Otto Loewi Forschungszentrum

Research focus Metabolism and the gut

PI: Peter Holzer

Focus: Signaling pathways between the gut microbiome and brain relevant to brain function and behavioral disturbances including (1) microbial agonists of pattern recognition receptors, (2) microbial metabolites, (3) neurobiological manifestations of colitis, (4) gut hormones governed by the gut microbiome (5) immune mediators (cytokines), (6) microglia, (7) neuropeptides and neurotransmitters. Methodical focus: behavioral phenotyping, gene knockout models, CRISPR / Cas9 and zebrafish models, stereotactic brain injections, chemogenetic activation of neurons by DREADD, gene and protein expression, immunohistochemistry

Network: Ongoing national and international collaborations exist with the following research groups: Gregor Gorkiewicz, Diagnostic and Research Institute of Pathology; Eva Reininghaus, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapeutic Medicine; Frank Madeo and Tobias Eisenberg, Institute of Molecular Biosciences, University of Graz; Barbara Kofler, Department of Pediatrics, University Hospital of the Paracelsus Medical University Salzburg; Herbert Herzog, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Sydney, Australia; William Norton, Department of Neuroscience, Psychology and Behavior, University of Leicester, UK


Influence of the microbiome on energy balance and brain development

  • This project investigates to what extent the gut microbiome plays a role in the influence of diet on neuropsychiatric diseases. The quality of the diet can markedly change the composition and function of the intestinal microbiome. Preclinical studies show that diets with a high fat content have an adverse effect on the intestinal microbiome and lead to depression-like behavioral changes. The intestinal microbiome and the hormone leptin formed in fat cells are causally involved in this connection between high-fat diet and depression. 
  • Duration: 2013-2022
  • Funded by: European Commission (MyNewGut), Medical University of Graz
  • Project partners: Yolanda Sanz, Microbial Ecology, Nutrition & Health Research Unit, National Research Council, Valencia, Spanien; Nathalie M. Delzenne, Louvain Drug Research Institute, Brüssel, Belgien; Sandrine P. Claus, Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences, University of Reading, UK

Behavioral disorders after visceral immune activation

  • Activation of the peripheral immune system through bacterial and viral infections or components of the intestinal microbiome can contribute to neuropsychiatric diseases. This project investigates how metabolites of viral or microbial origin affect the brain and lead to changes in behavior (anhedonia, lethargy, anorexia, anxiety, depression). The focus of interest is the neuroprotective neuropeptide Y and other signal molecules relevant to behavior such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor.
  • Duration: 2014-2022
  • Funded by: FWF, Medical University of Graz
  • Project partners: Gregor Gorkiewicz, Diagnostic and Research Institute of Pathology; Herbert Herzog, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Australia


Analysis of genetic and environmental factors in the development of aggression in zebrafish

  • This project investigates which genes play a role in the development of aggression. Through the targeted breeding of zebrafish with an aggressive phenotype and genetic analysis of the brain using RNAseq, genes that are associated with an aggressive phenotype can be identified. With the help of CRISPR / Cas9, it will further be investigated how changes in the expression of these genes affect aggressive behavior.
  • Duration: 2017-2022
  • Funded by: FWF, Medical University of Graz
  • Project partner: William Norton (Department of Neuroscience, Psychology and Behaviour, University of Leicester, UK)


Division of Pharmacology

Univ.-Prof. Mag. Dr.
Peter Holzer 
T: +43 316 385 74111

Division of Pharmacology
Aitak Farzi,  PhD
T: +43 316 385 74116

Division of Pharmacology

Priv.-Doz. Dr.
Florian Reichmann,  PhD
T: +43 316 385 74116