PhD thesis defended by Olga Kozlova

The defense of the dissertation of the PhD of biological sciences Olga Sergeevna Kozlova was held on March 26, 2019 in Moscow at the Engelhardt Institute of Molecular Biology of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IMBB). The topic of the thesis: “Full-genome analysis of the heat shock protein system in extremophilic chironomics of the Chironomidae family” in the specialty 03.01.03 – “Molecular Biology”.

Scientific adviser: Ph.D. O.A. Gusev.
Scientific Consultant: Dr.Sc. Z.I. Abramova.
Official opponents: Dr.Sc. D.G. GarbuzDr.Sc. A.M. Kulikov.
Leading organization: Institute of Cytology of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

We heartily congratulate Olga on protection and wish them further success in science and life!

Laboratory employee made a presentation at the international conference on the study of mammalian genomes

The 33rd International Mammalian Genome Conference: IMGC 2019 is held from September 25 – 28 in Strasbourg, France. Guzel Gazizova, a juniour researcher at the Extreme Biology Research Laboratory, was awarded by IMGS Scholarship to give a talk on results of her research “Regulation of hibernation: promoter expression landscape in skeletal muscle of edible dormouse”.

The organizing committee of the conference provided Guzel travel migrant to speak with the results of his research.

Heat shock system helps bug come back to life after drying up

The larva of the sleeping chironomid, Polypedilum vanderplanki—a mosquito-like insect that inhabits semi-arid areas of Africa—is well known for being able to come back to life after being nearly completely desiccated, losing up to 97 percent of its body’s water content. However, the genetic mechanisms the insects use to achieve this feat, and, especially is the identity of the master gene that induces desiccation tolerance have remained largely elusive. Now, researchers from an international collaboration including Oleg Gusev of the RIKEN Innovation Center and collaborators from NARO, Kazan Federal University (Russia) and Skoltech University (Russia) have discovered that a gene called heat shock factor—which is present in some form in nearly all living organisms on earth—has been coopted by the species to survive desiccation.

Heat shock factor—which exists in a single form in invertebrates but multiple forms in vertebrates—is an essential part of the ability of living cells to survive stressful conditions such as heat, cold, radiation, and, it turns out, desiccation. In desert insects, the researchers found, the gene is able in certain conditions to upregulate itself, and this upregulation leads to a number of downstream processes, including the synthesis of heat shock proteins that are able to protect proteins in the cell from misfolding.

To perform the research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers compared data on RNA expression in the sleeping chironomid with a closely related species, Polypedilum nubifer, which is not capable of surviving desiccation. They found that in the sleeping chironomid, hundreds of genes, including genes known to be involved in forming a “molecular shield” against damage due to dehydration, were already expressed during the early stages of desiccation. They discovered that a certain DNA motif, TCTAGAA, which is the binding site for HSF, was strongly enriched around the transcription start site of the genes activated by desiccation in the sleeping chironomid, but not the other species. Intriguingly, they found that in the desiccation-tolerant species, but not the other, genes responsible for the synthesis of trehalose—a sugar that can stabilize cells in a dry state—contained the TCTAGAA motif.

To shed further light on the role of trehalose, they treated a cultured cell line from the sleeping chironomid with the sugar, and found that many of the genes activated by desiccation were also activated, and further, that the trehalose treatment led to the activation of the HSF gene. This effect of trehalose was prevented by knocking down the HSF gene, showing the HSF was clearly involved in the response.

According to Oleg Gusev, who led the group, “The discovery that heat shock factor is an important regulator of gene expression in response to desiccation was very interesting for us. It seems that these extremophilic insects in the process of evolution have coopted a very conservative transcription factor and its action for their own needs to survive without water by evolving a special gene structure and “adjusting” their genome sequence for these “needs”. Our data suggests the following story: HSF is activated during dehydration, and then HSF actually self-activates by binding to the upstream region of its own gene. This leads to the activation of the downstream genes that allow the insects to survive desiccation. What was very surprising to us was the finding that trehalose itself can activate HSF.”

Looking to the future, he continues, “One potential application of this finding will be in preserving cells outside the body in a dry state, if we can active the HSF gene. We now have a good understanding of how it works in this insect, so we will want to investigate if this is true for other organisms as well.”


  • Pavel V. Mazin et al., Cooption of heat shock regulatory system for anydrobiosis in the sleeping chironomid Polypedilum vanderplanki, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2018), doi: 10.1073/pnas.1719493115


Unit Leader
Oleg Gusev

RIKEN-KFU Translational Genomics Unit
RIKEN Innovation Center

Jens Wilkinson
RIKEN International Affairs Division
Tel: +81-(0)48-462-1225 / Fax: +81-(0)48-463-3687

Deviatiiarov Ruslan at a symposium on the non-coding genome in Germany

The European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany hosted an annual series of symposia on various areas of molecular biology, organized jointly with the European Organization of Molecular Biology (EMBO).

Deviatiiarov Ruslan Mansurovich, a juniour researcher at the laboratory, took part in the symposium The Non-Coding Genome from October 16 to 19, 2019 in Heidelberg.

He delivered a poster presentation on the topic “Prediction of conservative promoters and enhancers in embryogenesis”. The paper presents some of the data on the study of non-coding RNA in the framework of the international project FANTOM5.