A long-standing interest of Kikuë Tachibana’s research has been to unravel the molecular causes of the maternal age effect, which is the increase in trisomic pregnancies with maternal age, and aims to provide scientific insights that have potential applications for this rising societal challenge. Her previous work on cohesin, a protein complex that holds replicated chromosomes together, provided support for the hypothesis that the irreversible loss of cohesin contributes to maternal age-related egg aneuploidy and infertility.
The key focus of the group is to understand how chromatin is reorganized and reprogrammed to totipotency after fertilization in mammals. Her lab is pioneering studies of the spatial chromatin organization in one-cell embryos or zygotes and leading research in mechanistic cell biology during the oocyte-to-zygote transition. Kikuë has discovered that erasure of the epigenetic memory of sperm chromatin is monitored by a surveillance mechanism that ensures reprogramming occurs within one cell cycle.
Currently she is heading an intercontinental consortium to unravel the mechanisms of reprogramming to totipotency, the potential to give rise to every cell type in the body and to generate a whole organism.
About Kikuë Tachibana
Kikuë was educated in Austria, Japan and the UK. She obtained a PhD with Ron Laskey in cell cycle and cancer research from Cambridge University. She continued her postdoctoral research in Kim Nasmyth’s lab in Oxford, where she developed an assay that pioneered the use of TEV protease technology in the mouse to study cohesin in female germ cells. Since November 2011, Kikuë is a group leader at IMBA. During her time at IMBA she has received an ERC Starting Grant for "Chromosome inheritance from mammalian oocytes to embryos”, the prestigious Walther Flemming Medal and could secure a grant by “the Herzfelder Family Foundation” issued by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF). Moreover, in 2018 she already received a prestigious HFSP program grant, worth 1.2 million dollars, to pinpoint the mechanisms of reprogramming to totipotency. Kikue is both an EMBO Young Investigator and a full EMBO member.