Gael Cristofari INSERM Research Director

Course and current status

Research experience


Founding member and group leader, IRCAN, Nice, France

Retrotransposons and genome plasticity in cancer and aging.


INSERM Research Scientist (CR1), Group of Pr Jean-Luc Darlix, INSERM, Virology Department, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Lyon, France

Regulation of cellular and viral reverse transcriptases.


Post-doctoral training, Group of Pr Joachim Lingner, Swiss Institute of Experimental Cancer Research (ISREC), Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Lausanne, Swizerland.

Human telomerase and telomere homeostasis.


Undergraduate and graduate research in the lab of Pr Jean-Luc Darlix, INSERM, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Lyon, France.

Molecular mechanisms of yeast retrotransposon replication.

Awards and Prizes


Laureate of the European Research Council (ERC Starting Grant)


Laureate of the French National Academy of Medicine (Albert Sézary Prize)


Awardee of the AVENIR program (INSERM, INCa), 3 initial years renewed for 2 years


EMBO long-term fellowship


Jacques Piraud Prize, French Foundation for Medical Research (FRM)


Short-term fellowship from the French Foundation for Medical Research (FRM)


Lyon University Prize for master students (Prix des Amis de l’Université de Lyon)


Ph. D. fellowship Allocataire Moniteur Normalien


Studenship from Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon (Elève normalien).

Degrees and diplomas


Degree to supervise research (HDR), Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, France


PhD in Life Sciences (highest honors), Ecole Normale Supérieure, Lyon, France


MSc in Molecular and Cellular Biology (highest honors, ranked 1st out of 45), Univ. of Lyon & Ecole Normale Supérieure, Lyon, France


Agrégation of Biochemistry and Biotechnology


BSc in Molecular and Cellular Biology, Univ. of Lyon & Ecole Normale Supérieure, Lyon, France


Scientific summary

Scientific interest

Cancer, as well as normal and pathological ageing, are characterized by the accumulation of genetic and epigenetic alterations. Our main interest is to understand how mobile genetic elements contribute to these alterations, and what are the functional and physiological consequences of this form of (epi)genome plasticity.

Ten most significant publications (out of 27)

  1. Philippe C, Vargas-Landin DB, Doucet AJ, van Essen D, Vera-Otarola J, Kuciak M, Corbin A, Nigumann P, Cristofari G. Activation of individual L1 retrotransposon instances is restricted to cell-type dependent permissive loci. eLife. 2016. 5:e13926.
  2. Albrengues J, Bertero T, Grasset E, Bonan S, Maiel M, Bourget I, Philippe C, Herraiz Serrano C, Benamar S, Croce O, Sanz-Moreno V, Meneguzzi G, Feral CC, Cristofari G, Gaggioli C. Epigenetic switch drives the conversion of fibroblasts into proinvasive cancer-associated fibroblasts. Nat Commun. 2015. 6:10204. 
  3. Mir AA, Philippe C & Cristofari G. (2015) euL1db: the European database of L1HS retrotransposon insertions in humans. Nucleic Acids Res. 43(Database issue):D43-47.
  4. Monot C*, Kuciak M*, Viollet S, Mir AA, Gabus C, Darlix JL & Cristofari G. (2013) The specificity and flexibility of L1 reverse transcription priming at imperfect T-tracts. PLoS Genet. 9(5):e1003499.
  5. Goic B, Vodovar N, Mondotte JA, Monot C, Frangeul L, Blanc H, Dorey V, Vera-Otarola J, Cristofari G & Saleh MC. (2013) RNA-mediated interference and reverse transcription control the persistence of RNA viruses in the insect model Drosophila. Nat Immunol. 14:396-403.
  6. Sauerwald A*, Sandin S*, Cristofari G, Scheres SH, Lingner J, Rhodes D. (2013) Structure of active, dimeric human telomerase in complex with telomeric DNA. Nat Struct Mol Biol. 20:454-60.
  7. Cristofari G, Adolf E, Reichenbach P, Sikora K, et al. (2007) Human telomerase RNA accumulation in Cajal bodies facilitates telomerase recruitment to telomeres and telomere elongation. Mol Cell. 27:882-889.
  8. Cristofari G, Reichenbach P, Regamey PO, Banfi D, et al. (2007) Low- to high-throughput analysis of telomerase modulators with Telospot. Nat Methods. 4:851-853.
  9. Cristofari G & Lingner J. (2006) Telomere length homeostasis requires that telomerase levels are limiting. EMBO J. 25, 565-574.
  10. Cristofari G, Bampi C, Wilhelm M, Wilhelm FX & Darlix JL. (2002) A 5'-3' long-range interaction in Ty1 RNA controls its reverse transcription and retrotransposition. EMBO J. 21:4368-4379.
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