• 1988-1996: studies in Biology/Genetics at the University of Vienna, Austria
  • 1995-1996: diploma thesis in the group of Andrea Barta, Institute of Biochemistry, Vienna 
    (Topic: Identification of divalent metal ion binding sites in rRNA of E. coli)
  • 1997-2000: Ph.D. thesis in the group of Andrea Barta, Institute of Medical Biochemistry, University of Vienna
    (Topic: Structural dynamics of bacterial rRNA during translation)

Career history

  • 2000-2003: Postdoc in the group of Alexander S. Mankin, Center for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, University of Illinois at Chicago, USA (research field: Ribosomal catalysis)
  • 2003-2005: University Assistant (Assistant Professor) and group leader at the Division of Genomics & RNomics, Innsbruck Medical University - Biocenter, Austria (research fields: Small ncRNAs as ribo-regulators in pro- and eukaryotes, catalytic functions of rRNA)
  • 2005: ‘Habilitation’ (venia docendi) in Molecular Biology at the Medical University Innsbruck
  • 2005-2011: Associate Professor at the Innsbruck Biocenter /Division of Genomics & RNomics, Innsbruck Medical University
  • since 2012: Full Professor of Biochemistry at the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry / Department of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences (since 2021), University of Bern
  • since 2014: NCCR RNA & Disease Delegate Training & Education
  • since 2014: head of the master program in "Molecular Life Sciences" at the University of Bern
  • 2018-2020: Deputy Director of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Bern, Switzerland
  • 2021-2023: Director of the Department of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Bern, Switzerland

Prizes and Awards

  • 2006: START award from the Austrian Science Foundation (FWF)
  • 2006: Novartis research prize for Biology
  • 2008: Research award of the Principality Liechtenstein


In our group we focus on the functional characterization of non-protein-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) in large cellular RNA/protein complexes, such as the ribosome or the vault particle. We are particularly interested in the structural, catalytic and regulatory roles of ncRNAs during ribosome functioning, translation control, as well as during apoptosis. We approach these aims by applying biochemical, genomic, and bioinformatics tools in model organisms representing all three domains of life (archaea, bacteria and eukarya).

Journal Article

Rauscher, Robert; Polacek, Norbert (2024). Ribosomal RNA expansion segments and their role in ribosome biology. Biochemical Society transactions, 52(3), pp. 1317-1325. Portland Press 10.1042/BST20231106

Rauscher, Robert; Eggers, Cristian; Dimitrova-Paternoga, Lyudmila; Shankar, Vaishnavi; Rosina, Alessia; Cristodero, Marina; Paternoga, Helge; Wilson, Daniel N; Leidel, Sebastian A; Polacek, Norbert (2024). Evolving precision: rRNA expansion segment 7S modulates translation velocity and accuracy in eukaryal ribosomes. Nucleic acids research, 52(7), pp. 4021-4036. Oxford University Press 10.1093/nar/gkae067

Brogli, Rebecca; Cristodero, Marina; Schneider, André; Polacek, Norbert (2023). A ribosome-bound tRNA half stimulates mitochondrial translation during stress recovery in Trypanosoma brucei. Cell reports, 42(9), p. 113112. Cell Press 10.1016/j.celrep.2023.113112

Holmes, Andrew D; Chan, Patricia P; Chen, Qi; Ivanov, Pavel; Drouard, Laurence; Polacek, Norbert; Kay, Mark A; Lowe, Todd M (2023). A standardized ontology for naming tRNA-derived RNAs based on molecular origin. Nature methods, 20(5), pp. 627-628. Springer Nature 10.1038/s41592-023-01813-2

Raad, Nicole; Tandon, Disha; Hapfelmeier, Siegfried; Polacek, Norbert (2022). The stationary phase-specific sRNA FimR2 is a multifunctional regulator of bacterial motility, biofilm formation and virulence. Nucleic acids research, 50(20), pp. 11858-11875. Oxford University Press 10.1093/nar/gkac1025

Gallo, Stefano; Kong, Eunbin; Ferro, Iolanda; Polacek, Norbert (2022). Small but Powerful: The Human Vault RNAs as Multifaceted Modulators of Pro-Survival Characteristics and Tumorigenesis. Cancers, 14(11), p. 2787. MDPI AG 10.3390/cancers14112787

Pecoraro, Valentina; Rosina, Alessia; Polacek, Norbert (2022). Ribosome-Associated ncRNAs (rancRNAs) Adjust Translation and Shape Proteomes. Non-Coding RNA, 8(2), p. 22. MDPI 10.3390/ncrna8020022

Aung, Lynn Htet Htet; Li, Peifeng; Perez-Cruz, Claudia; Polacek, Norbert; Resendiz, Marino J. E. (2022). Editorial: Oxidative Damage of RNA: Structure, Function, and Biological Implications - From Nucleotides to Short and Long RNAs in Chemistry and Biology. Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences, 9 Frontiers 10.3389/fmolb.2022.853725

Fasnacht, Michel; Gallo, Stefano; Sharma, Puneet; Himmelstoß, Maximilian; Limbach, Patrick A; Willi, Jessica; Polacek, Norbert (2022). Dynamic 23S rRNA modification ho5C2501 benefits Escherichia coli under oxidative stress. Nucleic acids research, 50(1), pp. 473-489. Oxford University Press 10.1093/nar/gkab1224

Krauer, Nina; Rauscher, Robert; Polacek, Norbert (2021). tRNA Synthetases Are Recruited to Yeast Ribosomes by rRNA Expansion Segment 7L but Do Not Require Association for Functionality. Non-Coding RNA, 7(4), p. 73. MDPI 10.3390/ncrna7040073

Reuther, Julia; Schneider, Lukas; Iacovache, Ioan; Pircher, Andreas; Gharib, Walid H.; Zuber, Benoît; Polacek, Norbert (2021). A small ribosome-associated ncRNA globally inhibits translation by restricting ribosome dynamics. RNA biology, 18(12), pp. 2617-2632. Taylor and Francis 10.1080/15476286.2021.1935573

Svetlov, Maxim S.; Koller, Timm O.; Meydan, Sezen; Shankar, Vaishnavi; Klepacki, Dorota; Polacek, Norbert; Guydosh, Nicholas R.; Vázquez-Laslop, Nora; Wilson, Daniel N.; Mankin, Alexander S. (2021). Context-specific action of macrolide antibiotics on the eukaryotic ribosome. Nature Communications, 12(1) Springer Nature 10.1038/s41467-021-23068-1

Fasnacht, Michel; Polacek, Norbert (2021). Oxidative Stress in Bacteria and the Central Dogma of Molecular Biology. Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences, 8 Frontiers 10.3389/fmolb.2021.671037

Ferro, Iolanda; Gavini, Jacopo; Gallo, Stefano; Bracher, Lisamaria; Landolfo, Marc; Candinas, Daniel; Keogh-Stroka, Deborah M.; Polacek, Norbert (2021). The human vault RNA enhances tumorigenesis and chemoresistance through the lysosome in hepatocellular carcinoma. Autophagy, 18(1), pp. 191-203. Landes Bioscience 10.1080/15548627.2021.1922983

Cristodero, Marina; Brogli, Rebecca; Joss, Oliver; Schimanski, Bernd; Schneider, André; Polacek, Norbert (2021). tRNA 3' shortening by LCCR4 as a response to stress in Trypanosoma brucei. Nucleic acids research, 49(3), pp. 1647-1661. Oxford University Press 10.1093/nar/gkaa1261

Raad, Nicole; Luidalepp, Hannes; Fasnacht, Michel; Polacek, Norbert (2021). Transcriptome-Wide Analysis of Stationary Phase Small ncRNAs in E. coli. International journal of molecular sciences, 22(4), p. 1703. MDPI 10.3390/ijms22041703

Pinel-Marie, Marie-Laure; Brielle, Régine; Riffaud, Camille; Germain-Amiot, Noëlla; Polacek, Norbert; Felden, Brice (2021). RNA antitoxin SprF1 binds ribosomes to attenuate translation and promote persister cell formation in Staphylococcus aureus. Nature microbiology, 6(2), pp. 209-220. Springer Nature 10.1038/s41564-020-00819-2

Polacek, Norbert; Ivanov, Pavel (2020). The regulatory world of tRNA fragments beyond canonical tRNA biology. RNA biology, 17(8), pp. 1057-1059. Taylor & Francis 10.1080/15476286.2020.1785196

Bracher, Lisamaria; Ferro, Iolanda; Pulido-Quetglas, Carlos; Ruepp, Marc-David; Johnson, Rory; Polacek, Norbert (2020). Human vtRNA1-1 Levels Modulate Signaling Pathways and Regulate Apoptosis in Human Cancer Cells. Biomolecules, 10(4), p. 614. MDPI 10.3390/biom10040614

Shankar, Vaishnavi; Rauscher, Robert; Reuther, Julia; Gharib, Walid H; Koch, Miriam; Polacek, Norbert (2020). rRNA expansion segment 27Lb modulates the factor recruitment capacity of the yeast ribosome and shapes the proteome. Nucleic acids research, 48(6), pp. 3244-3256. Oxford University Press 10.1093/nar/gkaa003

Gonskikh, Yulia; Gerstl, Matthias; Kos, Martin; Borth, Nicole; Schosserer, Markus; Grillari, Johannes; Polacek, Norbert (2020). Modulation of mammalian translation by a ribosome-associated tRNA half. RNA biology, 17(8), pp. 1125-1136. Landes Bioscience 10.1080/15476286.2020.1744296

Heissenberger, Clemens; Liendl, Lisa; Nagelreiter, Fabian; Gonskikh, Yulia; Yang, Guohuan; Stelzer, Elena M.; Krammer, Teresa L.; Micutkova, Lucia; Vogt, Stefan; Kreil, David P.; Sekot, Gerhard; Siena, Emilio; Poser, Ina; Harreither, Eva; Linder, Angela; Ehret, Viktoria; Helbich, Thomas H.; Grillari-Voglauer, Regina; Jansen-Dürr, Pidder; Koš, Martin; ... (2019). Loss of the ribosomal RNA methyltransferase NSUN5 impairs global protein synthesis and normal growth. Nucleic acids research, 47(22), pp. 11807-11825. Oxford University Press 10.1093/nar/gkz1043

Shikha, Shikha; Brogli, Rebecca; Schneider, André; Polacek, Norbert (2019). tRNA Biology in Trypanosomes. CHIMIA, 73(5), pp. 395-405. Schweizerische Chemische Gesellschaft 10.2533/chimia.2019.395

Fricker, Roger; Brogli, Rebecca; Luidalepp, Hannes; Wyss, Leander Nicolas; Fasnacht, Michel; Joss, Oliver; Zywicki, Marek; Helm, Mark; Schneider, André; Cristodero, Marina; Polacek, Norbert (2019). A tRNA half modulates translation as stress response in Trypanosoma brucei. Nature communications, 10(1) Nature Publishing Group 10.1038/s41467-018-07949-6

Wyss, Leander Nicolas; Waser, Melanie; Gebetsberger, Jennifer; Zywicki, Marek; Polacek, Norbert (2018). mRNA-specific translation regulation by a ribosome-associated ncRNA in Haloferax volcanii. Scientific Reports, 8(1) Nature Publishing Group 10.1038/s41598-018-30332-w

Willi, Jessica; Küpfer, Pascal; Evéquoz, Damien; Fernandez, Guillermo; Katz, Assaf; Leumann, Christian; Polacek, Norbert (2018). Oxidative stress damages rRNA inside the ribosome and differentially affects the catalytic center. Nucleic acids research, 46(4), pp. 1945-1957. Information Retrieval Ltd. 10.1093/nar/gkx1308

Gonskikh, Yulia; Polacek, Norbert (2017). Alterations of the translation apparatus during aging and stress response. Mechanisms of Ageing and Development, 168, pp. 30-36. Elsevier 10.1016/j.mad.2017.04.003

Koch, Miriam; Willi, Jessica; Polacek, Norbert (2017). Critical 23S rRNA interactions for macrolide-dependent ribosome stalling on the ErmCL nascent peptide chain. Nucleic acids research, 45(11), pp. 6717-6728. Oxford University Press 10.1093/nar/gkx195

Cristodero, Marina; Polacek, Norbert (2017). The multifaceted regulatory potential of tRNA-derived fragments. Non-coding RNA investigation AME Publishing Company 10.21037/ncri.2017.08.07

Gebetsberger, Jennifer Viktoria; Wyss, Leander; Mleczko, Anna M.; Reuther, Julia; Polacek, Norbert (2016). A tRNA-derived fragment competes with mRNA for ribosome binding and regulates translation during stress. RNA biology, 14(10), pp. 1364-1373. Taylor and Francis 10.1080/15476286.2016.1257470

Luidalepp, Hannes; Berger, Stefan; Joss, Oliver; Tenson, Tanel; Polacek, Norbert (2016). Ribosome Shut-Down by 16S rRNA Fragmentation in Stationary-Phase Escherichia coli. Journal of molecular biology, 428(10), pp. 2237-2247. Elsevier 10.1016/j.jmb.2016.01.033

Amort, Melanie; Nachbauer, Birgit; Tuzlak, Selma; Kieser, Arnd; Schepers, Aloys; Villunger, Andreas; Polacek, Norbert (2015). Expression of the vault RNA protects cells from undergoing apoptosis. Nature communications, 6(7030), p. 7030. Nature Publishing Group 10.1038/ncomms8030

Koch, Miriam; Flür, Sara; Kreutz, Christoph; Ennifar, Eric; Micura, Ronald; Polacek, Norbert (2015). Role of a ribosomal RNA phosphate oxygen during the EF-G–triggered GTP hydrolysis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America - PNAS, 112(20), p. 201505231. National Academy of Sciences NAS 10.1073/pnas.1505231112

Schosserer, Markus; Minois, Nadege; Angerer, Tina B.; Amring, Manuela; Dellago, Hanna; Harreither, Eva; Calle-Perez, Alfonso; Pircher, Andreas; Gerstl, Matthias Peter; Pfeifenberger, Sigrid; Brandl, Clemens; Sonntagbauer, Markus; Kriegner, Albert; Linder, Angela; Weinhäusel, Andreas; Mohr, Thomas; Steiger, Matthias; Mattanovich, Diethard; Rinnerthaler, Mark; Karl, Thomas; ... (2015). Methylation of ribosomal RNA by NSUN5 is a conserved mechanism modulating organismal lifespan. Nature communications, 6(6158), p. 6158. Nature Publishing Group 10.1038/ncomms7158

Koch, Miriam; Clementi, Nina; Rusca, Nicola; Vögele, Paul; Erlacher, Matthias; Polacek, Norbert (2015). The integrity of the G2421-C2395 base pair in the ribosomal E-site is crucial for protein synthesis. RNA biology, 12(1), pp. 70-81. Taylor and Francis 10.1080/15476286.2015.1017218

Gebetsberger, Jennifer Viktoria; Fricker, Roger; Polacek, Norbert (2015). cDNA Library Generation for the Analysis of Small RNAs by High-Throughput Sequencing. Methods in molecular biology, 1296, pp. 139-149. Humana Press 10.1007/978-1-4939-2547-6_13

Pircher, Andreas; Gebetsberger, Jennifer Viktoria; Polacek, Norbert (2014). Ribosome-associated ncRNAs: An emerging class of translation regulators. RNA biology, 11(11), pp. 1335-1339. Taylor and Francis 10.1080/15476286.2014.996459

Pircher, Andreas; Bakowska-Zywicka, Kamilla; Schneider, Lukas; Zywicki, Marek; Polacek, Norbert (2014). An mRNA-Derived Noncoding RNA Targets and Regulates the Ribosome. Molecular cell, 54(1), pp. 147-155. Cell Press 10.1016/j.molcel.2014.02.024

Gebetsberger, Jennifer Viktoria; Polacek, Norbert (2013). Slicing tRNAs to boost functional ncRNA diversity. RNA biology, 10(12), pp. 1798-1806. Landes Bioscience 10.4161/rna.27177

Polacek, Norbert (2013). Atomic Mutagenesis of the Ribosome: Towards a Molecular Understanding of Translation. CHIMIA, 67(5), pp. 322-326. Bern: Schweizerische Chemische Gesellschaft 10.2533/chimia.2013.322

Gebetsberger, Jennifer; Zywicki, Marek; Künzi, Andrea; Polacek, Norbert (2012). tRNA-Derived Fragments Target the Ribosome and Function as Regulatory Non-Coding RNA in Haloferax volcanii. Archaea, 2012(260909), pp. 1-11. Victoria, B.C.: Heron Pub. 10.1155/2012/260909

Zywicki, Marek; Bakowska-Zywicka, Kamilla; Polacek, Norbert (2012). Revealing stable processing products from ribosome-associated small RNAs by deep-sequencing data analysis. Nucleic acids research, 40(9), pp. 4013-4024. London: Oxford University Press 10.1093/nar/gks020

Book Section

Gonskikh, Yulia; Pecoraro, Valentina; Polacek, Norbert (2022). Mammalian In Vitro Translation Systems. In: Matějů, Daniel; Chao, Jeffrey A. (eds.) The Integrated Stress Response. Methods in molecular biology: Vol. 2428 (pp. 101-111). Humana Press 10.1007/978-1-0716-1975-9_7

Erlacher, Matthias D.; Polacek, Norbert (2012). Probing Functions of the Ribosomal Peptidyl Transferase Center by Nucleotide Analog Interference. In: Hartig, Jörg S. (ed.) Ribozymes. Methods in Molecular Biology: Vol. 848 (pp. 215-226). Heidelberg: Springer Verlag 10.1007/978-1-61779-545-9_14

Graber, Dagmar; Trappl, Krista; Steger, Jessica; Geiermann, Anna-Skrollan; Rigger, Lukas; Moroder, Holger; Polacek, Norbert; Micura, Ronald (2012). Deoxyribozyme-Based, Semisynthetic Access to Stable Peptidyl-tRNAs Exemplified by tRNAVal Carrying a Macrolide Antibiotic Resistance Peptide. In: Hartig, Jörg S. (ed.) Ribozymes. Methods in Molecular Biology: Vol. 848 (pp. 201-213). Heidelberg: Springer Verlag 10.1007/978-1-61779-545-9_13

Conference or Workshop Item

Polacek, Norbert (27 September 2017). The multifaceted roles of ribosome-associated ncRNAs (rancRNAs) (Unpublished). In: 18th annual meeting of the Ribo Club. Mont Orford, Quebec, Canada. 25.09.-28.09.2017.

Polacek, Norbert (5 September 2016). The role of tRNA-derived fragments in stress response (Unpublished). In: 26th tRNA Conference. Jeju, Korea. 04.-08.09.2016.

Cristodero, Marina; Fricker, Roger; Schneider, André; Polacek, Norbert (5 September 2016). Biology of tRNAs in Trypanosoma brucei during stress (Unpublished). In: 26th tRNA Conference. Jeju, Korea. 04.-08.09.2016.

Luidalepp, Hannes; Polacek, Norbert (8 August 2016). Ribosome Shut-Down by 16S rRNA Fragmentation in Stationary-Phase Escherichia coli (Unpublished). In: The 2016 Molecular Genetics of Bacteria and Phages Meeting. Madison, WI, USA. 08.-12.08.2016.

Polacek, Norbert (9 July 2016). Ribosome-associated ncRNAs (rancRNAs): An emerging class of translation regulators (Unpublished). In: EMBO Conference Ribosome – Structure and Function 2016. Strasbourg, France. 06.-10.07.2016.

Koch, Miriam; Küpfer, Pascal; Leumann, Christian; Polacek, Norbert; Willi, Jessica (9 July 2016). Oxidized bases in the ribosome's peptidyl transferase center and their effects on translation (Unpublished). In: EMBO Conference Ribosome – Structure and Function 2016. Strasbourg, France. 06.-10.07.2016.

Wyss, Leander; Gebetsberger, Jennifer Viktoria; Polacek, Norbert (6 July 2016). An intergenic non-coding RNA targets and regulates the ribosome in H. volcanii. (Unpublished). In: EMBO Conference Ribosome – Structure and Function 2016. Strasbourg, France. 06.-10.07.2016.

Polacek, Norbert (9 September 2015). Ribosome-associated ncRNAs (rancRNAs) An emerging class of translation regulators (Unpublished). In: Protein synthesis and translational control. Heidelberg, Deutschland. 09.–13.09.2015.

Polacek, Norbert (26 February 2015). The ribosome as novel target for stress-induced small regulatory RNAs (Unpublished). In: Gordon Research Conference “Translation machinery in health & disease”. Ventura, CA, USA. 22.–27.02.2015.

Polacek, Norbert (9 July 2013). The ribosome as novel target for small regulatory RNAs (Unpublished). In: Ribosome Conference 2013. Napa Valley, USA. 09.-12.07.2013.

Polacek, Norbert (4 June 2013). The ribosome as novel target for small regulatory RNAs (Unpublished). In: Regulating with RNA in Bacteria. Würzburg, Deutschland. 04.-08.06.2013.

Gebetsberger, Jennifer; Zywicki, Marek; Polacek, Norbert (2012). The origin of translational control: Are there small ncRNAs interacting with the archaeal ribosome? In: Swiss RNA Workshop 3.2.2012.

Erlacher, Matthias; Micura, Ronald; Polacek, Norbert (2012). Unravelling molecular mechanisms of translation by atomic mutagenesis of the ribosome. In: Swiss RNA Workshop 3.2.2012.

Gebetsberger, Jennifer; Zywicki, Marek; Polacek, Norbert (2012). The origin of translational control: Are there small ncRNAs interacting with the archaeal ribosome? In: Microsymposium on small RNAs 21.-23.5.2012.

Pircher, Andreas; Bakoeska-Zywicka, Kamilla; Zywicki, Marek; Polacek, Norbert (2012). Functional characterisation of an mRNA-derived non-coding RNA that regulates translation in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In: Microsymposium on small RNAs 21.-23.5.2012.

Gebetsberger, Jennifer; Zywicki, Marek; Polacek, Norbert (2012). The origin of translational control: Are there small ncRNAs interacting with the archaeal ribosome? In: Molecular Biology in Archaea 2.-4.7.2012.

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