skip to content

Department of Genetics



Michael is a Sir Henry Dale Fellow (Wellcome Trust / Royal Society) in the Department of Genetics. Before coming to Cambridge, he worked under the supervision of Didier Trono at the EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland. There, he unveiled the binding sites and evolutionary history of KRAB zinc finger proteins, the largest family of DNA binding factors in the human genome. He has an undergraduate degree in biochemistry, a Masters in Bioinformatics and a PhD in Bioinformatics and Retrovirology from Université Laval.

Research Interests

The human genome was sequenced 20 years ago, yet we have many of its secrets left to discover. While a lot of energy has been focused on understanding the genes it contains, they only account for 2% of our DNA. Half of our genome is derived from ancient remnants of viruses and other mobile elements that invaded it millions of years ago, yet are partially conserved. We are just beginning to appreciate how they contribute to differences between species, providing a mechanism to change how genes are regulated. My research is centered on KRAB zinc fingers, a large family of proteins that is silencing mobile elements and is similarly repurposed later by evolution to epigenetically control their domesticated activity. We are currently focused on specific members of the family that are evolutionary conserved to elucidate their biological functions, so far finding that KRAB zinc finger proteins and their target transposable elements are implicated in the evolution of important biological processes such as inflammation, DNA damage and development.

Research Group Links



Key publications: 

Imbeault M, Helleboid PY, Trono D. KRAB zinc-finger proteins contribute to the evolution of gene regulatory networks. Nature. 2017 Mar 23;543(7646):550-554. doi: 10.1038/nature21683. Epub 2017 Mar 8. PMID: 28273063

Full Publication List


Google Scholar

‪Michael Imbeault‬ - ‪Google Scholar‬

Wellcome Trust Sir Henry Dale Fellow
Areas of Interest: 
Transposable Elements and Evolution of Gene Regulatory Networks
Email address: 
Department of Genetics
University of Cambridge
Downing Street
Cambridge, CB2 3EH
Office phone: 
+44 (0)1223 333957
Takes PhD students