Prof. Sabine Werner (PhD)

Full Professor, Department of Biology ETH Zurich



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Dr. Werner received her PhD from the University of Munich, Germany, in 1989, after having completed her dissertation at the Max-Planck-Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried, Germany, in the department of Prof. Peter Hans Hofschneider. This was followed by postdoctoral training at the University of California San Francisco in the laboratory of Prof. Lewis. T. Williams.

From 1993-1999 she was a group leader at the Max-Planck-Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried, Germany. In 1996 she obtained a Hermann-and-Lilly Schilling professorship of Medical Research at the same institute and from 1995-1999 she was also Associate Professor of Biochemistry at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich. In 1999 she accepted a position as Full Professor in the Department of Biology at ETH Zurich.

She is elected member of the German National Academy of Sciences, Leopoldina (election 2011) and the European Molecular Biology Organization (election 2012), and the recipient of a number of awards, including the Otto-Hahn Medal of the Max-Planck Society (1990), the CloÎtta Award for biomedical research (2008), and the CE.R.I.E.S. Research Award for achievements in dermatological research (2009).

  • Tissue Repair 78%
  • Squamous cell carcinoma 67%
  • Epithelial-mesenchymal interactions 55%
  • Reactive oxygen species 45%
  • Nrf2, FGF and activin signaling 34%


Our laboratory studies the molecular and cellular mechanisms of tissue repair in the skin and the liver, with particular emphasis on the roles of growth factors and reactive oxygen species in this process. In particular, we are interested in the parallels between wound healing and cancer at the cellular and molecular level.


  1. Sabine Werner, Hans Smola, Xiang Liao, Michael T. Longaker, Thomas Krieg, Peter Hans Hofschneider and Lewis T. Williams (1994). The role of KGF in morphogenesis of epithelium and re-epithelialization of wounds. Science, 266, 819-822. PMID: 7973639
  2. Barbara Munz, Hans Smola, Felix Engelhardt, Kerstin Bleuel, Maria Brauchle, Iris Lein, Lee Ewans, Danny Huylebroeck, Rudi Balling and Sabine Werner (1999). Overexpression of activin in the epidermis of transgenic mice reveals new activities of activin in keratinocyte differentiation, cutaneous fibrosis and wound repair. EMBO J., 18, 5205-5215. PMID: 10508154
  3. Yvonne Tretter, Moritz Hertel, Barbara Munz, Gerrit ten Bruggencate, Sabine Werner and Christian Alzheimer (2000). Induction of activin A is essential for the neuroprotective action of bFGF in vivo. Nat. Med. 6, 812-815. PMID: 10888932
  4. Miriam Wankell, Barbara Munz, Griseldis H¸bner, Wolfgang Hans, Eckhard Wolf, Andreas Goppelt, and Sabine Werner (2001). Impaired wound healing in transgenic mice expressing the activin antagonist follistatin in the epidermis. EMBO J., 20, 5361-5372. PMID: 11574468
  5. Richard Grose, Caroline Hutter, Wilhelm Bloch, Fiona Watt, Reinhard F‰ssler, Cord Brakebusch and Sabine Werner (2002). A crucial role of b1 integrins for keratinocyte migration in vitro and during cutaneous wound repair. Development 129: 2303-2315. PMID: 11959837
  6. Susanne Braun, Christine Hanselmann, Marcus Gassmann, Ulrich auf dem Keller, Christiane Born-Berclaz, Kaimin Chan, Yuet Wai Kan, and Sabine Werner (2002). Nrf2 transcription factor: A novel target of keratinocyte growth factor action which regulates gene expression and inflammation in the healing skin wound. Mol. Cell. Biol. 22, 5492-5505. PMID: 12101242
  7. Sabine Werner and Richard Grose (2003). Regulation of wound healing by growth factors and cytokines. Physiol. Rev., 83, 835-870. PMID: 12843410
  8. Susanne Braun, Monika Krampert, Enikˆ BodÛ, Christiane Born-Berclaz, Ralf Paus and Sabine Werner (2006). Keratinocyte growth factor protects epidermis and hair follicles from cell death induced by UV irradiation, chemotherapeutic, and cytotoxic agents. J. Cell Sci. 119, 4841-4849. Highlighted in J. Invest. Dermatol., 127, 503 (2007). PMID: 17090603
  9. Laurence Feldmeyer, Martin Keller, Gisela Niklaus, Daniel Hohl, Sabine Werner, and Hans-Dietmar Beer (2007). The inflammasome mediates UVB-induced activation and secretion of interleukin-1b by keratinocytes. Curr. Biol. 17, 1140-1145. PMID: 17600714
  10. Angelika K¸min, Matthias Sch‰fer*, Nikolas Epp*, Philippe Bugnon, Christiane Born-Berclaz, Annette Oxenius, Anke Klippel, Wilhelm Bloch, and Sabine Werner (2007). Peroxiredoxin 6 is required for blood vessel integrity in wounded skin. J. Cell Biol. 179, 747-760. *Equal contribution. PMID: 17003478
  11. Matthias Sch‰fer and Sabine Werner (2008). Cancer as an overhealing wound: An old hypothesis revisited. Nat. Rev. Mol. Cell Biol. 9, 628-638. PMID: 18628784
  12. Tobias A. Beyer, Weihua Xu, Daniel Teupser, Ulrich auf dem Keller, Philippe Bugnon, Eberhard Hildt, Joachim Thiery, Yuet Wai Kan, and Sabine Werner (2008). Impaired liver regeneration in Nrf2 knockout mice: Role of ROS-mediated insulin/IGF-1 resistance. EMBO J, 27, 212-223. PMID: 18059474
  13. Martin Keller, Andreas R¸egg, Sabine Werner, and Hans-Dietmar Beer (2008) Active caspase-1 is a regulator of unconventional protein secretion. Cell, 132, 818-831. PMID: 18329368
  14. Heidi Kˆgel, Lukas von Tobel, Matthias Sch‰fer, Siegfried Alberti, Elisabeth Kremmer, Cornelia Mauch, Daniel Hohl, Xiao-Jing Wang, Hans-Dietmar Beer, Wilhelm Bloch, Alfred Nordheim and Sabine Werner (2009). Loss of serum response factor in keratinocytes causes hyperproliferative skin disease. J. Clin. Invest. 119, 899-910. Highlighted in Nature Medicine 15, 500 (2009). PMID: 19307725
  15. Jingxuan Yang+, Michael Meyer+, Anna-Katharina M¸ller, Friederike Bˆhm, Richard Grose, Tina Dauwalder, Francois Verrey, Manfred Kopf, Juha Partanen, Wilhelm Bloch, David M. Ornitz and Sabine Werner (2010). FGF receptors 1 and 2 in keratinocytes control the epidermal barrier and cutaneous homeostasis. J. Cell. Biol. 188, 935-952. +: equal contribution. Highlighted in Science 2010
  16. Matthias Sch‰fer, Sabine D¸tsch, Ulrich auf dem Keller, Faterneh Navid, Agatha Schwarz, Delinda A. Johnson, Jeffrey A. Johnson, and Sabine Werner (2010). Nrf2 establishes a glutathione-mediated gradient of cytoprotection in the epidermis. Genes Dev. 24, 1045-1058. PMID: 20478997
  17. Friederike Bˆhm, Tobias Speicher, Claus Hellerbrand, Clive Dickson, Juha M. Partanen, David M. Ornitz and Sabine Werner (2010). FGF receptors 1 and 2 control chemically-induced injury and compound detoxification in regenerating livers of mice. Gastroenterology 139, 1385-1396. PMID: 20603121
  18. Maria Antsiferova, Marcel Huber, Michael Meyer, Aleksandra Piwko-Czuchra, Tamara Ramadan, Amanda S. MacLeod, Wendy L. Havran, Reinhard Dummer, Daniel Hohl and Sabine Werner* (2011). Activin enhances skin tumorigenesis and malignant progression through induction of a pro-tumorigenic immune cell response. Nature Commun. 2, 576, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1585. PMID: 22146395
  19. Matthias Sch‰fer, Hany Farwanah, Ann-Helen Willrodt, Aaron J. Huebner, Konrad Sandhoff, Dennis R. Roop, Daniel Hohl, Wilhelm Bloch and Sabine Werner (2012). Nrf2 links epidermal barrier function with antioxidant defense. EMBO Mol. Med. 4, 364-379. PMID: 22383093. Highlighted by a ÑCloseupì article: Erwin Tschachler, Leopold Eckhard and Florian Gruber (2012): Don`t be so overprotective. EMBO Mol. Med. 4, 363-363.
  20. Aaron J. Huebner, Daisy Dai, Maria Morasso, Edward E. Schmidt, Matthias Sch‰fer, Sabine Werner and Dennis R. Roop (2012). Amniotic fluid activates the Nrf2/Keap1 pathway to repair an epidermal barrier defect in utero. Dev. Cell, 23, 1238-1246. PMID: 23237955
  21. Frank Rolfs, Marcel Huber, Florian Gruber, Friederike Bˆhm, Valeri N. Bochkov, Erwin Tschachler, Reinhard Dummer, Herbert Pfister, Daniel Hohl, Matthias Sch‰fer, and Sabine Werner (2013). Dual role of the antioxidant enzyme peroxiredoxin 6 in skin carcinogenesis. Cancer Res. 73, 3460-3469. PMID: 23576553
  22. Ulrike A. Kˆhler, Svitlana Kurinna, Dominik Schwitter, Andrea Marti, Matthias Sch‰fer, Claus Hellerbrand, Tobias Speicher, and Sabine Werner. (2014). Activated Nrf2 impairs liver regeneration in mice by activation of genes involved in cell cycle control and apoptosis. Hepatology 60, 670-678. PMID: 24310875. Highlighted in the same issue: Michalopoulos, G.: Nrf2, not always friendly but perhaps misunderstood. Hepatology 60, 461-463.
  23. Matthias Sch‰fer, Ann-Helen Willrodt, Svitlana Kurinna, Andrea Link, Hany Farwanah, Alexandra Geusau, Florian Gruber, Olivier Sorg, Aaron J. Huebner, Dennis Roop, Konrad Sandhoff, Jean-Hilaire Saurat, Erwin Tschachler, Marlon R. Schneider, Lutz Langbein, Wilhelm Bloch, Hans-Dietmar Beer, and Sabine Werner (2014). Activation of Nrf2 in keratinocytes causes chloracne (MADISH)-like skin disease in mice. EMBO Mol. Med. 6, 442-457. PMID: 24559565. Highlighted by a ÑCloseupì article: Nguan S. Tan and Walter Wahli (2014): The emerging role of Nrf2 in dermatoxicology. EMBO Mol. Med. 6, 431-433.
  24. Tobias Speicher, Beat Siegenthaler, Roman Bogorad, Raphael Ruppert, Tobias Petzold, Susagna Padrissa-Altes, Marc Bachofner, Daniel G. Anderson, Victor Koteliansky, Reinhard F‰ssler, and Sabine Werner (2014). Knockdown and knockout of b1 integrin in hepatocytes impairs liver regeneration through inhibition of growth factor signalling. Nature Commun. 5:3868. DOI:10.1038/ncomm4869. PMID: 24844558. Highlighted by G. Patman: Liver: Loss of b1 integrin impairs liver regeneration and HCC progression. Nat. Rev. Gastroenterol. Hepatol. 11, 392.
  25. Svitlana Kurinna, Matthias Sch‰fer, Paola Ostano, Emmanuel Karouzakis, Giovanna Chiorino, Wilhelm Bloch, Andreas Bachmann, Steffen Gay, David Garrod, Gian-Paolo Dotto, Hans-Dietmar Beer and Sabine Werner (2014). A novel Nrf2-mir29-desmocollin-2 axis regulates desmosome function in keratinocytes. Nature Commun., 5, 5099. PMID: 25283360.