CIBSS - Centre for integrative Biological Signalling StudiesCIBSS

Associate Investigators

Dr. Peter Walentek

Dr. Peter Walentek


Dr. Peter Walentek
Department of Internal Medicine IV
University Medical Center, Faculty of Medicine

T +49 761 202 97206

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The Walentek lab wants to understand how self-organization is achieved in biological systems. We study mucociliary epithelia, found in various organs of most animals. They contain multiciliated cells, that produce fluid flow through beating of hair-like organelles on their surface, called cilia. Additionally, they are comprised of secretory and basal stem cells. We study mucociliary organization, gene regulation and signaling networks, which are remarkably similar across species and organs. Using a wide range of experimental and analytical techniques as well as multiple species and tissues for comparative studies, we reveal common principles, differences, and study evolutionary innovations at the molecular level. Our multi-disciplinary research benefits from close collaborations with clinicians and scientists from different disciplines in Freiburg and around the world. The human airways are also lined by a mucociliary epithelium, which removes inhaled pathogens to ensure respiratory health. Dysfunction of cilia or changes in the behavior of secretory cells and stem cells leads to diseases like ciliopathies, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), fibrosis and lung cancer. By studying the principles of mucociliary development and regeneration, we therefore also contribute to the fundamental understanding of these diseases, that promotes diagnosis and the establishment of novel treatments, including personalized medicine approaches.



Developmental biology, self-organization, signaling integration, gene regulation, epigenetics, post-transcriptional RNA regulation, cilia, stem cells, Xenopus, chronic airway diseases.

Nothing in biology and pathology makes sense except in the light of evolution.
(modified after Theodosius Dobzhansky)

10 selected publications:

  • Notch signaling induces either apoptosis or cell fate change in multiciliated cells during mucociliary tissue remodeling.
    Tasca A, Helmstädter M, Brislinger MM, Haas M, Mitchell B, Walentek P (2021).
    Dev Cell. 56(4):525-539.e6.
  • ΔN-Tp63 Mediates Wnt/β-Catenin-Induced Inhibition of Differentiation in Basal Stem Cells of Mucociliary Epithelia.
    Haas M, Gómez Vázquez JL, Sun DI, Tran HT, Brislinger M, Tasca A, Shomroni O, Vleminckx K, Walentek P (2019).
    Cell Rep. 28(13):3338-3352
  • Manipulating and Analyzing Cell Type Composition of the Xenopus Mucociliary Epidermis.
    Walentek P (2018).
    Methods Mol Biol. 2018;1865:251-263 (book chapter).
  • Na+/H+ exchangers are required for the development and function of vertebrate mucociliary epithelia.
    Sun DI, Tasca A, Haas M, Baltazar G, Harland RM, Finkbeiner WE, Walentek P (2018).
    Cells Tissues Organs. 205(5-6):279-292
  • What we can learn from a tadpole about ciliopathies and airway diseases: Using systems biology in Xenopus to study cilia and mucociliary epithelia.
    Walentek P*, Quigley IK.
    Genesis. 2017 Jan;55(1-2).
    (* corresponding author)
  • Ciliary transcription factors and miRNAs precisely regulate Cp110 levels required for ciliary adhesions and ciliogenesis.
    Walentek P*, Quigley IK, Sun DI, Sajjan UK, Kintner C, Harland RM (2016).
    Elife. 13;5. pii: e17557.
    (* corresponding author)
  • ATP4a is required for development and function of the Xenopus mucociliary epidermis - a potential model to study proton pump inhibitor-associated pneumonia.
    Walentek P, Beyer T, Hagenlocher C, Müller C, Feistel K, Schweickert A, Harland RM, Blum M (2015).
    Dev Biol. 408(2):292-304.
  • miR-34/449 miRNAs are required for motile ciliogenesis by repressing cp110.
    Song R*, Walentek P*, Sponer N, Klimke A, Lee JS, Dixon G, Harland R, Wan Y, Lishko P, Lize M, Kessel M, He L (2014).
    Nature. 510(7503):115-20. (* co-first authors)
  • A novel serotonin-secreting cell type regulates ciliary motility in the mucociliary epidermis of Xenopus tadpoles.
    Walentek P, Bogusch S, Thumberger T, Vick P, Dubaissi E, Beyer T, Blum M, Schweickert A (2014).
    Development. 141(7):1526-33.
  • ATP4a is required for Wnt-dependent Foxj1 expression and leftward flow in Xenopus left-right development.
    Walentek P, Beyer T, Thumberger T, Schweickert A, Blum M (2012).
    Cell Rep. 1(5):516-27.