• E-mail :[email]
  • Phone : +33 473 407 978
  • Location : Clermont-Ferrand, France
Last update 2022-01-21 10:22:56.249

Charles White PhD. HDR. Directeur de Recherche, Centre National de Recherche Scientififique.

Course and current status

Charles White is a Directeur de Recherche (DR1; senior scientist) at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), the premier multidisciplinary public scientific organisation in France. He directs a CNRS/University/INSERM research group studying the mechanisms by which cells maintain the integrity of their genomes. Following an Honours BSc. degree in Genetics and Biochemistry at the University of Adelaide (Australia), he carried out his PhD. at London in the group of Robin Holliday, and a post-doc at Boston in the group of James Haber, on the mechanisms of DNA repair and genetic recombination in yeast. Particularly notable results of this work were the establishment of the "Physical Monitoring" of recombination in vivo - establishing the kinetics and two novel molecular intermediates of genetic recombination in eukaryotes (including the resection of 5'-ended DNA strand at DNA breaks, now known to be the key step in determining the choice of recombination pathway). In 1994 he was recruited by the CNRS at the University of Paris XI (Orsay), to establish a research group on molecular mechanisms of genetic recombination in plants. The group moved to the University Blaise Pascal at Clermont-Ferrand in 1998 and actively pursues research into the molecular mechanisms responsible for the maintenance of genome integrity in the model plant, Arabidopsis thaliana.

Charles White has participated in numerous review committees at international (EU- Descartes Prize, Framework 5; EU H2020 - Marie Curie Life Sciences Panel 2015-2021(vice-chair since 2016)  grant and recruitment reviews, scientific journal reviews, ...) and national levels (scientific commission of the IRD (scientific recruitment and review), CEA, Institut Pasteur, Génoplante, AERES,  thesis and habilitation juries ...). He has organised international scientific meetings (most recently the EMBO "Genetic stability and Change"  EMBO workshop at Gatersleben in 2018), coordinated two, and participated in four other european network (EU Frameworks 4,5,6,7, H2020) grants, as well as numerous public and privately funded projects in France. 

ORCID ID: http://orcid.org/0000-0001-8152-5797

Academic qualifications:

1977-1980   Honours (Genetics) Degree of Bachelor of Science, University of Adelaide, South Australia.

1982-1985   Ph.D. (DNA Repair in Yeast), Genetics Division, National Institute for Medical Research, M.R.C., London, U.K. Supervisors: S.G. Sedgwick and R. Holliday F.R.S.

2000    Habilitation à Diriger des Recherches, Univ. Blaise Pascal, Clermont Fd., France.


1982           Research Asst, Dept of Biochemistry, St.Mary's Hospital Medical School, London, U.K.

1985 - 1989  Group of James E. Haber. Rosenstiel Basic Medical Sciences Research Center, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, U.S.A.

1990 - 1991  Group of Adam Kondorosi. Institut des Sciences Végétales, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Gif sur Yvette.

1991 - 1992  Group of Francis Fabre. Institut Curie, Université Paris XI, Orsay.

1992 - 1993  Biologie Moléc. Végétale, CNRS/Université de Paris-XI, Orsay.

Chargé de Recherche, 1ère classe (CNRS)

1993 - 1998  Group Leader, IBP, CNRS/Université Paris-XI, Orsay.

1998 - 2001 Group Leader, UMR-6547, CNRS/Université Blaise Pascal, Clermont Fd.

Directeur de Recherche, 2ème classe (CNRS)

 Oct. 2001 -> Group Leader, CNRS UMR 6547, Clermont Fd.

                  Group Leader, UMR-6247, CNRS/UBP/UdA/INSERM, Clermont Fd.

2012 -> Directeur de Recherche, 1ère classe (CNRS)


2021      ANR JCJC : MeioAdapt (H. Serra)

2021      Projet Emergence, iSITE Clermont. (S. Lageix)

2019      Projet Emergence, iSITE Clermont. (O. da Ines)

2018              EMBO Workshop grant for : "Plant genome stability and change 2018" (w18/68).

2018-2022      MEICOM: EU H2020, Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions: Innovative Training Network (H2020-MSCA-ITN-2017-765212)

2017-2022       ANR: RecInChromatin (PRCI ANR-16-CE91-0010)

2015               Région Auvergne. Bourse congrès thèsard (M. Olivier)

2015               EMBO Bourse congrès thèsard (M. Olivier)

2015               Région Auvergne. (Bourse thèse Collab. ICarRe with INRA)

2014-2016      Région Auvergne Jeune Chercheur (S. Amiard)

2014               Région Auvergne. Bourse congrès thèsard (H. Serra)

2013 - 2017   COMREC, EU Framework ProgramVII, Marie Skłodowska-Curie

                             Innovative Training Network (FP7-PEOPLE-2013-ITN-606956)

2012 Aviesan/Plan Cancer 2012 (equipment)

2009-2012   European Union framework VII, RECBREED.

2007-2010   ANR Blanc TELOPLANTE.

2007-2010  GDR CNRS 2586 : Méiose et Reproduction. Génétique moléculaire, physiologie, pathologie, applications.

2007-2013  CPER T3A, Volet 1 : Céréales du Futur.

2005-2008  European Union framework VI, TAGIP.

2005         Electricité de France, Radioprotection.

2002- 2004  Collaboration CNRS / Academy of Science of the Czech Republic.

2001-2005  Laboratoire de Recherche Conventionné avec le CEA

2001-2004  European Union framework V, PLANTREC. (Coordinator)

2000-2001  RHOBIO

1997-2000  European Union framework IV, RECOMBIO (Co-coordinator, with B. Reiß, Cologne)

1998-2000  Rhône Poulenc

1998         Rhône Poulenc (avec M.Gallego)

1996-1997  Rhône-Poulenc Agrochimie / Danone / Limagrain

1996-1998  MENRT, France , "ACC-SV" 

1994-1996  GREG  (avec Dr. M. Radman, Inst. J. Monod, Jussieu)

1993-1995  BIOAVENIR - Rhône Poulenc Agrochimie / Danone.

1993-1995  MENRT, France (avec Pr. J.-L. Rossignol, Orsay) .

Reviewing activity:



Vice-chair (2021), Life Sciences Panel, EU Horizon Marie Sklodowska Curie research personal fellowship programme.

Expert (2015) and Vice-chair (since 2016), Life Sciences Panel, EU Horizon2020 Marie Sklodowska Curie research individual fellowship programme.

Expert (2019) EU Horizon2020 Marie Sklodowska Curie ITN programme

Expert (2018) EU Horizon2020 Widespread program.

COMREC training committee (2013-2017) (EU Marie Curie International Training Network)

EU Framework 5 grant panel member (2001, 2002)

EU Descartes Prize panel member (2001, 2002)


Journée de Reflection CNRS-INRA sur "Génomes et Evolution". Paris 19/01/10

Commission des Sciences biologiques et médicales (CSS2) of the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) (recruitement and career advancement of research scientists; fellowships ...). 2008-2012.

AERES, Site visit committee, Hôpital Necker/Université Paris V. 2009.

Research Unit council, CNRS UMR6547, Université Blaise Pascal, 1998-2007

Research Unit council, CNRS UMR-6293/INSERM U1103/Université Blaise Pascal/Université dAuvergne. 2008-

Génoplante grant review committee (2004)

Expert review committee - Dépt. d'Ecophysiologie Végétale et de Microbiologie, CEA (2000, 2004)

Commission de Spécialistes. Sections 64 et 65. Université Blaise Pascal 1998-2007 (recruitement of University teaching staff)

Research unit council, IBP, Université Paris-XI, 1993-98.

Research unit council, ISV, CNRS Gif sur Yvette, 1990-1992


Grant and project reviews:

Inst Pasteur (Paris), Fonds National Suisse de la Recherche Scientifique, EU Framework 5, Czech Acad. Sci, BBSRC (UK), DFG (Allemagne), NSF, USDA (USA), German Israel Foundation, Institut Weizmann, Israel Science Foundation (Israel), FWF (Autriche), ANR, Génoscope, Génoplante, IRD, AERES (France) .

Reviews for scientific journals:

PLoS Genetics, Science, Genes and Developement, EMBO J., EMBO Reports, DNA Repair, Plant Cell, Plant Physiol., Plant J., Gene, Plant Mol. Biol., MGG, NAR, FEBS Letters, J. Exp. Bot, TIG, Reproduction, Frontiers in Plant Genetics and Genomics ...

Doctoral Thesis and Habilitation (HDR) juries :

Toulouse, Montpellier, Bordeaux, Ghent (Belgium), Clermont-Ferrand, Versailles, Paris VII,  Paris VI, Paris XI, Lyon, Strasbourg, Seville, Cordoba(Spain).

Doctoral Thesis Committees :

CIRAD/Université de Montpellier).  INRA/Université Blaise Pascal, BIOGEMMA/Univ. Blaise Pascal, Centre Jean Perrin/Université d'Auvergne (Clermont Ferrand)


EU Descartes Prize (2001, 2002), Doctoral fellowship jury (MENR) (Clermont Fd 2008), Master II jury (Clermont Fd 2009)

Activity in the management of science:

Président de la Société Française de Génétique (2015-2020) 

Member of Editorial Board, Nature Scientific Reports

Vice-chair, Life Sciences Panel, EU Horizon2020 Marie Sklodowska Curie research fellowship programme (


Group Leader:

 Institut de Biologie des Plantes, CNRS/Université Paris-XI Orsay, 1993-98.

 UMR-6547, CNRS/Université Blaise Pascal, 1998 - 2008

 UMR-6293 CNRS/Université Clermont Auvergne/INSERM U1103, 2009 -


European Union Framework Program Grants :


     RECOMBIO, EU Fr. IV, 1997-2000 (with B. Reiss, MPIZ, Cologne)

     PLANTREC, EU Fr. V, 2001-2004


     TAGIP, EU Fr. VI, 2005-2008.

     RECBREED, EU Fr. VII, 2009-2013

     COMREC, EU Fr. VII, 2013-2017 (Marie Curie ITN)

     MEICOM, EU H2020, 2018-2022 (Marie Curie ITN)

Organisation of congresses:

Plant Genetic Stability and Change 2018 : Sixth international meeting on molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the stability, variability and modification of plant genomes. IPK, Gatersleben, Germany3-6/6/2018

The CRISPR revolution - from bacterial immunity to functional genomics. Société Française de Génétique, Montpellier 16-18/11/2017.

Telomere Biology in Health and Disease. Société Française de Génétique/Institut Curie, Paris. 19-21/10/2016.

Plant Genetic Stability and Change 2016 : Fifth international meeting on molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the stability, variability and modification of plant genomes. Hayama, Kanagawa, Japan 7-10/7/2016

"International Plant DNA Repair and Recombination congress". Asilomar center, Monterey, USA. Juillet 2014

"International conference on Development & Genetics." Avignon – Isle sur la Sorgue. 12-15 November 2013. Organised jointly by the Société Française de Génétique and the Société Française de Biologie du Dévéloppement.

"EMBO Workshop - Genetic stability and change: Genome maintenance mechanisms in plants". Roscoff Mai 2012

Société Française de Biologie Végétale (Clermont Ferrand. 12/2011)

  "Second international Plant DNA Repair and Recombination congress". Asilomar center, Monterey, USA. 2010.

   "EMBO Workshop on Plant DNA Repair and Recombination".Giens, France. 2007.

   "Genome Maintenance and Stability" workshop, VIIth International Congress of Plant Molecular Biology, Barcelona, Spain, 2003.

   "Frontiers of Life : XIIèmes Rencontres de Blois" (2000)

    "Rencontres de Biologie" (Les Arcs, France) (1998-9)


  • Vice president, Société Française de Génétique (2011- 2015 )
  • Commission of "Sciences biologiques et médicales" (CSS2) of the Institut de Recherche pour le Dévéloppement" (2008->)
  • Joint Reflection CNRS-INRA on "Génomes et Evolution". Paris 19/01/10

Patents :

- 2000.   Betzner, A., Doutriaux, M.-P., Huttner, E., Perez, P., et C. White. (Australia - "Methods for increased meiotic recombination in plants." CNRS/Aventis/Biogemma (PQ9015)

- 2001.   Betzner, A., Huttner, E., Perez, P., Doutriaux, M.-P. et C. White. International  "Composition and method for increased meiotic recombination in plants." CNRS/Aventis/Biogemma (WO 02/08432)

- 2012, 2013 Ayar, A., Paul, W., White, C. and Gallego, M.E. Dépot de Brevet International "Method for performing homologous recombination." EP12305883.6. Biogemma/CNRS/Uinversité Blaise Pascal.


2001-2004. Consultant for Aventis CropScience/Bayer CropScience (Ghent, Belgium) on plant recombination.

Number of publications in peer reviewed journals : 72<; 3353 Citations; h-index=30

ORCID 0000-0001-8152-5797



Scientific summary

We study the molecular mechanisms assuring the integrity of the structure and the informational content of the genome.


Working with the plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, our research concerns three interrelated themes.

1.    The complex interrelationships and regulation of DNA repair and recombination proteins and pathways in vivo.

In addition to local loss of genetic information, chromosomal double-strand breaks (DSB) can lead to major genome rearrangements including deletions, duplications, translocations and inversions of chromosomal segments. This makes these lesions particularly deleterious and together with a role in DNA replication, is believed to explain the ubiquity of recombination mechanisms for their repair throughout the living world. Recombination processes can be placed into two functional classes based on the implication, or not, of sequence homology between the recombining DNA molecules (homologous and non-homologous recombination respectively).  Although knowledge of the mechanisms of the different recombination pathways has considerably advanced in recent years, the complex interrelationships and regulation of non-homologous recombination are far from being fully understood.

We have two current foci in this work:

  • Characterisation of the recombination proteins and pathways assuring DSB repair in planta.
  • Through kinetic, cytogenetic and molecular analyses, establish the functional hierarchies and the complex interrelationships and regulation of homologous and non-homologous recombination pathways in living cells of the developing plant.


2.    Telomere homeostasis and the consequences of telomere dysfunction.

Telomeres are nucleoprotein structures at the ends of chromosomes and assure at least two major functions: avoidance of chromosome shortening at replication and protection of chromosome ends from nucleases and the cellular recombination machinery. In the absence of a functional telomere structure, the cell is no longer able to distinguish the telomere from a broken DNA molecule and the chromosome ends are subject to degradation and recombination, leading to chromosomal fusions and breakage, mutation, cancer and death.

We have two current foci in this work:

  • the exact nature and specific molecular pathways involved in the chromosomal fusions induced by telomere dysfunction
  • the impact of telomere dysfunction-induced chromosomal damage on living cells of the developing plant.

3.    Mechanisms of meiotic recombination and chromosome synapsis.

Genetic recombination is both indispensable to the maintenance of genome integrity and an essential source of genetic diversity. Recombination assures proper chromosome disjunction in the meiotic cell division that produces of gametes for sexual reproduction, as well as the reassortment of alleles that is the major source of genetic variability and drives evolution. We are studying the mechanisms of  meiotic recombination and its roles in chromosome synapsis and disjunction in Arabidopsis.

Our current focus in this work on meiotic recombination and homologous chromosome synapsis concerns the roles of:

  • the Rad51 protein family
  • the MRN complex
  • roles of the structure-specific endonucleases.
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