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


2010-2012Postdoctoral EMBO Long Term fellow Laboratory of Biomolecular Research (BMR), Department of Biology and Chemistry, Paul Scherer Institute (PSI) Switzerland. Supervisor: Prof. T. Ishikawa.
2009-2011Postdoctoral researcher Institute for Molecular Biology and Biophysics, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zürich), Zurich, Switzerland. Supervisor: Prof. T. Ishikawa.
2007-2009Postdoctoral 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.
2009Participant at the Physiology Course at MBL in Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole. Directors: Dyche Mullins and Claire Waterman.


2003-2007Ph.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.
2002Diploma in Natural Science (Summa cum laude). University of Siena, Italy. Thesis supervisors: Prof. C. Leonzio and Prof. F. Bernini.


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


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

Fellowship to students and postdocs

2015DIGS-BB Fellowship to Guendalina Marini

2019HFSP Postdoc fellowship to Adrian Nievergelt
2018EMBO Long Term Fellowship to Adrian Nievergelt
2017Marie Curie Fellowship to Adam Schröfel (H2020-MSCA-IF-2016)
2012DIGS-BB Fellowship to Ludek Stepanek

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  • 11/2021 - BioRxiv

    In situ architecture of the ciliary base reveals the stepwise assembly of IFT trains

    he transition zone, then as it extends into the cytosol, first the dynein-1b and then the IFTA densities are missing. This suggests the IFTB backbone is built first, followed by IFTA and then dynein-2 recruitment. Kinesin-2 is relatively small and flexible and so could not be identified by cryo-ET. Instead, the authors use expansion microscopy […]

  • 11/2021 - eLife

    A WDR35-dependent coat protein complex transports ciliary membrane cargo vesicles to cilia

    Intraflagellar transport (IFT) is a highly conserved mechanism for motor-driven transport of cargo within cilia, but how this cargo is selectively transported to cilia and across the diffusion barrier is unclear. WDR35/IFT121 is a component of the IFT-A complex best known for its role in ciliary retrograde transport. In the absence of WDR35, small mutant […]

  • 08/2021 - Journal of Cell Science

    In vivo imaging shows continued association of several IFT A, B and dynein complexes while IFT trains U-turn at the tip

    Flagellar assembly depends on intraflagellar transport (IFT), a bidirectional motility of protein carriers, the IFT trains. The trains are periodic assemblies of IFT-A and IFT-B subcomplexes and the motors kinesin-2 and IFT dynein. At the tip, anterograde trains are remodeled for retrograde IFT, a process that in Chlamydomonas involves kinesin-2 release and train fragmentation. However, […]

  • 06/2021 - Journal of Cell Science

    The structural basis of intraflagellar transport at a glance

    The intraflagellar transport (IFT) system is a remarkable molecular machine used by cells to assemble and maintain the cilium, a long organelle extending from eukaryotic cells that gives rise to motility, sensing and signaling. IFT plays a critical role in building the cilium by shuttling structural components and signaling receptors between the ciliary base and […]

  • 05/2021 - Current Biology

    Intraflagellar transport

    Cells need to be able to sense different types of signals, such as chemical and mechanical stimuli, from the extracellular environment in order to properly function. Most eukaryotic cells sense these signals in part through a specialized hair-like organelle, the cilium, that extends from the cell body as a sort of antenna. The signaling and […]