Ass. Prof. Priv.-Doz. Dr. Margot Ernst


Medical University of Vienna
Center for Brain Research
Dept. of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Spitalgasse 4
1090 Vienna

Researcher's Profile
Research interests:
  • GABAA Receptor Functional Studies, Subtype Pharmacology and Mutational Analysis
  • GABAA Receptors as Drug and Diagnostic Targets
  • In silico membrane protein structure prediction & validation
  • Drug – Receptor analyses (Docking, Virtual screening, Experiment Guided Structure Validation)

Margot Ernst obtained her undergraduate training in Chemistry at the University of Vienna, and her PhD degree as a Fulbright scholar at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, U.S.A. She started her scientific career by investigating inorganic molecules with "high- performance" computational methods. After a Post Doc at the Karl Franzens University Graz she started Medical School, where she was fascinated by the world of biomolecules and their physiology. Thus, she combined the best of both worlds and, after joining the Sieghart lab at the Medical University Vienna, specialized in computational studies of biomolecules and their interactions with drugs. She developed one of the first structural models of a GABAA receptor. Her models stimulated experimental studies that led to the discovery of a new binding site at GABAA receptors (Ramerstorfer et al 2011). The first (efficacy-) selective ligand for the a6b3g2 GABAA receptor subtype was discovered in her lab, and jointly with the Mihovilovic lab she continues to develop tool compounds with defined subtype preferences.

Career highlights:

2015   Bilateral FWF project I 2306 awarded to investigate the role of alpha-6 containing            GABAA receptors in neuropsychiatric disorders. See:
2014    Habilitation and Tenure Track contract at the Medical University of Vienna
2011    Discovery of a new binding site on GABAA receptors (Faculty of thousand selected in 2013)

Ongoing MolTag Research projects as Supervisor:
Konstantina BAMPALI: Subtype selective targeting of GABA A receptors

Ongoing MolTag Research projects as Co-Supervisor:
Mari Teresa IORIO: Synthesis of novel ring structure as GABAA receptor ligands with functional selectivity
Stefanie KICKINGER: GABAA receptor and GABA transporter selectivity profiling
Marco NIELLO: Domain swapping in human monoamine transporters to decipher transport selectivity
David SIEBERT: Synthesis of binding site selective GABA A receptor ligands
Marco STADLER: Natural compounds as scaffolds for novel GABA(A) receptor modulating anticonvulsants
Blanca VEGA ALANIS: Synthesis of novel scaffolds as selective ligands for the alpha+/beta- interface of the GABAA receptor

Completed MolTag Research projects as Supervisor:
Roshan PUTHENKALAM: Understanding subtype selective allosteric modulation of GABA A receptors;  finished 02/2016
Pantea MIRHEYDARI: Towards subtype selective modulators of GABA A receptors, finished 07/2015

Completed MolTag Research projects as Co-Supervisor:
Daria GOLDMANN:  Selectivity Profiling of Ligands towards GABA A and TRPV1 Receptors, finished 09/2015
Andreas JURIK: Comparative Modeling Studies for Profiling of the GABA Transporter System, finished 05/2015
Denise LUGER: Molecular determinants of anxiolytic and anticonvulsive properties of valerenic acid and derivatives; finished 11/2015
Lukas RYCEK:  Lead optimization of PPARg and GABA A agonist, finished 04/2015