Gaia Pigino

Gaia Pigino

Gaia Pigino is a biologist, currently Associate Head of the Structural Biology Center at Human Technopole, after 9 years as Research Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute CBG in Dresden. She collaborate with Alessandro Vannini to develop the Centre for Structural Biology. Gaia’s laboratory studies molecular mechanisms and principles of self-organisation in cilia and other subcellular structures that are of fundamental importance for human health and disease.


Since 2021 Associate Head of the Structural Biology Center at Human Technopole, Milan, Italy
Since 2012 Research Group Leader at MPI-CBG, the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden, Germany


2010-2012 Postdoctoral EMBO Long Term fellow Laboratory of Biomolecular Research (BMR), Department of Biology and Chemistry, Paul Scherer Institute (PSI) Switzerland. Supervisor: Prof. T. Ishikawa.
2009-2011 Postdoctoral researcher Institute for Molecular Biology and Biophysics, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zürich), Zurich, Switzerland. Supervisor: Prof. T. Ishikawa.
2007-2009 Postdoctoral MIUR research fellow Fellowship of the “Ministero Italiano dell’Istruzione, dell’Università e della Ricerca”. Laboratory of Cryotechniques for Electron Microscopy, Department of Evolutionary Biology, University of Siena. Supervisor: Prof. P. Lupetti.
2009 Participant at the Physiology Course at MBL in Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole. Directors: Dyche Mullins and Claire Waterman.


2003-2007 Ph.D. Student (Ph.D. Fellowship by the Italian government “Ministero Italiano dell’Istruzione, dell’Università e della Ricerca”). Department of Evolutionary Biology, University of Siena. Supervisor: Prof. F. Bernini and Prof. C. Leonzio.
2002 Diploma in Natural Science (Summa cum laude). University of Siena, Italy. Thesis supervisors: Prof. C. Leonzio and Prof. F. Bernini.


2003 Research Associate. Department of Environmental Sciences G. Sarfatti, University of Siena. Advisor: Prof. C. Leonzio


2022 EMBO Member
2019 DFG Grant – GAČR-DFG Cooperation
2018 PoL starting fellowship (from the Dresden Excellence Cluster ‘Physics of Life’)
2018 Keith R. Porter Fellow Award for Cell Biology
2018 ERC Consolidator Grant (ERC-2018-COG N#819826 CiliaTubulinCode)
2018 Excellence Cluster ‘Physics of Life’, as a core Principal Investigator
2010 EMBO Long Term fellowship
2009 Scholarship from the Marine Biological Laboratory (Woods Hole, Massachusetts) MBL Physiology Course.
2007 Post-Doctoral Research fellowship from MIUR.
2003 Ph.D. Fellowship from MIUR.

Fellowship to students and postdocs

2022 EMBO Long Term Fellowship to Helen Foster
2021 EMBO Postdoc Fellowship to Nikolai Klena
2019 HFSP Postdoc Fellowship to Adrian Nievergelt
2018 EMBO Long Term Fellowship to Adrian Nievergelt
2017 Marie Curie Fellowship to Adam Schröfel (H2020-MSCA-IF-2016)
2015 DIGS-BB Fellowship to Guendalina Marini
2012 DIGS-BB Fellowship to Ludek Stepanek

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  • 05/2024 - Current Opinion in Cell Biology

    Tubulin posttranslational modifications through the lens of new technologies

    The Tubulin Code revolutionizes our understanding of microtubule dynamics and functions, proposing a nuanced system governed by tubulin isotypes, posttranslational modifications (PTMs) and microtubule-associated proteins (MAPs). Tubulin isotypes, diverse across species, contribute structural complexity, and are thought to influence microtubule functions. PTMs encode dynamic information on microtubules, which are read by several microtubule interacting proteins and […]

  • 01/2023 - Nature Structural & Molecular Biology

    The molecular structure of IFT-A and IFT-B in anterograde intraflagellar transport trains

    Anterograde intraflagellar transport (IFT) trains are essential for cilia assembly and maintenance. These trains are formed of 22 IFT-A and IFT-B proteins that link structural and signaling cargos to microtubule motors for import into cilia. It remains unknown how the IFT-A/-B proteins are arranged into complexes and how these complexes polymerize into functional trains. Here […]

  • 11/2022 - eLife

    Integrative modeling reveals the molecular architecture of the intraflagellar transport A (IFT-A) complex

    Intraflagellar transport (IFT) is a conserved process of cargo transport in cilia that is essential for development and homeostasis in organisms ranging from algae to vertebrates. In humans, variants in genes encoding subunits of the cargo-adapting IFT-A and IFT-B protein complexes are a common cause of genetic diseases known as ciliopathies. While recent progress has […]

  • 10/2022 - Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol

    Structural Biology of Cilia and Intraflagellar Transport

    Cilia are ubiquitous microtubule-based eukaryotic organelles that project from the cell to generate motility or function in cellular signaling. Motile cilia or flagella contain axonemal dynein motors and other complexes to achieve beating. Primary cilia are immotile and act as signaling hubs, with receptors shuttling between the cytoplasm and ciliary compartment. In both cilia types, […]

  • 09/2022 - Current Biology

    Conversion of anterograde into retrograde trains is an intrinsic property of intraflagellar transport

    Cilia or eukaryotic flagella are microtubule-based organelles found across the eukaryotic tree of life. Their very high aspect ratio and crowded interior are unfavorable to diffusive transport of most components required for their assembly and maintenance. Instead, a system of intraflagellar transport (IFT) trains moves cargo rapidly up and down the cilium (Figure 1A).1, 2, 3 Anterograde IFT, from the cell body to the […]