Prof. Dr. Martin J. Lercher

Research focus

We are interested in the molecular organization and evolution of cellular systems, in particular metabolism. Our major aim is to understand design principles that arise from the optimization of complex systems through natural selection. In our work, we frequently combine functional metabolic modelling with evolutionary simulations and compare evolutionary predictions with measured data. This allows us a mechanistic understanding of how complex systems have evolved, and how they are likely to evolve in the future.

The ten most important publications

  1. Szappanos B, Fritzemeier J, Csörgö B, Lázár V, Lu X, Fekete G, Bálint B, Herczeg R, Nagy I, Notebaart RA, Lercher MJ, Pál C, Papp B (2016) Adaptive evolution of complex innovations through stepwise metabolic niche expansion. Nat Commun 7:11607.
  2. Chen WH, Lu G, Bork P, Hu S, Lercher MJ (2016) Energy efficiency trade-offs drive nucleotide usage in transcribed regions. Nat Commun 7:11334.
  3. Mallmann J, Heckmann D, Bräutigam A, Lercher MJ, Weber AP, Westhoff P, Gowik U (2014) The role of photorespiration during the evolution of C4 photosynthesis in the genus Flaveria. eLife 3:e02478.
  4. Esser C, Kuhn A, Groth G, Lercher MJ, Maurino VG (2014) Plant and animal glycolate oxidases have a common eukaryotic ancestor and convergently duplicated to evolve long-chain 2-hydroxy acid oxidases. Molecular biology and evolution 31(5):1089-1101.
  5. Schönknecht G, Chen WH, Ternes CM, Barbier GG, Shrestha RP, Stanke M, Bräutigam A, Baker BJ, Banfield JF, Garavito RM, Carr K, Wilkerson C, Rensing SA, Gagneul D, Dickenson NE, Oesterhelt C, Lercher MJ, Weber AP (2013) Gene transfer from bacteria and archaea facilitated evolution of an extremophilic eukaryote. Science 339(6124):1207-1210.
  6. Heckmann D, Schulze S, Denton A, Gowik U, Westhoff P, Weber AP, Lercher MJ (2013) Predicting C4 photosynthesis evolution: modular, individually adaptive steps on a Mount Fuji fitness landscape. Cell 153(7):1579-1588.
  7. Pál C, Papp B, Lercher MJ, Csermely P, Oliver SG, Hurst LD (2006) Chance and necessity in the evolution of minimal metabolic networks. Nature 440(7084):667-670.
  8. Pál C, Papp B, Lercher MJ (2006) An integrated view of protein evolution. Nature reviews. Genetics 7(5):337-348.
  9. Pál C, Papp B, Lercher MJ (2005) Adaptive evolution of bacterial metabolic networks by horizontal gene transfer. Nature genetics 37(12):1372-1375.
  10. Keightley PD, Lercher MJ, Eyre-Walker A (2005) Evidence for widespread degradation of gene control regions in hominid genomes. PLoS biology 3(2):e42.
Prof. Dr. Martin Lercher
CEPLAS Martin Lercher


+49 211 8110546

Computational Cell Biology
Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf

Universitätsstraße 1

40225 Düsseldorf
Heinrich Heine University
University of Cologne
Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research
Forschungszentrum Jülich