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

Medical University of 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:

  • Since 03/2021 Vice Speaker in the MolTag Doctoral Program
  • 2017 Associated Professor (tenured) at Medical University of Vienna
  • 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 projects as co-supervisor:

  • Dominik SCHNALZER: Developing Labelled Ligands as Tool Compounds for Mechanistic Studies on the GABAA-Receptor and Other Ion Channels


Completed projects as supervisor:

  • Florian VOGEL: GABAA receptors - functional and pharmacological studies, finished 11/2023
  • Konstantina BAMPALI: Structural basis of allosteric GABAA receptor modulation, finished 10/2019
  • David SIEBERT: Synthesis of binding site selective GABAA receptor ligands, finished 02/2018
  • Roshan PUTHENKALAM: Understanding subtype selective allosteric modulation of GABAA receptors; finished 02/2016
  • Pantea MIRHEYDARI: Towards subtype selective modulators of GABAA receptors, finished 07/2015


Completed projects as co-supervisor:

  • Daria GOLDMANN: Selectivity Profiling of Ligands towards GABAA 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 GABAA agonist, finished 04/2015
  • Laurin WIMMER: Synthesis of bioactive molecules for the investigation of ion channels and transporters, finished 02/2016
  • Marco STADLER: Natural compounds as scaffolds for novel GABAA receptor modulating anticonvulsants, finished 03/2019
  • Marco NIELLO: Pharmacological characterization and selectivity profile of different synthetic cathinones among monoamine transporters, finished 12/2019
  • Maria Teresa IORIO; New Modifications of an old Scaffold: Pyrazoloquinolinone Derivatives and Analogs as Active Compounds on GABAA Receptors; finished 02/2020
  • Stefanie KICKINGER; Computational Studies of SLC Transporters with Special Focus on the GABA Transporter Subfamily, finished 04/2020
  • Ralph GRADISCH: The energy coupling in the human serotonin transporter, finished 10/2023
  • Aleksandra GARIFULINA: Modulation of GABAA Receptors by Low-Molecular-Weight Compounds , finished 03/2024
  • Blanca VEGA ALANIS: Synthesis of novel scaffolds as selective ligands for the alpha/beta interface of the GABAA receptor, finished 03/2024