Merlin Airik, PhD

  • Postdoctoral Fellow

Her long-term research interest is to uncover the disease mechanisms of chronic kidney disease (CKD), a progressive pathology of the kidney, which invariably leads to end-stage kidney disease. CKD is commonly caused by injury to the renal tubular epithelium. The molecular mechanisms driving thetubular pathogenesis in CKD are being slowly unraveled but are still incomplete. We have previously shown that impaired DNA damage repair in thekidney tubular epithelial cells can cause CKD. However, the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the pathology were not addressed. She has made new exciting findings that persistent DNA damage signaling leads to renal tubular epithelial cell senescence, a pathologic cell cycle-arrested statein which cells promote further injury by secreting growth factors and inflammatory cytokines. In order to investigate the molecular mechanisms of DNA damage-induced renal tubular epithelial cell senescence, she will use a DNA repair-deficient mouse model. Animal studies will be complemented with invitro cell culture assays, in which she will test the efficacy of senolytic compounds to kill senescent cells.

Education & Training

  • BS, Biotechnology, University of Tartu, Estonia, 2003
  • MSc, Developmental Biology, University of Tartu, Estonia, 2005
  • PhD, Life Sciences, Hannover Leibniz University, 2009

Selected Publications

Limbourg A*, Ploom M*; Elligsen D, Sörensen I, Ziegelhoeffer T, Gossler A, Drexler H, Limbourg FP.  Notch Ligand Delta-Like 1 Is Essential for Postnatal Arteriogenesis. Circulation Research 100, 363-371, 2007 *equal contribution 

Raid R, Krinka D, Bakhoff L, Abdelwahid E, Jokinen E, Kärner M, Malva M, Meier R, Pelliniemi LJ, Ploom M, Sizarov A, Pooga M, Karis A.  Lack of Gata3 results in conotruncal heart anomalies in mouse. Mech Dev 126, 80-89, 2009 

Braun DA, Sadowski CE, Kohl S, Lovric S, Astrinidis SA, Pabst WL, Gee HY, Ashraf S, Lawson JA, Shril S, Airik M, Tan W, Schapiro D, Rao J, Choi WI, Hermle T, Kemper MJ, Pohl M, Ozaltin F, Konrad M, Bogdanovic R, Büscher R, Helmchen U, Serdaroglu E, Lifton RP, Antonin W, Hildebrandt F. Mutations in nuclear pore genes NUP93, NUP205 and XPO5 cause steroid-resistant nephrotic syndrome. Nat Genet. 48, 457-465, 2016  

Airik R, Schueler M, Airik M, Cho J, Porath JD, Mukherjee E, Sims-Lucas S, Hildebrandt F. A FANCD2/FANCI-Associated Nuclease 1-Knockout Model Develops Karyomegalic Interstitial Nephritis. JASN Mar 29, 2016 

Airik R, Schueler M, Airik M, Cho J, Ulanowicz KA, Porath JD, Hurd TW, Bekker-Jensen S, Schrøder JM, Andersen JS, Hildebrandt F. SDCCAG8 Interacts with RAB Effector Proteins RABEP2 and ERC1 and Is Required for Hedgehog Signaling. PLoS One 11, 2016 

Bailey KM, Airik M, Krook MA, Pedersen EA, Lawlor ER. Micro-Environmental Stress Induces Src-Dependent Activation of Invadopodia and Cell Migration in Ewing Sarcoma. Neoplasia. Aug 18, 2016 

Widmeier E, Tan W, Airik M, Hildebrandt F. A small molecule screening to detect potential

therapeutic targets in human podocytes. Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. Jan. 1, 2017 

Haak AJ, Appleton KM, Lisabeth EM, Misek SA, Ji Y, Wade SM, Bell JL, Rockwell CE, Airik M, Krook MA, Larsen SD, Verhaegen M, Lawlor ER, Neubig RR. Pharmacological Inhibition of Myocardin-related Transcription Factor Pathway Blocks Lung Metastases of RhoC-Overexpressing Melanoma. Mol Cancer Ther. Jan. 16, 2017 

Lovric S, Goncalves S, Gee HY, Oskouian B, Srinivas H, Choi WI, Shril S, Ashraf S, Tan W, Rao J, Airik M, Schapiro D, Braun DA, Sadowski CE, Widmeier E, Jobst-Schwan T, Schmidt JM, Girik V, Capitani G, Suh JH, Lachaussée N, Arrondel C, Patat J, Gribouval O, Furlano M, Boyer O, Schmitt A, Vuiblet V, Hashmi S, Wilcken R, Bernier FP, Innes AM, Parboosingh JS, Lamont RE, Midgley JP, Wright N, Majewski J, Zenker M, Schaefer F, Kuss N, Greil J, Giese T, Schwarz K, Catheline V, Schanze D, Franke I, Sznajer Y, Truant AS, Adams B, Désir J, Biemann R, Pei Y, Ars E, Lloberas N, Madrid A, Dharnidharka VR, Connolly AM, Willing MC, Cooper MA, Lifton RP, Simons M, Riezman H, Antignac C, Saba JD, Hildebrandt F. Mutations in sphingosine-1-phosphate lyase cause nephrosis with ichthyosis and adrenal insufficiency. J Clin Invest. March 1, 2017  

Braun DA, Rao J, Mollet G, Schapiro D, Daugeron MC, Tan W, Gribouval O, Boyer O, Revy P, Jobst-Schwan T, Schmidt JM, Lawson JA, Schanze D, Ashraf S, Ullmann JFP, Hoogstraten CA, Boddaert N, Collinet B, Martin G, Liger D, Lovric S, Furlano M, Guerrera IC, Sanchez-Ferras O, Hu JF, Boschat AC, Sanquer S, Menten B, Vergult S, De Rocker N, Airik M, Hermle T, Shril S, Widmeier E, Gee HY, Choi WI, Sadowski CE, Pabst WL, Warejko JK, Daga A, Basta T, Matejas V, Scharmann K, Kienast SD, Behnam B, Beeson B, Begtrup A, Bruce M, Ch'ng GS, Lin SP, Chang JH, Chen CH, Cho MT, Gaffney PM, Gipson PE, Hsu CH, Kari JA, Ke YY, Kiraly-Borri C, Lai WM, Lemyre E, Littlejohn RO, Masri A, Moghtaderi M, Nakamura K, Ozaltin F, Praet M, Prasad C, Prytula A, Roeder ER, Rump P, Schnur RE, Shiihara T, Sinha MD, Soliman NA, Soulami K, Sweetser DA, Tsai WH, Tsai JD, Topaloglu R, Vester U, Viskochil DH, Vatanavicharn N, Waxler JL, Wierenga KJ, Wolf MTF, Wong SN, Leidel SA, Truglio G, Dedon PC, Poduri A, Mane S, Lifton RP, Bouchard M, Kannu P, Chitayat D, Magen D, Callewaert B, van Tilbeurgh H, Zenker M, Antignac C, Hildebrandt F. Mutations in KEOPS-complex genes cause nephrotic syndrome with primary microcephaly. Nat Genet. Aug. 14, 2017