Research interests

Kirsten-André Senti studies the conflict between Transposable Elements (TEs) and their hosts. Most organisms sequenced to date harbor a substantial load of TE insertions in their genomes. In turn, TE invasions have triggered the evolution of host defenses against them. The main host defense in animals is the piRNA pathway that utilizes the PIWI clade of Argonaute proteins that are mainly expressed in gonads.PIWI proteins are loaded with PIWI interacting RNAs (piRNAs), which guide the PIWI proteins by homology dependent basepairing to active TE transcripts to suppress them. piRNAs originate from precursor transcripts of specialized genomic loci, termed piRNAs clusters, that represent the host’s sequence archives of previous TE invasions.



Recent analysis uncovered many conceptual and mechanistic aspects of the piRNA pathway and provided insights TE biology. Yet, many questions in the dynamic evolutionary arms race between TEs and the host remain poorly understood. We use modern functional genetics, next generation sequencing and imaging techniques in Drosophila to tackle the following two questions:

  • How does the piRNA pathway adapt to silence novel TE invasions?
  • How did TEs adapt to the host biology to maximize their replication? (using endogenous retroviruses as a model)


Senti Lab
Institute of Population Genetics

1210 Vienna, Veterinärplatz 1

T +43 1 25077-4334
F +43 1 25077-4390

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