Achim Werner, PhD

Stadtman Investigator

Stem Cell Biochemistry Unit


Building 30 Room 326
30 Convent Dr. MSC 4340
Bethesda MD 20892-4340


Research Topics

Mammalian development relies on the precise execution of highly coordinated cell-fate decisions by stem cells, which can undergo self-renewal, reversibly exit into a quiescent state, or terminally commit to a cell differentiation program. To orchestrate these decisions, stem cells make frequent use of ubiquitylation, an essential post-translational modification that alters the stability, activity, localization, or interaction landscape of target proteins. The Werner lab combines proteomic and biochemical approaches with human embryonic stem cell culture to determine the molecular mechanism of how ubiquitylation controls these cell-fate choices—in particular, those involved in neural crest specification and whose mis-regulation leads to the craniofacial development disease Treacher Collins Syndrome. Results from these studies will provide molecular insights into important aspects of human development and into the origin of developmental diseases, which will be useful for developing novel therapeutic approaches.


Dr. Achim Werner received his PhD from the International Max Planck Research School for Molecular Biology in Göttingen, Germany. As a California Institute of Regenerative Medicine fellow, Dr. Werner then performed his postdoctoral work at the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied the role for ubiquitylation enzymes in human embryonic stem cell maintenance and differentiation. By combining mass spectrometry-based approaches with stem cell differentiation assays, biochemical techniques, and ribosome profiling, Dr. Werner’s work has elucidated a novel pathway that regulates the function of newly synthesized ribosomes to allow stem cells to adopt a neural crest cell fate during differentiation. On the basis of these findings, Dr. Werner was awarded an NIH/NIDCR K99 Pathway to Independence Award in 2015. In 2017, Dr. Werner launched his independent research program at the NIDCR as Chief of the Stem Cell Biochemistry Unit.

Selected Publications

  1. Mena EL, Kjolby RAS, Saxton RA, Werner A, Lew BG, Boyle JM, Harland R, Rape M. Dimerization quality control ensures neuronal development and survival. Science. 2018;362(6411).

  2. Werner A, Baur R, Teerikorpi N, Kaya DU, Rape M. Multisite dependency of an E3 ligase controls monoubiquitylation-dependent cell fate decisions. Elife. 2018;7.

This page was last updated on May 7th, 2021