Institute Director and Professor
Institute of Epigenetics and Stem Cells, Munich, Germany
Male (left) and female (right) chromosomes during the first mitosis after fertilisation.
Research in Maria-Elena Torres-Padilla’s laboratory focuses on understanding how early mouse development is regulated by chromatin-mediated changes in gene regulation, that is, by epigenetic information. In particular, we are interested in understanding how the transitions in cell potency and cell fate are regulated by chromatin-mediated processes.
Maria-Elena Torres-Padilla and her group use the mouse embryo as a model because this is one of the few systems where it is possible to explore the foundations of totipotency and differentiation. Indeed, the zygote, which is the product of fertilization of an oocyte by sperm, has an inherent capacity to form all cell types in an organism. During the pre-implantation development and the first divisions, decisions regarding cell fate are made for the first time. Chromatin-mediated changes in gene regulation have to ensure the plasticity required for undertaking such an essential task during development. However, proteins regulating chromatin structure during early development or the way chromatin is remodeled during this pre-implantation phase remain largely unknown.
Research in Maria-Elena Torres-Padilla’s lab addresses the following questions:
1/ How is the chromatin structure established during embryonic development ?
2/ What are the molecules involved in chromatin remodeling during early development and what is their function ?
3/ What is the role of those proteins in pluripotent cells specification ?
Maria-Elena Torres-Padilla’s research will help us to understand how chromatin structure is progressively modified to restrict cell fate determination with the consequent loss of pluri-potency. Her work will also allow new insights in understanding the biology of the pluripotent stem cells, in particular on their origin and development.
From a broader perspective, deciphering the basic mechanisms underlying the earliest steps of mammalian development is essential to understand early aspects of embryonic development, human reproduction and stem cell biology.
• 2002 : Ph. D. , Pasteur Institute, Paris, France, Mary C. Weiss' lab, Analysis of the expression and functional characterisation of HNF4α isoforms
• 2002-2006 : Postdoctoral (EMBO Long-term) fellow, Gurdon Institute, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz' lab, Regulation of early mammalian development
• 2006-2008 : Senior Scientist, IGBMC, Strasbourg, France, Laszlo Tora's lab
• 2008 : Appointed Group leader at the IGBMC
• 2016 : Lab move at the Institute of Epigenetics & Stem Cells, Munich, Germany
• Selected as 'Young Scientist' by the World Economic Forum, 2016
• EMBO Member, 2015
• EMBO Young Investigator, 2011
• Starting Grant from the European Research Council (ERC), 2011
• Elected RISE1 Member of EpiGeneSys Network of Excellence, 2011
• Prize Fondation pour la Recherche Médicale (FRM) Alsace, 2009
• Avenir Grant, Inserm, 2009-2011
May 2017, Nat. Genet.
May 2014, Genes Dev
Nov 2013, Nat Struct Mol Biol.