Mariusz Nowacki

Mariusz Nowacki

Professor, Institute of Cell Biology; University of Bern, Switzerland

Mariusz Nowacki works as professor of RNA biology and Epigenetics at the University of Bern since 2010. His research focuses on the process of RNA-mediated genome editing in eukaryotes. His work on epigenetic inheritance in ciliated protozoa supports the idea that Lamarckian processes play crucial roles in evolution.

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Mariusz Nowacki received his PhD from University of Paris VI and Ecole Normale Supérieure in 2005. He did a post-doc at Princeton University from 2005 and since 2010 he works as professor of RNA Biology and Epigenetics at University of Bern.

His research focuses on the mechanisms of RNA-mediated epigenetic inheritance in eukaryotic cells. Using ciliated protozoa as model organisms his lab investigates the very complex epigenetic phenomena accompanying the whole-genome scale developmental DNA rearrangements, where the parental cell must provide sufficient amount of information in order to produce a fully functional progeny. This involves a RNA-mediated comparison of the developing zygotic genome with the maternal somatic genome in an extraordinarily massive and precise manner. In ciliates, maternal RNAs form the heart of an epigenetic system that has evolved from core eukaryotic gene silencing components to selectively target DNA for deletion, and in some cases, provide both an organizing guide for DNA rearrangements and a template that can transport somatic mutations to the next generation. Furthermore, the mechanisms of RNA-mediated epigenetic inheritance can function across multiple generations, and Mariusz Nowacki’s work has revealed new biological roles for RNA and has hinted at the power of RNA molecules to sculpt genomic information in cells.

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"The evolutionary consequences of a viable mechanism in ciliates to transmit acquired characters may create an additional store of heritable variation and contribute to the cosmopolitan success of this diverse lineage of microbial eukaryotes. Thus, changes that arise in the maternal somatic genome, whether at the level of point mutations or new DNA-rearrangement patterns, have an opportunity to be passed on to the next generation, thereby bypassing the usual mode of inheritance via germline DNA"

(Nowacki M et al., RNA-Mediated Epigenetic Programming of Genome Rearrangements. Annu Rev Genomics Hum Genet. 2011;12:367-89.)

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