Prof. Dr. med. Frank Heppner

Chairman of the Department of Neuropathology, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin

Brief CV & Research focus

University Education

  • 1991-1998 Medical training at the Universities of Lübeck, Hamburg, Berlin and London, UK
  • 1998 Doctoral Degree (M.D.), Institute of Anatomy, HU Berlin

Professional Experience (selection)

  • 1999-2002 Postdoctoral fellow and Resident in Neuropathology (Assistenzarzt), Institute of Neuropathology, Universität Zürich, Switzerland
  • 2002-2003 Resident in Surgical Pathology (Assistenzarzt), Institute of Surgical Pathology, Universität Zürich, Switzerland
  • 2004-2007 Senior Consultant (Oberarzt), Institute of Neuropathology, Universität Zürich, Switzerland
  • 2007- Full Professor (W3), Charité
  • 2007- Chairman of the Department of Neuropathology, Charité

Research Fields

  • i) Main field: Impact of the immune system in neurodegenerative disorders
  • ii) Other fields: Immune-mediated mechanisms of tumor-spread in neurooncological diseases such as CNS lymphoma
  • iii) Current research interest: Role of microglia in Alzheimer’s disease

Scientific Scope and Goals

Research Field 1:

Our group aims to understand the impact of the immune system on the pathogenesis of neurological diseases by generating and utilizing murine disease models. To this effect, we are studying the contribution of specific immune molecules in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD). We are also investigating the detailed mechanism of Abeta-vaccination in AD, namely whether Abeta antibodies exert their action inside or outside the brain.

Research Field 2:

A further line of our research is devoted towards the understanding of the physiological and pathophysiological role of microglia by the use of CD11b-HSVTK mice, which allow for selective ablation of microglia in vivo. Specifically, we investigate how pathogenetic cascades of e.g. AD are altered in the absence of microglia, or how physiological properties such as neurogenetic capabilities are influenced by the lack of microglia in living mice, both on a cellular as well as on a molecular level.

Research Field 3:

The aim of this research field is to dissect the specific chemokine milieu relevant for systemic spread of lymphoma cells – particularly into the CNS - in order to identify novel druggable targets aimed at interfering with lymphoma dissemination as well as utilizing such molecules to transgenetically model the spread of lymphoma cells to the CNS. The scientific background for this line of research is based on the increasing evidence that chemokine signatures specify the organotropism of lymphomas, which is a critical prognostic determinant in the course of disease. Along this line, the migratory pattern of B cell lymphomas to the central nervous system (CNS) has been suggested to be regulated by specific receptor-ligand interactions, which we aim to dissect.


Most important Awards, Grants or Scientific Achievements

  • 2003 Pfizer-Award for Neurosciences and Diseases of the Nervous System, Switzerland
  • 2003 Research fellowship of the Leopoldina-Foundation
  • 2006 Siegenthaler-Habilitation Award, Universität Zürich, Switzerland
  • 2010 Spokesman of the SFB TRR 43 "The brain as a target of inflammatory processes"

Most relevant Publications

  • Locatelli G, Wörtge S, Buch T, Ingold B, Frommer F, Sobottka B, Krüger M, Karram K, Bühlmann C, Bechmann I, Heppner FL, Waisman A, Becher B (2012). Primary oligodendrocyte death does not elicit anti-CNS immunity. Nature Neuroscience 26;15(4):543-50.
  • Grathwohl SA, Kälin RE, Bolmont T, Prokop S, Winkelmann G, Kaeser SA, Odenthal J, Radde R, Eldh T, Gandy S, Aguzzi A, Staufenbiel M, Mathews PM, Wolburg H, Heppner FL*, Jucker M* (2009). Formation and maintenance of Alzheimer's disease beta-amyloid plaques in the absence of microglia. Nature Neuroscience 12(11):1361-3 *) shared senior authorship
  • Markovic, D. S., Vinnakota, K., Chirasani, S., Synowitz, M., Wisniewski, P.,…, Heppner, F.L., …, Kettenmann, H. (2009). Glioma induce and exploit microglial MT1-MMP expression for tumor expansion. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 106, 12530.
  • Falsig J, Julius C, Margalith I, Schwarz P, Heppner FL, Aguzzi A (2008). A versatile prion replication assay in organotypic brain slices. Nature Neuroscience 11(1):109-17.
  • Buch T, Heppner FL, Tertilt C, Heinen TJAJ, Kremer M, Wunderlich FT, Jung S, Waisman A (2005). A Cre-Inducible Toxin Receptor Mediates Cell Lineage Ablation Following Diphtheria Toxin Administration. Nature Methods 2(6):419-26.
  • Heppner FL, Greter M, Marino D, Falsig J, Raivich G, Hövelmeyer N, Waisman A, Rülicke T, Prinz M, Priller J, Becher B, Aguzzi A (2005). Experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis repressed by microglial paralysis. Nature Medicine 11:146-152.
  • Greter M, Heppner FL, Durell B, Lemos MP, Odermatt BM, Goebels N, Laufer T, Noelle RJ, Becher B (2005). Dendritic cells permit immune invasion of the CNS in an animal model of multiple sclerosis. Nature Medicine 11:328-334.
  • Heppner FL, Christ AD, Klein MA, Prinz M, Fried M, Kraehenbuhl JP, Aguzzi A (2001). Transepithelial prion transport by M cells, Nature Medicine 9:976-977.
  • Heppner FL, Musahl C, Arrighi I, Klein MA, Oesch B, Zinkernagel RM, Kalinke U, Aguzzi A (2001). Prevention of scrapie pathogenesis by transgenic expression of anti-prion protein antibodies, Science 294:178-182.