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Information for Researchers No. 22 | 24 April 2013
Priority Programme „Emerging Roles of Non-coding RNAs in Nervous System Development, Plasticity and Disease” (SPP 1738)

The Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has established a new Priority Programme entitled “Emerging Roles of Non-coding RNAs in Nervous System Development, Plasticity and Disease” (SPP1738). The programme will run for an initial period of three years and can be extended for three more years.

Intricate gene regulatory programmes orchestrate both the development of the nervous system as well as experience-dependent adaptations that underlie higher cognitive functions. Very recently, non-coding RNAs (ncRNA) were discovered as an extensive new layer of gene regulation in nervous system function and disease.

The Priority Programme aims at identifying the functionally relevant ncRNA-target interactions, the underlying molecular mechanisms of regulation and the causal links to major neurological diseases. The focus will be on recently “emerging” non-coding RNAs with a documented gene regulatory function (miRNAs, endo-siRNA, piRNAs, lincRNAs). To address ncRNA function and regulation as a function of the spatiotemporal context, investigations will be performed at various stages of nervous system development to adulthood. Various complexity levels will be considered, from molecular machineries via individual cells to the circuit level. The inclusion of different model organisms in the programme will therefore allow to obtain insight into the conservation and evolution of ncRNA mechanisms. Mechanistic projects will focus on action of ncRNAs and its role on transcriptional and/or post-transcriptional regulatory mechanisms in the developing and adult nervous system and the interplay of ncRNAs and RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) and its role in the regulation of ncRNA biogenesis and function. Individual projects should bridge several disciplines, i.e. combining functional analysis with state-of-the-art molecular biology (e.g. massive parallel sequencing), biochemical (e.g. RBP-CLIP, quantitative proteomics) and/or bioinformatics/systems biology (e.g. pathway analysis, ncRNA target prediction) approaches. Therefore, collaboration between participating groups of the programme is strongly encouraged.

To foster optimal collaboration between groups, the following projects are explicitly excluded: Projects addressing the function of well-studied, “classical” non-coding RNAs with a reported role in RNA metabolism (e.g. canonical splicing (snRNA), RNA modification (snoRNA), ribosome biogenesis (rRNA) or constitutive translation (tRNA)); projects investigating the regulation of RNA metabolism and/or RBPs without a direct link to emerging non-coding RNAs (e.g. mRNA transport, stability, NMD); clinical investigations such as biomarker screening without a focus on basic research; purely descriptive studies (expression profiling, genetics, bioinformatics, pathway analysis) without an involvement of corresponding functional analysis.

Applications for the first three-years funding period should be written in English and submitted by 30 September 2013 via the electronic elan system, choosing “Schwerpunktprogramm” and selecting “SPP 1738 – Emerging Roles of Non-coding RNAs in Nervous System Development, Plasticity and Disease” on the menu. Furthermore please send an electronic version (pdf format) of the application to the coordinator (see below).

Further information

The proposals need to follow the guidelines for Priority Programmes (DFG-Vordruck 50.05 [06/12]) and should be prepared according to the Proposal Preparation Instructions (DFG-Vordruck 54.01 [10/12]). These forms can be found here:

Please submit the proposal via the electronic system elan:

Contact person for questions related to the SPP 1738:

Contact person for questions related to the application or review process: