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Dr Jerzy Paszkowski

Dr Jerzy Paszkowski

Research Group Leader

Sainsbury Laboratory
University of Cambridge
Bateman Street

Cambridge CB2 1LR
Office Phone: +44(0)1223 761159



1969 – 1974                     

MSc in Plant Genetics and Plant Breeding, Agriculture University (SGGW), Warsaw 

1975 – 1981

Ph.D. in Biochemistry, Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Polish Academy of  Sciences, Warsaw


Habilitation, (Private Docent), University of Basel

 Postdoctoral Training:

1981 – 1984                  

Friedrich Miescher Institute, Basel, Switzerland (Supervisors: Barbara Hohn, Ingo Potrykus)


1984 – 1987           

Staff Scientist and Project Leader, Friedrich Miescher Institute, Basel

1987 – 1991

Research Group Leader, ETH Zurich

1991 – 2003

Senior Group Leader, Friedrich Miescher Institute, Basel 

1999 – 2000

Visiting Scientist, Torrey Mesa Research Institute, San Diego, USA

2003 – 2013

Full Professor, University of Geneva

2006 – 2012 

Chairman of Plant Biology Department, University of Geneva

2013– present    

Research Group Leader at the Sainsbury Laboratory, University of Cambridge


Although my entire career has been in basic plant science, my primary education and also a family tradition are in plant breeding. Before my PhD in plant biochemistry, I completed my MSc at Warsaw’s Agriculture University in genetics and plant breeding. Therefore, while working with model plants like tobacco or Arabidopsis, I have always related my research to possible application in crops.

After my PhD in Warsaw, I carried out postdoctoral research at the Friedrich Miescher Institute (FMI) in Basel, bridging the groups of Barbara Hohn and Ingo Potrykus, with the aim of obtaining transgenic plants through transformation of protoplasts with naked DNA. After publication, my successful results (Paszkowski et al., EMBO J 1983), I gained international recognition and was offered a project leader position at the FMI. Later, I was the first to demonstrate gene targeting in plants (Paszkowski et al., EMBO J 1988). Subsequently, I built up an independent group in the ETH Zurich working on DNA repair and recombination. We isolated the first plant mutants and the genes involved in the regulation of homologous recombination. Subsequently, I was offered a senior group leader position and returned to the FMI, where my group began work on epigenetic regulation. Since then my group has contributed a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms of transgenerational epigenetic inheritance and, more recently, also of the epigenetic, developmental and environmental control of retrotransposition.

In 2003, I became a full professor at the University of Geneva and for 5 years I have been chairman of the department of Botany and Plant Biology. Recently, I decided to resign from these functions and accepted Research Group Leader position at the Sainsbury Laboratory, University of Cambridge to dedicate all of my time to research.   


Key Publications

Amedeo, P., Habu, Y., Afsar, K., Mittelsten Scheid, O., and Paszkowski, J. (2000) Disruption of the plant gene MOM releases transcriptional silencing of methylated genes. Nature 405, 203-206

Saze, H., Mittelsten Scheid, O., and Paszkowski, J. (2003) Maintenance of CpG methylation is essential for epigenetic inheritance during plant gametogenesis. Nature genetics 34, 65-69

Tariq, M., Saze, H., Probst, A. V., Lichota, J., Habu, Y., and Paszkowski, J. (2003) Erasure of CpG methylation in Arabidopsis alters patterns of histone H3 methylation in heterochromatin. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 100, 8823-8827

Mathieu, O., Reinders, J., Caikovski, M., Smathajitt, C., and Paszkowski, J. (2007) Transgenerational stability of the Arabidopsis epigenome is coordinated by CG methylation. Cell 130, 851-862

Mirouze, M., Reinders, J., Bucher, E., Nishimura, T., Schneeberger, K., Ossowski, S., Cao, J., Weigel, D., Paszkowski, J., and Mathieu, O. (2009) Selective epigenetic control of retrotransposition in Arabidopsis. Nature 461, 427-430

Reinders, J., Wulff, B. B., Mirouze, M., Mari-Ordonez, A., Dapp, M., Rozhon, W., Bucher, E., Theiler, G., and Paszkowski, J. (2009) Compromised stability of DNA methylation and transposon immobilization in mosaic Arabidopsis epigenomes. Genes & development 23, 939-950

Ito, H., Gaubert, H., Bucher, E., Mirouze, M., Vaillant, I., and Paszkowski, J. (2011) An siRNA pathway prevents transgenerational retrotransposition in plants subjected to stress. Nature 472, 115-119

Iwasaki M, Paszkowski J (2014): Identification of genes preventing transgenerational transmission of stress-induced epigenetic states. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2014, 111:8547-8552.

Catoni M, Griffiths J, Becker C, Zabet NR, Bayon C, Dapp M, Lieberman-Lazarovich M, Weigel D, Paszkowski J. (2017) DNA sequence properties that predict susceptibility to epiallelic switching. EMBO Journal. pii: e201695602. doi: 10.15252/embj.201695602.


Nutty nut? Variation in leaf colour in a hazelnut tree possibly due to a transposon.



Clover plant with phenotypically very unusual leaf recovered in a garden near Geneva, Switzerland.