Meister Lab
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Our body is composed of billions of cells, each of them achieving a specialized task. For example, our flat skin cells ensure protection from external physical and chemical aggressions whereas our rod-like photoreceptor cells in the eye allow light to be sensed in our environment. Despite this variability in structure and function, almost all cells in our body have exactly the same genome, the DNA sequence where our genetic information is stored. As an analogy, one could think of the genome as the hard disk of a computer, where every program for each cell type is stored but in each cell only one of these programs is executed.

The genome is physically separated from the rest of the cell within a specialized organelle, the nucleus. A high level of compaction is achieved: our genome is 2 meters long but stored in a ball of a diameter of 5 micrometers (the nucleus). This would correspond to a very thin wire the length of the distance from Zürich to Geneva stored within a basketball. The compaction of this wire is, however, neither homogenous nor constant: some regions of the genome are very densely wrapped while others are looser. This compaction level along the wire, as well as the spatial distribution of the genome (where a given segment of the wire is located inside the nuclear ball) is unique to each cell type and setup when cells acquire a specialized function. Moreover, mutations in structural components of the nucleus have been shown to be linked to a number of diseases. These point to the importance of the organization of the genome in space inside the nucleus.

The organism which we use for these studies is the roundworm C. elegans. This simple animal is found in our gardens on rotting fruits, its fast life cycle (3 days) makes it an ideal laboratory model. It is one of the best-known organisms in which individual different cells achieve specialized tasks (as the skin or photoreceptor cells). Since much of the machinery involved in organizing the genome in 3 dimensions is evolutionarily conserved, the knowledge gained in the roundworm will improve our understanding of the gene expression.

Synchronous embryonic development of C. elegans embryos

Our research axes are:

Dosage compensation

On one hand, we study the dosage-compensated X chromosome which expression is adapted to the X:autosome ratio. We discovered that this chromosome forms sex-specific nuclear domains: in males it lies in a pore-proximal territory while in hermaphrodites the dosage compensation complex (DCC) prevents this localization. We are now exploring how these domains are formed and maintained and their impact on gene expression. The DCC is a structural maintenance of chromosome (SMC) complex, which delimitate epigenetic and topological domains. Unlike other SMC complexes, the DCC has no essential mitotic role and our experimental system opens new perspectives to interrogate how the formation itself of topologically associated domains by SMC complexes regulates transcription.

Cell fate stabilization

On the other hand, we interrogate the epigenetic determinants of cell fate robustness, using a single cell readout plasticity sensor based on transcription factor-induced transdifferentiation. Using this system, we are able to identify a single transdifferentiating cell in vivo using intact animals.

Group members

Peter Meister (FR)   Group Leader
Jennifer Semple (CH/UK) Laboratory manager
Jaime Osuna-Luque (ES) PhD student
Bolaji Isiaka (NG) PhD student
Moushumi Das (IN) PhD student
Valeriia (Lera) Volodkina (RU) PhD student
Todor Gitchev (BG) Master student
Ahrmad Annan (F) Master student
Janik Scotton(CH) Master student
Julie Campos (FR)   Laboratory manager   now technician at Invivogen, Toulouse, France
Sonia Karaz (FR)   Laboratory manager   now laboratory manager in the Feige laboratory, Lausanne
Ringo Püschel (DE)   PhD student   now working at Bichsel AG, Unterseen
Rahul Sharma (IN)   PhD student   now Post-doc in the Hetzer laboratory, La Jolla
Niels Rinzema (NL)   Master student   now PhD student in the de Laat laboratory, Utrecht
Abdulaziz Jaber (SA) MSc student Product complaints associate at Biogen, Zug
Francesca Coraggio (IT) PhD student Laboratory Manager, Rapti laboratory, EMBL, Heidelberg
Alisha Marti (CH) MSc student, lab injection specialist GMP Process Engineer at Janssen Vaccines, Johnson & Johnson
Thomas Gfeller (CH) MSc student GMP Process Engineer at Janssen Vaccines, Johnson & Johnson
Adriana Gonzalez-Sandoval (MEX) Post-doc now Post-doc in the van Rechem laboratory at Stanford, USA
Dominic Ritler (CH) Master student now PhD student, Institut for Parasitology, University of Bern
Fiona Daly (CH) Master student now Scientist at CSL Behring
Tweets de @CellFateNucOrg

Positions available

Undergraduates training positions

Contact directly Peter Meister


Gómez-Saldivar, G., Osuna-Luque, J., Semple, J.I., Glauser, D.A., Jarriault, S. and Meister, P. (2020)
Tissue-specific transcription footprinting using RNA PoI DamID (RAPID) in C. elegans
Sharma, R. and Meister, P. (2020)
Generation of Inexpensive, Highly Labeled Probes for Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization (FISH)
STAR Protocols
Grosmaire, M., Launay, C., Siegwald, M., Brugière, T., Estrada-Virrueta, L., Berger, D., Burny, C., Modolo, L., Blaxter, M., Meister, P., Félix, M.-A., Gouyon, P.-H., Delattre, M. (2019)
Males as somatic investment in a parthenogenetic nematode
Science 363, 1210–1213
Coraggio, F., Püschel, R., Marti, A. and Meister, P. (2019)
Polycomb and Notch signaling regulate cell proliferation potential during Caenorhabditis elegans life cycle.
Life Science Alliance 2 e201800170
Sharma, R., Ritler, D. and Meister, P. (2016)
Tools for DNA adenine methyltransferase identification analysis of nuclear organization during C. elegans development.
Püschel, R., Coraggio, F., and Meister P. (2016)
From single genes to entire genomes: the search for a function of nuclear organization.
Development 143, 910-923
Sharma, P. and Meister, P. (2016)
Dosage compensation and Nuclear organization: cluster to control chromosome-wide gene expression.
Curr Opin Genet Dev 37, 9-16
Gómez-Saldivar, S., Meister, P., and Askjaer, P. (2015)
DamID of Nuclear Envelope proteins in C. elegans.
Methods in Molecular Biology
Sharma, P. and Meister, P. (2015)
Linking Dosage Compensation and X chromosome Nuclear Organization in C. elegans.
Nucleus 6, 266-272
Sharma, R., Jost, D., Kind, J., Gomez-Saldivar, G., van Steensel, B., Askjaer P., Vaillant, C. and Meister, P. (2014)
Differential spatial and structural organisation of the X chromosome underlies dosage compensation in C. elegans.
Genes and Development 28, 2591-2596
Bou Dib, P., Gnägi, B., Daly, F., Sabado, V., Glauser, D., Meister, P. and Nagoshi, E. (2014)
A conserved role for p48 homologs in protecting dopaminergic neurons from oxidative stress
PLoS Genetics 10
Askjaer, P., Galy, V., Meister, P. (2014)
Modern tools to study nuclear pore complexes and nucleocytoplasmic transport in C. elegans.
Methods in Cell Biology 122, 277-310
Askjaer, P., Ercan, S. and Meister, P. (2014)
Modern Methods in C. elegans chromatin biology.
Rohner, S., Kalck, V., Wang, F., Ikegami,K., Lieb, J.D., Gasser, S. M. and Meister, P. (2013)
Promoter- and RNA polymerase II-dependent hsp-16 gene association with nuclear pores in C. elegans.
Journal of Cell Biology 200
Sharma, R. and Meister, P. (2013)
Nuclear Organization in the nematode C. elegans.
Curr Opin Cell Biol 25, 395-402
Meister, P. and Taddei, A. (2013)
Building silent compartments at the nuclear periphery: a recurrent theme.
Curr Opin Genet Dev 23, 96-103
Lanctôt C. and Meister, P. (2013)
Microscopic analysis of chromatin localization and dynamics in C. elegans.
Methods in Molecular Biology 1042
Towbin, B. D., Gonzalez-Aguilera, C., Sack, R., Gaidatzis, D., Kalck, V., Meister, P., Askjaer, P., Gasser, S. M. (2012)
Step-Wise Methylation of Histone H3K9 Positions Heterochromatin at the Nuclear Periphery.
Cell 150, 934-947
Meister, P., Schott, S., Rohner, S., Gasser, S. and Palladino F. (2011)
C. elegans HP1 expression profiling links developmental plasticity, longevity, and lipid metabolism.
Genome Biology 12, R123
Mattout, A., Pike, B.L., Towbin, B.D., Bank, E., Meister, P., Gruenbaum, Y., Gasser, S. M. (2011)
Expression of EDMD mutant lamin in C. elegans causes motility defects, muscle disorganization and prevents active gene relocation in muscle cells.
Current Biology 21,1603-1614
Meister, P., Towbin, B.D., Pike, B.L., Ponti, A., Gasser, S. M. (2010)
The spatial dynamics of developmentally regulated genes during C. elegans development.
Genes and Development 24, 766-782
Meister, P., Mango, S., and Gasser, S.M. (2010)
Locking the genome: 3D nuclear organization and cell fate acquisition.
Curr Opin Genet Dev
Gehlen, L.R., Nagai, S., Shimada, K., Taddei, A., Meister, P. and Susan M. Gasser (2010)
Nuclear geometry and rapid mitosis ensure asymmetric episome segregation and rejuvenation in yeast.
Current Biology 21, 25-33
Towbin, B.D., Meister, P., Pike, B.L., Gasser, S. M. (2010)
Repetitive transgenes in C. elegans accumulate heterochromatic marks and are sequestered at the nuclear envelope in a copy number- and lamin- dependent manner.
Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol. LXXV
Meister, P., Gehlen, L.R., Varela, E., Kalck, V. and Gasser, S.M. (2010)
Visualizing yeast chromosomes and nuclear architecture.
Methods in Enzymology 470
Towbin, B. D., Meister, P., and Gasser, S. M. (2009)
The nuclear envelope - a scaffold for silencing?
Curr Opin Genet Dev
Rohner S., Gasser S.M., Meister P. (2008)
Modules for cloning-free chromatin tagging in Saccharomyces cerevisae.
Yeast 25: 235-239
Meister P., Taddei A., Ponti A., Baldacci G., Gasser S.M. (2007)
Replication foci dynamics: replication patterns are modulated by S-phase checkpoint kinases in fission yeast.
EMBO J 26: 1315-1326
Meister P., Taddei A., Gasser SM (2006)
In and out of the replication factory.
Cell 125: 1233-1235
Meister P., Taddei A., Vernis L., Poidevin M., Gasser S.M., Baldacci G. (2005)
Temporal separation of replication and recombination requires the intra-S checkpoint.
Journal of Cell Biology 168: 537-544
Meister P., Poidevin M., Francesconi S., Tratner I., Zarzov P., Baldacci G. (2003)
Nuclear factories for signalling and repairing DNA double strand breaks in living fission yeast.
Nucleic Acids Res 31: 5064-5073


Group activities