta | McLean Hospital | Harvard Medical School

Elisabeth Binder | Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry

Susann Boretius | German Primate Center | University of Göttingen

Gregory Quirk | University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine

Kerry Ressler | McLean Hospital | Harvard Medical School

Mar Sanchez | Yerkes National Primate Center | Emory University

Martin Teicher | McLean Hospital | Harvard Medical School