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Jun. Prof. Olalla Vázquez. Chemical Biology
Philipps University Marburg, Faculty of Chemistry, Fb. 15 - Chemie, Hans-Meerwein-Straße, D-35032 Marburg.

Fluorescence, DNA/RNA/protein interactions, solid phase synthesis (peptide, PNA), photo-activation, singlet oxygen.


We think that epigenetics provides a fruitful domain for chemical biology, due to its unique potential for the predictable manipulation of biological processes and development of specific molecular tools. Within this context, our aim is the exploration of innovative chemical tools and smart molecules capable of sensing and influencing specific processes involved in chromatin regulation in a programmable manner. We called them EpiTools and we think that they will assist the deciphering of epigenetic mechanisms at atomic level.


Organic and solid phase synthesis, fluorescence and circular dichroism spectroscopies, electrophoresis, cell-based assays, PCR, protein expression, capillary electrophoresis.

Collaborations outside COST

Prof. Alexander Brehm IMT, Marburg, Germany Dr. Leon Schulte, Institute of Lung Research, Marburg, Germany Dr. Cornelia Brendel, Faculty of Medicine, Marburg, Germany Prof. Yali Dou, Department of Pathology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan United States

Short description of ongoing research projects

Our ongoing research projects related to epigenetics targets the different sides of epigenetic regulation:
a) Nucleosome; here we are developing specific nucleosome sensors exploiting unique structural features of the nucleosome and new methodology to study the ligand-nucleosome interactions through DNA footprinting by capillary electrophoresis
b) Histones; we have designed and synthesized reversible photoactivated peptides that interfere in essential protein-protein interactions of the epigenetic framework and could ultimately control the enzymatic bioactivity in a minimal invasive fashion. We are also working in new probes for activity tests
c) miRNA; we are in the process of synthesizing miRNA-based photodynamic regulators capable of undergoing mRNA-templated reactions to generate bioactive compounds like singlet oxygen and, ideally at the same time, regulating the cancer cell growth by repressing the expression of epigenetic enzymes.

  1. Vázquez, O.; Seitz, O. “Cytotoxic peptide-PNA conjugates by RNA-programmed peptidyl transfer with turnover” Chem Sci., 2014, 5, 2850–2854
  2. Sánchez, M. I.; Vázquez, O.; Martínez-Costas, J.; Vázquez, M. E.; Mascareñas J. L. “Straightforward access to bisbenzamidine DNA binders and their use as versatile adaptors for DNA-promoted processes” Chem. Sci, 2012, 3, 2383–2387
  3. Vázquez, O.; Sánchez, M. I.; Martínez–Costas, J.; Vázquez. M. E.; Mascareñas, J.L. “Bis-4-aminobenzamidines: versatile, fluorogenic A/T–selective dsDNA binders” Org. Lett. 2010, 12, 216–219.
  4. Vázquez, O.; Blanco, J.B; Vázquez, M. E.; Martinez-Costas, J. Castedo, L.; Mascareñas, J.L. “Efficient DNA binding and nuclear uptake by distamycin derivates conjugated to octa-arginine sequences” ChemBioChem. 2008, 9, 2822–2829.
  5. Vázquez, O.; Vázquez, M.E.; Blanco, J.B.; Castedo, L.; Mascareñas, J.L.“Specific DNA recognition by a synthetic, monomeric Cys2His2 zinc finger peptide conjugated to a minor groove binder”. Angew. Chem. 2007, 46, 6886–6890.
Other activities of potential interest to others

I am the scientific coordinator of a strategic partnership DAAD project with the Tongji University in Shanghai. Besides, the DNA footprinting methodology could be also useful for WG2 Epigenetic technology.

Cost UE