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Jerzy Paszkowski

Jerzy Paszkowski

Research Group Leader

Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge
University of Cambridge
Bateman Street

Cambridge CB2 1LR

Research Interests

Large proportions of eukaryotic genomes consist of transposable elements (TEs), predominantly retrotransposons. These are generally considered to be intra-chromosomal parasites. However, their periodical bursts of activity have influenced the organisation of host genomes and contributed to beneficial traits. Remarkably, a number of what turned out to be transposon-generated phenotypic innovations were selected by humans during plant domestication and breeding. Therefore, TEs can be considered as an attractive endogenous source of genetic variation. Unfortunately, there is at present no experimental/technological means to exploit this potential in a controlled fashion.

Our current research focuses on the epigenetic regulation of transcription and on molecular mechanisms contributing to formation of transgenerationally stable epigenetic sates (epialleles). This includes environmental and developmental inputs that have direct consequences for the heritable alteration transcriptional states and contribution of retrotransposons to the genome-wide landscape of epigenetic regulation.

Recently, we revealed surprisingly selective epigenetic, environmental and developmental mechanisms controlling retrotransposition in Arabidopsis. Now we build on this knowledge and plan to establish a well-controlled retrotransposition system in a crop plant and liberate the innate genetic diversity buried in silenced TEs.

Recent publications:

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.

Zabet NR, Catoni M, Prischi F, Paszkowski J. (2017) Cytosine methylation at CpCpG sites triggers accumulation of non-CpG methylation in gene bodies. Nucleic Acids Res. 2017 Jan 3. pii: gkw1330. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkw1330 

Drost HG, Paszkowski J. (2017) Biomartr: genomic data retrieval with R. Bioinformatics. Apr 15;33(8):1216-1217. doi: 10.1093/bioinformatics/btw821.

Gaubert H, Sanchez DH, Drost HG, Paszkowski J. (2017) Developmental Restriction of Retrotransposition Activated in Arabidopsis by Environmental Stress. Genetics.Oct;207(2):813-821. doi: 10.1534/genetics.117.300103. Epub 2017 Aug 3

Cho J, Paszkowski J. (2017) Regulation of rice root development by a retrotransposon acting as a microRNA sponge. Elife. Aug 26;6. pii: e30038. doi: 10.7554/eLife.30038.

Sanchez DH, Gaubert H, Drost HG, Zabet NR, Paszkowski J. (2017) High-frequency recombination between members of an LTR retrotransposon family during transposition bursts. Nat Commun. Nov 3;8(1):1283. doi: 10.1038/s41467-017-01374-x.

Griffiths J, Catoni M, Iwasaki M, Paszkowski J. (2017) Sequence-independent identification of active LTR retrotransposons in Arabidopsis. Mol Plant. Oct 26. pii: S1674-2052(17)30311-8. doi: 10.1016/j.molp.2017.10.012.


Selected reviews:

Paszkowski J. (2015) Controlled activation of retrotransposition for plant breeding. Curr Opin Biotechnol. 2015 Jan 20;32C:200-206. doi: 10.1016/j.copbio.2015.01.003. [Epub ahead of print]

Iwasaki M., Paszkowski J. (2014) Epigenetic memory in plants. EMBO J. 2014 Sep 17;33(18):1987-1998. Epub 2014 Aug 7.

Group Members




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.

Research supported by:


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