Mariaceleste Aragona

Associate Professor of Tissue Architecture.

Link to the Aragona Group Homepage 

Research Profile

Mariaceleste background covers many aspects of modern developmental and molecular biology. She obtained her Master degree in Medical Biotechnology from the University of Padova in Italy. During her PhD, under the supervision of Professor Stefano Piccolo, she learned to develop, optimize and standardize new bioassays, from early xenopus and mouse embryology to stem cell differentiation, acquiring as well the competence to uncover the crosstalk within different molecular signalling pathways. In this period, she became fascinated by the mechanobiology field while researching transcription factors able to read the mechanical stimuli instructed on cells by the extracellular matrix (ECM) composition and shape, and translate them into gene transcription and cell functions. With her PhD thesis, in collaboration with Professor Sirio Dupont, she greatly contributed to the identification of YAP and TAZ (the downstream factors of the Hippo pathway) as sensors and mediators of mechanical cues. During a short post-doc, carried out still in Padova, she identified F-actin capping and severing proteins Cofilin, CapZ and Gelsolin as inhibitors of YAP and TAZ activity. In this study, she showed that the architectural features of an epithelial sheet – 3D shape and rigidity of its surrounding ECM – define the locations where cell proliferation is allowed, by generating patterns of mechanical forces that spatially regulate the activity of YAP and TAZ.

In 2014, Mariaceleste joined the team of Professor Cédric Blanpain at Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium, where she increased her knowledge on epithelia biology and learned how to study stem cell fate decision using a combination of lineage tracing, proliferation kinetics, molecular profiling and mathematical modelling, in close collaboration with Professor Benjamin Simons at Cambridge University, UK. She uncovered how different stem cells populations in the skin epidermis balance proliferation, migration and differentiation during wound healing. Thanks to a prestigious fellowship of the Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) and to the Belgian Fund for the Scientific Research (FNRS), she studied how mechanical stretching impacts skin stem cell behaviour. By combining clonal analysis, single cell RNA sequencing and chromatin profiling, she dissected step-by-step the clonal dynamics and molecular mechanisms by which epidermal stem cells respond to mechanical forces in vivo.

The Aragona Laboratory at DanStem is now focused on understanding how mechanical cues shape tissue architecture and change epithelial stem cells dynamics during homeostasis and organ growth. The goal of the lab is also to establish a collaborative environment in which creativity is supported, and in which each person contributes to the success of each other individual and common ambitions.

Curriculum Vitae

September 2020: Associate Professor, Group Leader
University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Stem Cell Biology, DanStem

May 2014 – July 2020: Post-Doctoral Training
Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium
Advisor: Professor Cédric Blanpain

April 2012 – April 2014: Post-Doctoral Training
University of Padova, Italy
Advisor: Professor Stefano Piccolo

January 2009 – April 2012: Doctorate in Biomedicine
University of Padova, Italy
Advisor: Professor Stefano Piccolo

September 2006 - October 2008: Master in Medical Biotechnology
University of Padova, Italy
Advisor: Dott. Paola Brun

September 2003 – September 2006: Bachelor in Biotechnology
University of Padova, Italy
Advisor: Professor Daniela Danieli

Selected Publications

Aragona, M., Sifrim, A., Malfait, M., Song, Y., Van Herck, J., Dekoninck, S., Gargouri, S., Lapouge, G., Swedlund, B., Dubois, C., Baatsen, P., Vints, K., Han, S., Tissir, F., Voet, T., Simons, B., and Blanpain, C. (2020) Mechanisms of stretch-mediated skin expansion at single-cell resolution. Nature, 1-6. doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2555-7.

Dekoninck, S.#, Hannezo. E.#, Sifrim, A., Miroshnikova, Y. A., Aragona, M., Malfait, M., Gargouri, S., de Neunheuser, C., Dubois, C., Voet, T., Wickström, S. A., Simons, B. D., and Blanpain, C.°(2020). Defining the Design Principles of Skin Epidermis Postnatal Growth. Cell. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2020.03.015.

Aragona M#, Dekoninck S#, Rulands S, Lenglez S, Mascré G, Simons BD, Blanpain C° (2017). Defining stem cell dynamics and migration during wound healing in mouse skin epidermisNature Communications, 8. doi: 10.1038/ncomms14684.

Aragona, M., Panciera, T., Manfrin, A., Giulitti, S., Michielin, F., Elvassore, N., Dupont, S.°, and Piccolo, S.° (2013). A mechanical checkpoint controls multicellular growth through YAP/TAZ regulation by actin-processing factors. Cell, 154, 1047-1059. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2013.07.042.

Dupont, S., Morsut, L.#Aragona, M., Enzo, E., Giulitti, S., Cordenonsi, M., Zanconato, F., Le Digabel, J., Forcato, M., Bicciato, S., Elvassore, N., and Piccolo, S.° (2011). Role of YAP/TAZ in mechanotransductionNature, 474(7350), 179-183. doi: 10.1038/nature10137.