Claudia Kutter Group

Research in our group focuses on identifiying and characterizing the regulatory interdependencies of protein-coding and noncoding RNAs (long noncoding, transfer and small RNAs) transcriptome-wide in mammalian somatic tissues and in the germline. Our goal is to gain mechanistic insights into the transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation and processing of RNAs during organ development, cell differentiation and disease progression.

Functional interactions of mammalian coding and noncoding transcriptomes

Over 200 highly specialized cells with diverse morphologies and functionalities exist in the human body, yet virtually every cell in the body contains the same genetic information. To exert cell-specific functions high fidelity mechanisms evolved to restrict the synthesis and processing of discrete sets of regulatory RNA molecules. Abnormal cell behavior as seen in many fatal human diseases, such as cancer, is often the consequence of aberrant transcripts formation.

We are particularly interested in:

  • revealing the origin, evolution and disease association of ncRNAs
  • deciphering the molecular mechanism underpinning regulation by ncRNAs and
  • explaining ncRNA functions.

Our experimental approaches include:

  • applying and developing high-throughput RNA sequencing methodologies and epigenetic profiling coupled to powerful computational analysis,
  • detailed biochemical assays and complementing screening methodologies
  • phenotypic characterization using CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing tools in cell lines and tissues

We are an integrated team of experimental and computational scientists working in close collaboration to pursue individual research projects. Our group is affiliated to MTC and the Science for Life Laboratory where our laboratory is located. We interact daily with the resarch groups of Vicent Pelechano and Marc Friedlander by sharing office/bench space and having weekly joint group meetings and journal club.

Current Research Projects

Explaining how transcriptional “junk” is functional

Despite previous assumption that protein-coding genes are the exclusive carrier of functional information, a significant number of genetic variants linked to human diseases reside in the noncoding part of our genome. Many of these intergenic regions are transcribed into RNA molecules, including long noncoding RNAs. Although initially disregarded as transcriptional by-products, growing evidences assign important regulatory function to long noncoding RNAs. We identified that transcription of coding and noncoding RNAs is entwined to ensure proper cellular function. Currently, we investigate the transcriptional dynamics and regulatory processes employed by the cell when undergoing differentiation during development and transformation into cancer cells. We have a particlar interest in the involvement of RNA binding proteins during transcript processing and how they synergize with other cofactors.

Tackling the unique relationship and new roles of “old hats”

Increased transcriptional complexity in human and other higher eukaryotes is controlled by a sophisticated interplay of three RNA polymerases (Pol) that give rise to a variety of transcripts with different functions. For example, Pol II-derived mRNA codons and Pol III-transcribed tRNA anticodons are inevitable linked during translation. Previously, we have shown that mRNA codon usage is evolutionarily stable but the pool of tRNA anticodons needs to be actively controlled during species evolution, organ development and cancer. We are continuing to investige how co-evolution of codons and anticodons is controlled to ensure optimal translational efficienies. In addition, we have identified new roles of tRNAs and are currenty undertaking a multidisciplinary appraoch to investigate the precise mechanism of tRNA gene evolution, processing and functionality.

Understanding the cell’s manoeuvre to advance vs. preserve functionality 

Genomes evolve rapidly. Major contributors to this effect are transposable elements (TE). Although TE repeat sequences constitute up to two thirds of the human genome, we lack knowledge about the underlying regulatory mechanism by which TEs create genomic innovations and at the same time get constrained to preserve genomic integrity. We found that noncoding RNAs act as essential players in this paradoxical arms race between genome evolvability and stability. At present, we explore how TEs get mobilized and lead to the emergence of genes or alter regulatory processes in diverse vertebrate species and disease settings using a comparative genomics approach.

Wallenberg Academy Fellow Claudia Kutter: Junk may prove to be gold in the fight against cancer


Liver macrophages regulate systemic metabolism through non-inflammatory factors
Morgantini C, Jager J, Li X, Levi L, Azzimato V, Sulen A, Barreby E, Xu C, Tencerova M, Näslund E, Kumar C, Verdeguer F, Straniero S, Hultenby K, Björkström NK, Ellis E, Rydén M, Kutter C, Hurrell T, Lauschke VM, Boucher J, Tomčala A, Krejčová G, Bajgar A, Aouadi M.
Nature Metabolism 1 (4), 445

The emergence of piRNAs against transposon invasion to preserve mammalian genome integrity.
Ernst C, Odom DT, Kutter C
Nat Commun 2017 11;8(1):1411

Codon-Driven Translational Efficiency Is Stable across Diverse Mammalian Cell States.
Rudolph KL, Schmitt BM, Villar D, White RJ, Marioni JC, Kutter C, et al
PLoS Genet. 2016 05;12(5):e1006024

High-resolution mapping of transcriptional dynamics across tissue development reveals a stable mRNA-tRNA interface.
Schmitt B, Rudolph K, Karagianni P, Fonseca N, White R, Talianidis I, et al
Genome Res. 2014 Nov;24(11):1797-807

Aberrant methylation of tRNAs links cellular stress to neuro-developmental disorders.
Blanco S, Dietmann S, Flores J, Hussain S, Kutter C, Humphreys P, et al
EMBO J. 2014 Sep;33(18):2020-39

Aberrant methylation of tRNAs links cellular stress to neuro-developmental disorders.
Blanco S, Dietmann S, Flores JV, Hussain S, Kutter C, Humphreys P, et al
EMBO J. 2014 Sep;33(18):2020-39

The evolutionary landscape of alternative splicing in vertebrate species.
Barbosa-Morais NL, Irimia M, Pan Q, Xiong HY, Gueroussov S, Lee LJ, et al
Science 2012 Dec;338(6114):1587-93

Latent regulatory potential of human-specific repetitive elements.
Ward MC, Wilson MD, Barbosa-Morais NL, Schmidt D, Stark R, Pan Q, et al
Mol. Cell 2013 Jan;49(2):262-72

Rapid turnover of long noncoding RNAs and the evolution of gene expression.
Kutter C, Watt S, Stefflova K, Wilson MD, Goncalves A, Ponting CP, et al
PLoS Genet. 2012 ;8(7):e1002841

Waves of retrotransposon expansion remodel genome organization and CTCF binding in multiple mammalian lineages.
Schmidt D, Schwalie PC, Wilson MD, Ballester B, Gonçalves A, Kutter C, et al
Cell 2012 Jan;148(1-2):335-48

Pol III binding in six mammals shows conservation among amino acid isotypes despite divergence among tRNA genes.
Kutter C, Brown GD, Gonçalves A, Wilson MD, Watt S, Brazma A, et al
Nat. Genet. 2011 Aug;43(10):948-55

Five-vertebrate ChIP-seq reveals the evolutionary dynamics of transcription factor binding.
Schmidt D, Wilson MD, Ballester B, Schwalie PC, Brown GD, Marshall A, et al
Science 2010 May;328(5981):1036-40

Additional publications

Group Members


Xueli Guo– project assistant

Sofia Papavasileiou – SciLifeLab summer student

Laura Hinte – MSc student

Christian Sommerauer – Erasmus student

Sharmishtaa Kumar – project assistant

Jente Ottenburghs – postdoctoral researcher

Ionut Atanasoai – Erasmus student

Hanin Kattae – Erasmus student

Siddharth Tomar – SciLifeLab summer student, MSc student

Hassan Foroughi Asl – postdoctoral researcher

Małgorzata Sobota – research assistant

We always welcome enquiries (with CV) about experimental and computational positions.


We are grateful for the generous support for our research.

KI KID funding

KI strategic grant

Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation

Ruth and Richard Julin Foundation

Marcus Wallenberg Foundation

CSC programme

Swedish Research Council (VR)




Stockholm University

Wenner Gren Foundation


Conference organisation

EMBO workshop “RNA: Structure meets Function”

Transposon symposium


SciLifeLab seminar series

Science & SciLifeLab prize

Teaching at KI

Non-coding RNAs, microRNAs and their role in human diseases

The future of medicine: the role of "chance" in development, evolutionary adaptation and diseases

Mechanisms of gene regulation in metabolism

Molecular immunology: noncoding RNAs

The epigenome: a platform for the integration of metabolic and signaling pathways in development and on the path to diseases

Epigenetics and its applications in clinical research

Transcriptome-wide approaches


SciLifeLab fellows program

Wallenberg fellows program

Young Academy of Europe

Work portrait

Work video


Claudia Kutter

C1 Department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology