Michael Primig PhD in biology

Course and current status

Birth Place & Date: Graz, 08/09/1964

Nationality & Marital status: Austrian/French; married, four children



1983-1988: Undergraduate, with distinction, University of Vienna, Austria

1988: MS, Institute of Molecular Biology, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Salzburg, Austria

1988-1992: PhD in Molecular Biology, with distinction, Institute of Molecular Pathology, Vienna, Austria


Professional experience

1992-1993: Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute of Botany, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria

1993-1997: Postdoctoral Fellow, Pasteur Institute, Paris, France

1997-1999: Research Associate/Instructor, The University of Chicago, USA

1999-2001: Research Associate, Institute of Human Genetics, Montpellier, France

2001-2007: Assistant Professor & director of the Life Sciences Training Facility, Biozentrum and Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics

Since 02/2007: Inserm DR 2


Honors and Awards

1993-1995             EMBO long-term fellowship (Europe)

1995-1996             Erwin Schrödinger fellowship (Austria)

1996-1997             AFM fellowship (France)

1997-1998             Max Kade fellowship (US/Austria)

2000-2001             FRM fellowship (France)

2002-2007             Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics membership (Switzerland)

2008-2012             Inserm Avenir project of excellence (France)

2011-2014             Prime d'excellence scientifique (France)

Scientific summary

Human male infertility is a global public health concern and many cases remain unexplained. However, certain forms of infertility were associated with mutations in protein-coding genes essential for spermatogenesis [more] which is a complex developmental pathway that involves hormonal signaling, cell-cell interactions and cell migration. In addition, genetic experiments have identified many conserved genes essential for progression through gametogenesis notably in model organisms such yeast, fly and mouse. It is therefore conceivable that mutations abolishing or altering the activities of proteins present in male gonads may at least in part explain certain cases of idiopathic male infertility [more]. Others may be due to epigenetic alterations caused by exposure to external factors during pre-, and postnatal stage of sex differentiation and gonad development. Numerous transcripts are present at high concentrations in testicular cells and some of them – encoded by Cancer/Testis genes [more] – are accumulate in somatic non-testicular cancers. CT genes are targets for cancer immunotherapies and they may contribute to the onset and progression of somatic malign tumors.

Mammalian biology of reproduction: to gain insight into regulatory mechanisms controlling male meiosis and gametogenesis we investigate genome-wide transcription during sex differentiation and spermatogenesis in rodents and healthy humans as well as in infertile patients. More recently, we have started to identify testicular noncoding RNAs and to study the role of an exosome component in mammalian male gonads. Key questions we address are how germline-specific genes are transcriptionally regulated, and what roles genes that are highly (and often specifically) induced in germ cells play in spermatogenesis and fertility. Moreover, we use mammalian cell lines and Cre-lox recombination in mice to gain insight into the reproductive functions of a member of the nuclear receptor superfamily, and of different factors involved in the AMH (anti-Müllerian hormone) signaling pathway . Finally, we are interested in epigenetic control mechanisms governing meiosis and gametogenesis and how external factors such as pesticides influence them.

Cancer/Testis identification and characterization: we integrate whole-genome expression data from testicular samples and a large number of somatic cancers and their corresponding healthy tissues to identify and to functionally characterize novel Cancer/Testis genes. Specifically, we seek to understand if and how certain Cancer/Testis genes contribute to the etiology and the progression of various somatic cancers.

Gametogenesis in S. cerevisiae: we are interested in factors controlling meiotic progression via transcriptional regulation in yeast. To this end, we identify and characterize novel protein-coding genes, ncRNAs and an exosome component important for the process. We have recently begun to integrate yeast transcriptome, proteome and interactome data to ultimately establish a molecular systems biological view of meiosis and gametogenesis in this simple eukaryote.

Data dissemination: GeneChip data are provided via GermOnline, a cross-species RNA profiling archive focusing on germline development and the mitotic cell cycle (go to GermOnline).

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