The elephant’s trunk will inspire a revolutionary robot


An international team, including the group of Professor Michel Milinkovitch, will analyse the African elephant’s trunk, and its exceptional agility and versatility, to create a new generation of manipulative robots capable of operating in unstable environments, adapting quickly to unexpected situations and performing a multitude of concrete tasks.

Read the press release

Topoisomerases promote replication fork pausing at proteinaceous barriers


Living organisms have to faithfully duplicate all the DNA in their chromosomes once and only once during every cell division. Replication forks pause/slow/arrest/stall during progression through chromosomes at certain tight DNA/protein complexes known as Replication Fork Barriers (RFB).  This pausing is promoted by the Fork Pausing Complex (FPC, composed of the Tof1 and Csm3 proteins in budding yeast) and opposed by Rrm3 helicase, a motor-like protein believed to displace obstacles.

Maksym Shyian and collaborators in the Shore laboratory have now discovered that the Tof1-Csm3 complex promotes fork pausing independently of Rrm3 helicase, in contrast to an old model. Instead the Fork Pausing Complex was found to mediate topoisomerase I (Top1) association with the replisome, which, together with Top2, is essential for fork slowdown (replisome sTOP mechanism).

The study was published in Genes & Development on December 5, 2019.



Plant phosphate homeostasis is regulated by an inositol pyrophosphate signaling molecule


Phosphorus is an essential building block for nucleic acids and membranes, forms an important energy currency of the cell and can act as a signaling molecule. Soil-living organisms take up phosphorus in the form of inorganic phosphate. How cells ‘measure’ phosphate concentrations to maintain sufficient phosphate levels in their cells and tissues is poorly understood. The group of Michael Hothorn has now elucidated that phosphate homeostasis in plants is regulated by an inositol pyrophosphate signaling molecule, which is generated by a bifunctional kinase/phosphatase enzyme in response to changing ATP and phosphate levels. The signaling molecule then binds to a cellular receptor, which in turn inactivates a transcription factor regulating phosphate starvation responses. Thus, a signaling molecule relays the nutrient status of the plant to a signaling cascade, allowing for nutrient uptake, storage and redistribution. The groups of Dorothea Fiedler (Leibniz Institute for Molecular Pharmacology, Berlin, Germany), Alisdair Fernie (Max Planck Institute for Molecular Plant Physiology, Golm, Germany) and Gabriel Schaaf (University of Bonn, Germany) contributed to this study that was published in eLife on August 22.

Pushing and pulling nucleosomes to control transcription initiation


Chromatin remodelers are protein machines that move or eject nucleosomes from the chromatin template to regulate gene expression. Kubik et al. show how two distinct classes of remodelers, which they call « pushers » and « pullers », interact genome-wide at promoter regions to determine both the frequency of gene transcription and the precise site of initiation.

2019 Swiss final of the competition “my thesis in 180 seconds”

Performance by Audrey Noireterre, doctoral student in the laboratory of Professor Françoise Stutz, winner of the 3rd Jury Prize and the Public Prize, at the UNIGE local final of the competition “My thesis in 180 seconds” which took place on 9 April 2019 at the University of Geneva.

«Link between cullins and repair of DNA-Protein crosslinks in the yeast S. cerevisiae»

Congratulations Audrey!


Michel Milinkovitch and Robbie Loewith receive an ERC Advanced Grant


After receiving an ERC Starting Grant in 2008 and an ERC Consolidator Grant in 2014, Robbie Loewith has been awarded an ERC Advanced Grant for his research project entitled “Tension of ENDOmembranes maintained by TORC1 (TENDO)”. The aim is to understand how TORC1 regulates, and is regulated by, vacuolar membrane tension.

The grant is endowed with 2.25 million Euros over 5 years.


An ERC Advanced Grant has been awarded to Michel Milinkovitch for his research project entitled “Identifying how Evolution exploits physical properties of tissues to generate the complexity and diversity of Life (EVOMORPHYS)”. The aim is to identify the drivers of Life’s morphological complexity and diversity.

The grant is endowed with 2.5 million Euros over 5 years.


Summary of the research projects


Details (pdf)

La savante organisation des plumes des oiseaux


Une étude à laquelle ont collaboré Athanasia Tzika et Michel Milinkovitch démontre comment des signaux génétiques et mécaniques se combinent pour permettre la formation d’un réseau organisé de plumes chez les oiseaux, leur permettant de voler. Les résultats ont été publiés le 21 février 2019 dans PLOS Biology.

Communiqué de presse


Vidéo : formation des plumes chez un embryon de poulet