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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  • 07/2022 - Science

    In situ architecture of the ciliary base reveals the stepwise assembly of intraflagellar transport trains

    The cilium is an antenna-like organelle that performs numerous cellular functions, including motility, sensing, and signaling. The base of the cilium contains a selective barrier that regulates the entry of large intraflagellar transport (IFT) trains, which carry cargo proteins required for ciliary assembly and maintenance. However, the native architecture of the ciliary base and the […]

  • 07/2022 - BioRxiv

    Efficient precision genome editing of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii with CRISPR/Cas

    CRISPR/Cas genome engineering in the unicellular green algal model Chlamydomonas reinhardtii has until now only been applied to targeted gene disruption, whereas scar-less knock-in transgenesis has generally been considered infeasible. We have developed highly efficient homology-directed knock-in mutagenesis in cell-walled strains of Chlamydomonas. Our method allows scarless integration of fusion tags and sequence modifications of near arbitrary proteins […]

  • 04/2022 - Nano Lett

    Fabrication of High Aspect Ratio Gold Nanowires within the Microtubule Lumen

    Gold nanowires have great potential use as interconnects in electronic, photonic, and optoelectronic devices. To date, there are various fabrication strategies for gold nanowires, each one associated with particular drawbacks as they utilize high temperatures, toxic chemicals, or expensive compounds to produce nanowires of suboptimal quality. Inspired by nanowire fabrication strategies that used higher-order biopolymer […]

  • 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, […]