Thomas Schalch Group

Department of Molecular Biology - Faculty of Science, University of Geneva

Department of Molecular Biology
Sciences III - University of Geneva
Room 2034B - 2nd floor
30, quai Ernest-Ansermet
CH - 1211 Geneva 4

Phone: +41 (0)22 379 36 85
Fax: +41 (0)22 379 68 68

Thomas Schalch
SNSF professor

Project at a glance

Chromatin structure and mechanisms of genome organization

Chromatin is the matrix that compacts and organizes the DNA of a eukaryotic cell, with the nucleosome being the basic repeating unit. Through its tight grip on DNA, chromatin acts as a primary gatekeeper to the underlying DNA sequence, thereby affecting many vital processes such as replication, gene expression and genome maintenance. Gaining insight into the structure of chromatin and the associated macromolecular machinery will significantly enrich our understanding of the mechanisms occurring in the nucleus of a eukaryotic cell.

We work on the model system fission yeast (Schizosaccharomyces Pombe), and are harnessing the power of X-ray crystallography in combination with functional and genetic studies in order to understand the mechanisms governing specific genomic environments. The target of our studies is the S. Pombe centromere, a system where chromatin modifiers and the RNAi pathway converge to establish a silent, heterochromatic structure on repetitive DNA elements, thereby providing the foundation for kinetochore formation. The S. Pombe centromere and its chromatin resembles in many aspects mammalian centromeric chromatin. Understanding those mechanisms in detail will inform us about fundamental biological processes, and is likely to provide clues on human diseases that are affected by changes in chromatin structure, for example cancer, diabetes or neurological disorders.