A protein that promotes the compatibility between maternal and paternal chromosomes after fertilization

A research team from the Center for Biomedical Research (CBMR), at the University of Algarve (UAlg), and Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (IGC), led by Rui Gonçalo Martinho (UAlg) and Paulo Navarro-Costa (UAlg and IGC) has identified the mechanism by which the fertilized egg balances out the differences between chromosomes inherited from the mother and the father. The study, now published in the scientific journal EMBO reports*, may pave the way for future developments in the clinical management of infertile couples.

The fertilization of an egg by a sperm cell marks the beginning of a new life. However, many of the molecular mechanisms behind this extraordinary process remain a mystery. It is well known that mother and father pass on their genetic information in a different manner. While the maternal chromosomes in the egg are still undergoing division, the paternal chromosomes carried by the sperm have both completed their division and been substantially compacted to fit into the small volume of the sperm cell. The mechanisms through which the fertilized egg levels these differences between parental chromosomes – an essential aspect for the correct initiation of embryo development – are largely unknown. The close partnership between the University of Algarve and IGC teams uncovered a protein called dMLL3/4 that allows the fertilized egg to ensure both the correct division of the maternal chromosomes and the unpacking of the paternal genetic information. ” dMLL3/4 is a gene expression regulator, therefore, it has the ability to instruct cells to perform different functions. We observed that dMLL3/4 promotes, still during egg development, the expression of a set of genes that will later be essential for balancing out differences between the chromosomes inherited from the mother and from the father,” explains Paulo Navarro-Costa. “These results open the door to new diagnostic approaches to female infertility, and to possible improvements in embryo culture media formulations for assisted reproduction techniques,” adds Paulo Navarro-Costa. “The dMLL3/4 protein was identified using fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) as a model organism, which again reinforces the importance of basic research and the use of model organisms as critical stepping-stones for translational research and the improvement of human health”, concludes Rui Martinho.


This study was developed within the context of the laboratories of Rui Martinho (CBMR) and Jörg Becker (IGC); and was funded by Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia.


*Pedro Prudêncio, Leonardo G. Guilgur, João Sobral, Jörg D. Becker, Rui G. Martinho and Paulo Navarro-Costa (2018) “The Trithorax group protein dMLL3/4 instructs the assembly of the zygotic genome at fertilization”, EMBO reports (DOI: 10.15252/embr.201845728).



Figure Legend:

Maternal (♀) and paternal (♂) chromosomes in a recently fertilized fruit fly egg. DNA is in blue; the paternal chromosomes are also labelled in green.


Medical students from UAlg win biggest international medical simulation competition

Team led by Alexandra Binnie wins prize and beats, in the final, countries like Spain, Holland, Turkey and United Kingdom.

Guilherme Henriques, André Silva, Carlos Batista, Tiago Cardoso and Francisco Fernandes, students of the Integrated Master in Medicine, University of Algarve, are the winners of the largest international medical simulation competition – SESAM 2018.

The competition, which took place in Bilbao and was attended by teams from all over the world, is considered one of the biggest events in the world, testing the performance of hundreds of medical students in the area of medical emergency.

In the final, with the presence of countries such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Turkey, the Portuguese students, from the Algarve academy, offered to Europe and to the world a little of the competence and talent learned, taught and cultivated in Portuguese lands.


CBMR researcher won 2nd prize at Janssen Innovation Competition

A group of researchers from the Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology (University of Coimbra) including Clévio Nóbrega, current researcher at the CBMR – Centre for Biomedical Research (University of Algarve), won the 2nd prize at the Janssen Innovation Competition, with the work “Ataxin-2 in the hypothalamus: a new molecular target for metabolism and circadian rhythm regulation”.

The main objective of this study was to understand the role of the ataxin-2 protein at the level of the hypothalamus – the metabolic regulatory center – being, for example, involved in the process of obesity control.

The team, composed by Clévio Nóbrega, Cláudia Cavadas, Luís Pereira de Almeida, Célia Aveleira, Sara Carmo-Silva, Marisa Marques and Maria Botelho, won the € 20.000 prize, which distinguishes the more innovative projects carried out at Portuguese institutions.

The french pharmaceutical company distinguishes, annually, the three best scientific papers in the areas of Pulmonary Hypertension, Oncology, Immunology, Infecciology or Neurosciences, and   awarded, in 2016, an honorable mention to the work of Sónia Simão, also researcher at the Center for Biomedical Research.




UAlg Medical Students win Medical Simulation Prize

Guilherme Henriques, André Silva, Carlos Baptista, Francisco Fernandes and Tiago Cardoso, students of the Integrated Master in Medicine (University of Algarve), were awarded, last 25th February, with the Prize of the Portuguese Competition for Medical Simulation, organized on the beahlf of the In4Med Congress.

The competition had several teams from different parts of the country who had the opportunity to test their performance in the area of medical emergency.

At the final, the students of University of Algarve stood out, bringing home the desired prize: the possibility of representing Portugal at the Europe, at SESAM 2018, an international competition, taking place from 27th june to 29th june in Bilbao.


Centre for Biomedical Research selected for the Facebook Communities Summit

The Centre for Biomedical Research has just been selected, from hundreds of European candidates, through its Facebook page and its science communication project, to participate at the Facebook Communities Summit, to be held next 8th and 9th February, in London.

Facebook Communities Summit is a two-day event which brings together community leaders from across Europe.

It aims to give to the invited guests the opportunity to connect with fellow admins and event creators as to participate in peer-led workshops and panels dedicated to skill-building, tools and advice for community leaders.

Facebook will provide travel and hotel accommodation and will give to the participants an opportunity to give real-time feedback on the communication tools.

Among the invited guests for this second edition of the Facebook Communities Summit, is CBMR that will have an unprecedented opportunity to improve their communication skills at the social network.





Joana Apolónio won a EACR Travel Grant

Joana Apolónio, CBMR researcher at the Epigenetics and Human Disease Laboratory, won a EACR (European Association for Cancer Research) Travel Grant. The researcher will be hosted at the SickKids Hospital, in Toronto. The EACR Travel Fellowship Programme supports early-career researchers by funding short-term visits to centres of excellence in a different country.


CBMR researcher won Astrazeneca Innovate Competition Award

Ana Fernandes, CBMR researcher, won recently the Astrazeneca Innovate Competition Award, a prize of 3.000 euros, dedicated to support undergraduate college or master’s degree students involved in scientific research projects.

The prize, attributed during the iMed 9.0 Conference, which took place from 25th to 29th October, in Lisbon, aims to distinguish the work of Ana Fernandes in the field of breast cancer. In the talk “miRNA-mediated cis-regulation in breast cancer susceptibility” the researcher presented the results of her master’s thesis, developed under the supervision of Ana Teresa Maia and Joana Xavier, researchers at the Functional Genomics of Cancer Laboratory.

Gil Carraco

CBMR researcher receives Fulbright Grant to study embryonic development

Gil Carraco, CBMR researcher, won a Fulbright Grant for research with the PhD project “Regulating the pace of the Embryo Clock: RNA molecules in temporal control of vertebrate development”.
The main goal of the project is to perform direct mutagenesis using CRISP-Cas technology in zebrafish. The researcher seeks, during the nine-month research period at Harvard University, refine the embryonic clock model intra and inter-species.
The Portuguese researcher will work directly with Professor Alexander Schier, at the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology (Harvard University).

For more information:


Clévio Nóbrega is the youngest and most promising European scientist

Clévio Nóbrega, CBMR researcher, has been awarded by European Society for Neurochemistry with the prize “Young Scientist Lecturship Award 2017”. The distinction, attributed to the youngest and most promising European scientist, aims to recognize the excellence of research developed in the field of neurochemistry.

This year, the award came to the Algarve, recognizing the merit and innovation of the projects of this researcher, Principal Investigator at the Centre for Biomedical Research and head of the Molecular Neuroscience and Gene Therapy Laboratory.

The prize will be delivered on August 22, in Paris, at the Annual Congress of International Society for Neurochemistry, where the researcher will give a conference on his projects.

We proudly announce that the young European scientist of the year is Portuguese, teaches at the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Medicine, at the University of Algarve, and develops research at the Centre for Biomedical Research. Congratulations, Clévio!


Bibiana Ferreira won a Terry Fox Grant

Bibiana Ferreira, CBMR researcher, won recently a Terry Fox Grant with the project “Characterizing the clinical relevance and the mechanism underlying TRIB2-mediated drug resistance to MEK inhibitiors in the context of melanoma”.
The project has been selected for funding by Liga Portuguesa Conta o Cancro.
The Terry Fox Program provides support to researchers conducting independent high-quality investigations in a complex area of cancer research. The purpose is to stimulate group interaction based on the premise that high impact work in complex areas of cancer research requires collaboration. The Terry Fox prize is designed for researchers with complementary skills, who investigate different aspects of a given cancer relevant topic, the results of which will be realized more rapidly and efficiently than if the individual projects were to be funded as a series of independent operating grants.

CBMR is distinguished with this prize for the fourth time, having been awarded, in previous years, the research projects of Wolfgang Link, Nuno Rodrigues dos Santos and Ana Luísa Martins Ferreira.

Congratulations, Bibiana! CBMR wish you the greatest success in this new project!