Torben Heick Jensen



The regulation and fidelity of gene expression is of paramount importance for the maintenance and differentiation of all living organisms. Our laboratory studies the production and quality control of RNA in eukaryotic cells (S. cerevisiae, mouse and human) and its contribution to gene expression regulation. A main focus of the laboratory is to understand the molecular principles dictating the sorting of newly transcribed RNA into a productive pathway involving its packaging with protein and cellular transport vs. a destructive pathway leading to RNA turnover. We believe that a thorough understanding of these relationships will also position us to better understand any putative function of the pervasive transcription of eukaryotic genomes.

Laboratory efforts can roughly be divided into four research topics:

· Delineation of nuclear human RNA decay pathways and their regulatory capacities

· Distinguishing non-functional from functional non-coding RNA transcription events

· Shaping of human transcriptomes by nonsense-mediated decay (NMD)

· Relationships between RNA synthesis and decay in S. cerevisiae

From 2005-2015 Torben Heick Jensen was heading the Danish National Research Foundation-funded ‘Centre for mRNP Biogenesis and Metabolism’. These, and other, efforts are now continued via funding from the European Research Council (ERC), the Danish Council for Independent Research, the Novo Nordisk foundation, the Lundbeck Foundation and the Danish Cancer Society. The THJ laboratory is also part of the iSEQ Centre for Integrative Sequencing (


Model for RNA fate decisions: Early during its production by PolII, the CBC-bound cap of the emerging RNA is contacted by ‘productive’ (PHAX) and ‘destructive’ (ZC3H18) factors. These proteins form mutually exclusive complexes with the CBC until a ‘decision point’ (e.g. a terminator) is encountered by PolII, after which RNA fate is determined by stable interaction with either PHAX or ZC3H18.

21.03.2017 | Forskning

Sorting RNA for production or decay

Our genomes are promiscuously transcribed into RNA. How cells manage to sort this massive genomic output into functional and non-functional material has remained enigmatic. New research describes protein interactions involved in such RNA fate determination.

16.12.2016 | Forskning

Discovery of connection between RNA splicing and decay machineries

RNA synthesis, splicing and degradation are key activities in eukaryotic gene expression regulation. A collaborative effort between researchers from the Max Planck Institute, Martinsried and Aarhus University now reveals the physical basis for linking RNA degradation to the splicing process.

07.11.2016 | Forskning

Newly discovered RNA decay pathway inside human nuclei

Genomes are promiscuously transcribed into RNA. However, not all of this material is immediately useful, which means it has to be targeted and degraded in order to sustain cellular life. A newly discovered RNA decay pathway functioning inside human nuclei does just that

28.10.2016 | Forskning

Claudia Iasillo, PhD

Claudia successfully defended her PhD October 26th. Congratulations and Good Luck with your future!


28.10.2016 | Forskning

Jan Herudek, PhD

Jan successfully defended his PhD October 25th. Congratulations and Good Luck with your future in the Czech Republic!

20.09.2016 | Forskning

Kinga PhD

Kinga successfully defended her PhD September 1st. Congratulations!

1) Gene promoters that are far away from other genes typically produce transcripts on both strands. The PROMoter uPstream Transcript (PROMPT) is short and rapidly degraded due to special DNA sequence patterns around the PROMPT and which are not present at the gene start site. Thus, the gene product is typically a stable mRNA. 2) If two gene start sites share a common promoter, no PROMPTs are produced. Both genes start sites produce stable RNAs. 3) If two gene promoters are closely positioned, PROMPTs are produced, but are stabilized because the DNA signals necessary for their degradation cannot form because the gene promoters are too close. Instead, the PROMPTs grow longer and are stable, which in effect creates longer mRNA variants from the two gene start sites. 4) If gene promoters are sufficiently separated, their DNA patterns do not influence their neighboring PROMPTs, which remain short and unstable, much like in the first case above.

15.08.2016 | Forskning

Generation of complex gene architectures in the human genome

Intense investigations during the past 10-15 years have revealed that the human genome is transcribed in a manner that is much more complicated than previously appreciated. A collaboration between researchers from Aarhus and Copenhagen now reveals some underlying principles leading to such promiscuous genome activity.

27.04.2016 | Forskning

Torben appointed member of the Royal Danish Society of Sciences and Letters

At the meeting of members on 31 March 2016 in the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, Professor Torben Heick Jensen was elected member of the natural science class.