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CeMM Adjunct Principal Investigator

Andreas Villunger

Cell death signaling in health and disease

Biocenter, Medical University of Innsbruck
Divison of Developmental Immunology

+43 512 9003 70380
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Selected Papers

Andreas Villunger's research focuses on the role of pro-apoptotic BH3-only proteins in lymphocyte transformation and anti-cancer treatment effects, revealing for the first time that cell death upon radiotherapy can be pro-tumorigenic. In the more recent past, his team started to explore the cross-talk between the cell cycle and cell death machineries, focusing on mitotic cell death and post-mitotic cell fate. These studies also revealed a so far overlooked function of the PIDDosome signaling platform in the activation of p53 in cells with extra centrosomes. This finding formed the basis for current ERC-funded studies into the role of the PIDDosome multi-protein complex in ploidy control during organogenesis and transformation aiming to develop the PIDDosome complex into a future drug-target in disorders related to centrosome aberrations, including cancer and ageing.

Major Research Interests:

  • BCL2 family proteins in tissue homeostasis
  • DNA-damage & checkpoint signalling
  • Cell cycle – cell death cross-talk
  • Polyploidization in health and disease


Andreas Villunger is a full professor at the Medical University of Innsbruck, Austria, where he heads the Division of Developmental Immunology at the MUI Biocenter. He joined CeMM in November 2018 as an adjunct PI aiming to develop PIDDosome inhibitors. He studied biology at the Universities of Salzburg and Innsbruck, completing his PhD and early postdoctoral studies in Innsbruck before moving to the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne, Australia. There, he investigated the role of BCL2 family proteins in immune cell development and immune tolerance together with his mentor Professor Andreas Strasser. Back in Innsbruck, he established his own research group supported by the FWF START Prize in 2003 and became a full professor in 2009. In the more recent past, his team has begun to explore the crosstalk between the cell-cycle and cell-death machineries, focusing on mitotic cell death and post-mitotic cell fate after failed cell division, leading to polyploidy. His work is funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) and the European Research Council (ERC).

Selected Papers

Weiler ES et al. PIDD1 in cell cycle control, sterile inflammation and cell death. Biochem Soc Trans. 2022 Apr 29;50(2):813-824. (abstract)

Weiss JG, Gallob F, Rieder P, Villunger A. Apoptosis as a Barrier against CIN and Aneuploidy. Cancers (Basel). 2022 Dec 21;15(1):30. (abstract)

Lohmüller M et al. The SKP2-p27 axis defines susceptibility to cell death upon CHK1 inhibition. Mol Oncol. 2022 Aug;16(15):2771-2787. (abstract)

Sladky VC et al. Polyploidy control in hepatic health and disease. J Hepatol. 2021 Nov;75(5):1177-1191. (abstract)

Sladky VC, Knapp K, Soratroi C, Heppke J, Eichin F, Rocamora-Reverte L, Szabo TG, Bongiovanni L, Westendorp B, Moreno E, van Liere EA, Bakker B, Spierings DCJ, Wardenaar R, Pereyra D, Starlinger P, Schultze S, Trauner M, Stojakovic T, Scharnagl H, Fava LL, Foijer F, de Bruin A, Villunger A. E2F-Family Members Engage the PIDDosome to Limit Hepatocyte Ploidy in Liver Development and Regeneration. Dev Cell. 2020 Feb 10;52(3):335-349.e7. (abstract)

Haschka MD, Karbon G, Soratroi C, O'Neill KL, Luo X, Villunger A. MARCH5-dependent degradation of MCL1/NOXA complexes defines susceptibility to antimitotic drug treatment. Cell Death Differ. 2020 Aug;27(8):2297-2312. (abstract)

Connolly P, Garcia-Carpio I, Villunger A. Cell-Cycle Cross Talk with Caspases and Their Substrates. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2020 Jun 1;12(6):a036475. (abstract)

Schuler F, Afreen S, Manzl C, Häcker G, Erlacher M, Villunger A. Checkpoint kinase 1 is essential for fetal and adult hematopoiesis. EMBO Rep. 2019 Aug;20(8):e47026. (abstract)

Haschka M, Karbon G, Fava LL, Villunger A. Perturbing mitosis for anti-cancer therapy: is cell death the only answer? EMBO Rep. 2018 Mar;19(3):e45440.(abstract)

Schuler F, Weiss JG, Lindner SE, Lohmüller M, Herzog S, Spiegl SF, Menke P, Geley S, Labi V, Villunger A. Checkpoint kinase 1 is essential for normal B cell development and lymphomagenesis. Nat Commun. 2017 Nov 22;8(1):1697. (abstract)

Sladky V, Schuler F, Fava LL, Villunger A. The resurrection of the PIDDosome - emerging roles in the DNA-damage response and centrosome surveillance. J Cell Sci. 2017 Nov 15;130(22):3779-3787. (abstract)

Fava LL, Schuler F, Sladky V, Haschka MD, Soratroi C, Eiterer L, Demetz E, Weiss G, Geley S, Nigg EA, Villunger A. The PIDDosome activates p53 in response to supernumerary centrosomes. Genes Dev. 2017 Jan 1;31(1):34-45. (abstract)

Haschka MD, Soratroi C, Kirschnek S, Häcker G, Hilbe R, Geley S, Villunger A, Fava LL. The NOXA-MCL1-BIM axis defines lifespan on extended mitotic arrest. Nat Commun. 2015 Apr 29;6:6891. (abstract)

Labi V, Woess C, Tuzlak S, Erlacher M, Bouillet P, Strasser A, Tzankov A, Villunger A. Deregulated cell death and lymphocyte homeostasis cause premature lethality in mice lacking the BH3-only proteins Bim and Bmf. Blood. 2014 Apr 24;123(17):2652-62. (abstract)