Central Role of Transcription Factors in Common Age-Related Diseases

The scientific interest of our team is on mechanisms of gene regulation and its impact on major common diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis and cancer. Our investigations use methods of molecular biology, bioinformatics and systems biology.

Group Leader

Carsten Carlberg, PhD, Professor of Biochemistry
carsten.carlberg (at) uef.fi


Since more than 20 years the expertise of our team is on the analysis of transcription factors and their primary target genes resulting in more than 140 original publications and some 40 review articles (see, for example, Frontiers eBook). Most of our projects concentrate on members of the nuclear receptor superfamily of ligand-activated transcription factors, such as the vitamin D receptor (VDR), peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs), retinoic acid receptors (RARs) and liver X receptors (LXRs). During the last years our group has expanded its focus on gene regulatory networks and systems biology approaches on transcription factor function.

Transcription factors regulate functions as diverse as reproduction, differentiation, development, metabolism and homeostasis. Nuclear receptors in particular are promising pharmacological targets as they bind small molecules, which can be easily modified by drug design. Many lipophilic nutritional compounds act as ligands for nuclear receptors, which in turn have a large impact on controlling enzymes and transporters for these metabolites. We are part of the Microgennet Network, which is a collaboration of 16 distinguished universities and research institutes worldwide. The overall aim of the exchange program is to build, extend and strengthen sustainable collaborations between the partners so as to create a community driven knowledge base for micronutrient genomics research.

Present and Former Research Consortia

Our Main Research Topics are

  • Genome-wide characterization of nuclear receptor target genes
  • Identification of regulatory SNPs
  • Gene regulation in 3 dimensions
  • Gene networks for cellular differentiation and inflammatory responses

To address these issues, we use a wide pattern of state-of-the-art molecular biology and bioinformatic methods, including quantitative PCR, ChIP-seq, FAIRE-seq and ChIA-PET.

Research Group

Sabine Seuter, Antonio Neme, Veijo Nurminen

Alumni (since 2011):

  • Marina Alvarez, BSc
  • Maja Vukic, MSc
  • Noora Saksa, MSc
  • Jussi Ryynänen, PhD
  • Julia Wilfinger, MSc
  • Sami Heikkinen, PhD, docent
  • Petri Pehkonen, PhD


All our projects on the mechanisms of transcriptional regulation and the molecular medicine of age-related disease are supported by a set of MSc and PhD level lecture courses lectured every year by Prof. Carlberg.

The courses are:


Academy of Finland, Sigrid Jusélius Foundation, European Commission Cordis, NordForsk, UEF Graduate School in Molecular Medicine


Frank Bruggeman and Hans Westerhoff (Free University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands), Moray Campbell and Lara Sucheston (The Ohio State University, Columbus, USA), Chris Evelo and Susan Coort (University of Maastricht, The Netherlands), Susana Gonzalo (St. Louis University, St. Louis, USA), Sami Heikkinen (University of Eastern Finland, Finland), Karl-Heinz Herzig (University of Oulu, Finland), Enikö Kallay (University of Vienna, Austria), Sander Kersten and Michael Müller (University of Wageningen, The Netherlands), Ferdinand Molnar (University of Eastern Finland), Alberto Munoz (Instituto de Investigaciones Biomedicas, Madrid, Spain), Antonio Mourino and Miguel Maestro (University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain), Patsie Polly (University of Southwest Australia, Sydney), Lucia Ribeiro (State University of Sao Paulo, Brasil), Dieter Steinhilber and Klaus Badenhoop (Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany), Knut Steffensen and Eckardt Treuter (Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden), Stine M. Ulven and Kirsten Bjørklund Holven (University of Oslo, Norway), Jyrki Virtanen, Matti Uusitupa and Tomi-Pekka Tuomainen (University of Eastern Finland, Finland), Mieke Verstyuf and Chantal Mathieu (University of Leuven, Belgium)