Associate Investigators

Dr. Nicola Iovino

Dr. Nicola Iovino


Dr. Nicola Iovino
Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics Freiburg

T +49 761 5108 779

Further Information


Early embryo totipotent cells can differentiate in many cell types all sharing the same genome. How do these differentiated cells maintain their identity during development is still an open question. Memory of cell identity, reflected by the memory of transcriptional states, must be stored somewhere without affecting the primary genomic sequence. In these epigenetic phenomena, chromatin is supposed to play a central role. Moreover, a growing number of evidences suggest that stress-induced chromatin changes can be transgenerationally inherited through the germline, yet the mechanisms underlying epigenome inheritance are still unknown.

Our lab focuses on understanding the epigenetic events contributing to the formation of functional gametes, to the establishment of totipotency and to the conversion of the totipotent zygote’s quiescent genome into a transcriptionally competent one. We use Drosophila germline and early embryogenesis as model systems and we employ functional genetics, imaging, genomics and proteomics approaches. The fundamental knowledge gained from this research will give important insights into the function of chromatin in developmental and physiological processes.

Given the evolutionary conservation of many epigenetic mechanisms between Drosophila and humans, understanding how epigenetic patterning occurs in the fly germline and during early embryogenesis may have profound implications for human health, for instance, for the prevention of heritable diseases, in the improvement of assisted reproductive technologies, somatic cell reprogramming and stem cell therapy.

10 selected publications:

  • Germ line-inherited H3K27me3 restricts enhancer function during maternal-to-zygotic transition.
    Zenk F, Loeser E, Schiavo R, Kilpert F, Bogdanović O, Iovino N (2017).
    Science. 357(6347):212-216
  • Drosophila epigenome reorganization during oocyte differentiation and early embryogenesis.
    Iovino N (2014).
    Brief Funct Genomics. 13(3):246-53.
  • PRC2 controls Drosophila oocyte cell fate by repressing cell cycle genes.
    Iovino N, Ciabrelli F, Cavalli G (2013).
    Dev Cell. 26(4):431-9.
  • Trithorax group proteins: switching genes on and keeping them active.
    Schuettengruber B, Martinez AM, Iovino N, Cavalli G (2011).
    Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 12(12):799-814
  • miR-184 has multiple roles in Drosophila female germline development.
    Iovino N, Pane A, Gaul U (2009).
    Dev Cell. 17(1):123-33.
  • The role of site accessibility in microRNA target recognition.
    Kertesz M, Iovino N, Unnerstall U, Gaul U, Segal E (2007).
    Nat Genet. 39(10):1278-84.
  • A mammalian microRNA expression atlas based on small RNA library sequencing.
    Landgraf P, Rusu M, Sheridan R, Sewer A, Iovino N, Aravin A, Pfeffer S, Rice A, Kamphorst AO, Landthaler M, Lin C, Socci ND, Hermida L, Fulci V, Chiaretti S, Foà R, Schliwka J, Fuchs U, Novosel A, Müller RU, Schermer B, Bissels U, Inman J, Phan Q, Chien M, Weir DB, Choksi R, De Vita G, Frezzetti D, Trompeter HI, Hornung V, Teng G, Hartmann G, Palkovits M, Di Lauro R, Wernet P, Macino G, Rogler CE, Nagle JW, Ju J, Papavasiliou FN, Benzing T, Lichter P, Tam W, Brownstein MJ, Bosio A, Borkhardt A, Russo JJ, Sander C, Zavolan M, Tuschl T (2007).
    Cell. 129(7):1401-14.
  • A novel class of small RNAs bind to MILI protein in mouse testes.
    Aravin A, Gaidatzis D, Pfeffer S, Lagos-Quintana M, Landgraf P, Iovino N, Morris P, Brownstein MJ, Kuramochi-Miyagawa S, Nakano T, Chien M, Russo JJ, Ju J, Sheridan R, Sander C, Zavolan M, Tuschl T (2006).
    Nature. 442(7099):203-7.
  • A loxP-containing pol II promoter for RNA interference is reversibly regulated by Cre recombinase.
    Iovino N, Denti MA, Bozzoni I, Cortese R (2005).
    RNA Biol. 2005 2(3):86-92.
  • Tagging genes with cassette-exchange sites.
    Cobellis G, Nicolaus G, Iovino M, Romito A, Marra E, Barbarisi M, Sardiello M, Di Giorgio FP, Iovino N, Zollo M, Ballabio A, Cortese R (2005).
    Nucleic Acids Res. 33(4):e44.