Recent publications

FEBS J.: auth.: group Fajas

FEBS J. 2020 Oct 8. doi: 10.1111/febs.15586. Online ahead of print.

The multifaceted role of cell cycle regulators in the coordination of growth and metabolism

Katharina Huber 1Albert Mestres-Arenes 1Lluis Fajas 1Lucia C Leal-Esteban 1


Adapting to changes in nutrient availability and environmental conditions is a fundamental property of cells. This adaptation requires a multi-directional coordination between metabolism, growth and the cell cycle regulators (consisting of the family of cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs), their regulatory subunits known as cyclins, CDK inhibitors, the retinoblastoma family members and the E2F transcription factors). Deciphering the mechanisms accountable for this coordination is crucial for understanding various patho-physiological processes. While it is well established that metabolism and growth affect cell division, this review will focus on recent observations that demonstrate how cell cycle regulators coordinate metabolism, cell cycle progression and growth. We will discuss how the cell cycle regulators directly regulate metabolic enzymes and pathways and summarize their involvement in the endolysosomal pathway and in the functions and dynamics of mitochondria.

Keywords: Cell cycle regulators; cell growth; endolysosomes; metabolism; mitochondria.


Open Biol.: auth.: group Benton

Open Biol.: 2020 Oct;10(10):200252. doi: 10.1098/rsob.200252. Epub 2020 Oct 7.

Molecular mechanisms of olfactory detection in insects: beyond receptors

Hayden R Schmidt 1Richard Benton 1Affiliations expand


Insects thrive in diverse ecological niches in large part because of their highly sophisticated olfactory systems. Over the last two decades, a major focus in the study of insect olfaction has been on the role of olfactory receptors in mediating neuronal responses to environmental chemicals. In vivo, these receptors operate in specialized structures, called sensilla, which comprise neurons and non-neuronal support cells, extracellular lymph fluid and a precisely shaped cuticle. While sensilla are inherent to odour sensing in insects, we are only just beginning to understand their construction and function. Here, we review recent work that illuminates how odour-evoked neuronal activity is impacted by sensillar morphology, lymph fluid biochemistry, accessory signalling molecules in neurons and the physiological crosstalk between sensillar cells. These advances reveal multi-layered molecular and cellular mechanisms that determine the selectivity, sensitivity and dynamic modulation of odour-evoked responses in insects.

Keywords: Drosophila; neuron; olfaction; physiology; receptor; signalling.


CIG Seminars Fall 2020 Program

CIG Seminars Fall 2020

Monday 12:15, Génopode, auditorium B

Free entrance

Download poster

Monday October 19, 2020 ONLINE
Valérie Hilgers, Max Planck Institute, Münich, DE
«Regulation and Function of neuronal RNA signatures through RNA-binding proteins»
Host: Maria Gambetta

Monday November 9, 2020 ONLINE
Christian Frezza, University of Cambridge, UK
«Mitochondria in cancer: Oncometabolites and beyond»
Hosts: PhD Students & Postdocs

Monday November 16, 2020
Lukas Neukomm, University of Lausanne, DNF, CH
«NAD+ metabolism in neurodegeneration from a fly’s perspective»
Host: Richard Benton

Monday December 14, 2020
Herwig Baier, Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology, Martinsried, Germany
«Vision to action in the zebrafish brain»
Host: Thomas Auer


Go CIG (and DBC) riders!

We express our warmest support to the CIG members who participate in the Bike to work challenge 2020 this month:

  • “CIG 5th floor” team: Katharina Huber (LF), René Dréos (DG), Sevasti Gaspari (BT), Valentin Barquissau (BT)
  • “Cyclistes Incroyablement Géniaux (CIG)” team: Julie Papet (CIGGEN), Johanna Krahmer (CF), Christian Fankhauser, Ana Lopez Vasquez (CF), Emmanuel Beaudoing (GTF)

We also have a thought for the DBC members riding for the “Génopode bikers” team: Mattia Tomasoni (SB), Théo Gaboriau (NS), Daniele Tavernari (GC), Sarah Schmid (NS).

Further information on the challenge:


bike to work is a Swiss wide health promotion campaign . Each year more than 70,000 commuters pedal to work and back home by bike in May and June. Through bike to work, about 2400 companies strengthen their staff’s team spirit and fitness, while supporting sustainable mobility practice.


The company registers the whole staff for the annual Challenge and covers the participation fee. The staff of the company forms teams of 4 and travel to work and back home by bike as often as possible. They record all kilometres covered online on the Challenge calendar. Those who have biked on at least half of their workdays will take part in the draw for prizes worth a total of over CHF 140,000.


bike to work is a project of Pro Velo Switzerland. bike to work has established itself as a simple and effective health promotion campaign for small and large companies alike. Pro Velo Switzerland represents the interests of cyclists. Its goal is to promote the bike as an ecological, energy-saving and healthy means of travel.


UNIL FBM-FGSE Postdoc retreat, Oct 31-Nov 1, 2020. Registration limited: max 30 persons

The APNS is happy to announce our upcoming 3rd edition Post-Doc Retreat (for Post-Docs and final year PhD students of FBM & FGSE UNIL): 


Join our retreat and meet professionals from a wide scope of backgrounds, including academia, industry, science administration, publishing and communication, and funding agencies. There will also be 3 sessions on skills development, such as project management, scientific writing & publishing, and on career development! 

When? 31st October and 1st November 2020 
– Sat, Oct 31stFinhaut, Valais (Chalet VATICAMP)
– Sun, Nov 1st: Epalinges (CLE-B301) 

Given the current COVID-19 situation, we have adapted our program to ensure a safe and pleasant experience for all. We thus offer one day to be held in Finhaut in the beautiful Swiss Alps, and a second day full of interactive career development advice sessions locally, in Epalinges.  

Find the final program here:

REGISTRATION is open now! 

There is a limited number of available places. Please register with your UNIL or CHUV email account and don’t forget to pay the 25 CHF fee covering food and drinks during both days to complete the registration process. Note that there will be no reimbursement for late cancellations. 

Please note : OFSP hygiene recommendations will be strictly followed throughout the event.  Join now and don’t miss the opportunity to explore your career horizons and expand your network!

We are looking forward to seeing you in October!  Yours truly, the APNS team
APNS: Association for Postdocs in Natural Sciences at UNIL
Twitter: @APNS_UNIL
Facebook group: APNS.UNIL 


J Neurosci.: co-auth.: R.Benton

 J Neurosci. 2020 Sep 29;JN-RM-1720-20. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1720-20.2020. Online ahead of print.

Enhanced Retrieval of Taste Associative Memory by Chemogenetic Activation of Locus Coeruleus Norepinephrine Neurons

Ryoji Fukabori 1Yoshio Iguchi 1Shigeki Kato 1Kazumi Takahashi 2Satoshi Eifuku 2Shingo Tsuji 3Akihiro Hazama 3Motokazu Uchigashima 4Masahiko Watanabe 4Hiroshi Mizuma 5Yilong Cui 6Hirotaka Onoe 7Keigo Hikishima 8Yasunobu Yasoshima 9Makoto Osanai 10Ryo Inagaki 10Kohji Fukunaga 11Takuma Nishijo 12Toshihiko Momiyama 12Richard Benton 13Kazuto Kobayashi 14


Animals’ ability to retrieve memories stored in response to the environment is essential for behavioral adaptation. Norepinephrine (NE)-containing neurons in the brain play a key role in the modulation of synaptic plasticity underlying various processes of memory formation. However, the role of the central NE system in memory retrieval remains unclear. Here, we developed a novel chemogenetic activation strategy exploiting insect olfactory Ionotropic Receptors (IRs), termed “IR-mediated neuronal activation” (IRNA), and used it for selective stimulation of NE neurons in the locus coeruleus (LC). Drosophila melanogaster IR84a and IR8a subunits were expressed in LC NE neurons in transgenic mice. Application of phenylacetic acid (a specific ligand for the IR84a/IR8a complex) at appropriate doses induced excitatory responses of NE neurons expressing the receptors in both slice preparations and in vivo electrophysiological conditions, resulting in a marked increase of NE release in the LC nerve terminal regions (male and female). Ligand-induced activation of LC NE neurons enhanced the retrieval process of conditioned taste aversion without affecting taste sensitivity, general arousal state, and locomotor activity. This enhancing effect on taste memory retrieval was mediated, in part, through α1– and β-adrenergic receptors in the basolateral nucleus of the amygdala (BLA) (male). Pharmacological inhibition of LC NE neurons confirmed the facilitative role of these neurons in memory retrieval via adrenergic receptors in the BLA (male). Our findings indicate that the LC NE system, through projections to the BLA, controls the retrieval process of taste associative memory.


Norepinephrine (NE)-containing neurons in the brain play a key role in the modulation of synaptic plasticity underlying various processes of memory formation, but the role of the NE system in memory retrieval remains unclear. We developed a chemogenetic activation system based upon insect olfactory Ionotropic Receptors and used it for selective stimulation of NE neurons in the locus coeruleus (LC) in transgenic mice. Ligand-induced activation of LC NE neurons enhanced the retrieval of conditioned taste aversion, which was mediated, in part, through adrenoceptors in the basolateral amygdala. Pharmacological blockade of LC activity confirmed the facilitative role of these neurons in memory retrieval. Our findings indicate that the LC-amygdalar pathway plays an important role in the recall of taste associative memory.