14 March 2022

NWO Open Competition Domain Science-M grant for Francesca Mattiroli

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Francesca Mattiroli, group leader at the Hubrecht Institute, receives a grant from the Open Competition Domain Science-M of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). Together with her group, Mattiroli will use the grant to obtain insight into the way newly replicated DNA is packaged into chromatin at a molecular level. Ultimately, this information can be used to develop new strategies for the treatment of cancer.

Every cell in the body contains two meters of DNA. In order to fit it all into the cell’s small nucleus, the DNA is tightly packed in a structure named chromatin. Chromatin can take many shapes, which locally regulates which parts of the DNA can be read by the cell and therefore which proteins are produced by the cell. Every time a cell divides, the chromatin needs to be copied accurately to prevent a cell from changing function, as these changes may lead to diseases such as cancer. In many types of cancer, the process that ensures the copying of chromatin is deregulated.

Chromatin replication

Chromatin and DNA are copied in a tightly coupled manner. During this process, cells make two identical copies of the DNA sequence and readily package them into chromatin. Several dozens of proteins are involved in these mechanisms. This complexity has limited the understanding of the process at the molecular level. The group of Francesca Mattiroli has recently developed new methods to study how DNA- and chromatin replication are linked. With these tools, they found that the mechanism of chromatin replication is unexpectedly different on the two newly replicated DNA copies.

Fundamental research to treat cancer

In their new project, the researchers aim to understand the molecular basis for these differences. To that end, they will visualize the structure of important factors in the process and determine how they carry out their function. Their work will provide long sought-after information on how newly replicated DNA is packaged into chromatin at the molecular level. This information can be further used to develop new targeting strategies in cancer therapy.

About NWO M-grants

The NWO Domain Science-M grants are intended for realizing curiosity-driven, fundamental research of high quality and/or scientific urgency. It offers researchers the possibility to elaborate creative and risky ideas to realize scientific innovations that can form the basis for the research themes of the future.

Portrait image of Francesca Mattiroli



Francesca Mattiroli is a group leader at the Hubrecht Institute.