3 min

Two ERC Consolidator grants, for Moussa Benhamed and Harry Sokol

The ERC (European Research Council) programme, which finances scientific excellence that pushes the boundaries of knowledge, awarded two ERC Consolidator grants in 2022 to projects coordinated by INRAE researchers (candidates for the 2021 session).

Published on 21 March 2022

illustration Two ERC Consolidator grants, for Moussa Benhamed and Harry Sokol

Moussa Benhamed, 3Dwheat project

Moussa Benhamed is a professor at the University of Paris and conducts research at the Institute of Plant Sciences - Paris Saclay (IPS2, INRAE Ile-de-France - Versailles-Grignon centre).

He received an ERC Consolidator grant for the project 3Dwheat (A 3-Dimensional functional genomics approach to identify hidden targets controlling heat stress and priming in wheat), coordinated by the University of Paris. Moussa Benhamed’s research will be carried out at the Institute of Plant Sciences - Paris Saclay and will benefit from INRAE’s collective research infrastructure, EPITrans

Project goals: characterise the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms of heat stress response in wheat.

Global warming leads to an increase in heat stress events that in turn lead to a drop in yields, particularly in wheat.  A better understanding of the plant’s response mechanisms to this stress could help scientists breed varieties that adapt better.  The response to stress involves changes in gene expression - some being activated, others inhibited -, endowing the plant with new properties to adapt to this stress. There are several mechanisms that regulate gene expression: well-known messenger RNA that convert genetic information from genes to proteins, but also so-called “epigenetic” mechanisms that were brought to light in the 1990s. These are reversible chemical changes (by the addition of methyl or acetyl groups) on DNA or on the proteins associated with it that together form chromatin. All of these epigenetic changes allow for a fine-tuned and rapid control of gene expression in response to stress. The project aims to better characterise these epigenetic changes, in particular those that affect the three-dimensional structure of chromatin and that have an effect on gene expression in a situation of stress.

Harry Sokol, ENERGISED project

Harry Sokol is a professor in the Gastroenterology department of the Hôpital Saint-Antoine (APHP, Paris, France), co-director of the team “Microbiota, Intestines and inflammation” (INSERM CRSA) and head of the group Imipath (Micalis Institute, INRAE Ile-de-France -Jouy-en-Josas - Antony centre).

He received an ERC Consolidator grant for the project ENERGISED (Impact of the gut microbiota on host cells energy metabolism: role in health and in inflammatory bowel disease), coordinated by the Sorbonne University. Part of the research will be carried out in the MICALIS research unit and will benefit from its platform ANAXEM (axenic animal facility).

Project goals: understand the role of the microbiota on the energy metabolism of intestinal cells as inflammatory disorders develop.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, are characterised by an inappropriate inflammation of the intestines. Cases have increased dramatically in developed countries over the past decades, which demonstrates the role of environmental factors. Intestinal microbiota has been recognised as a key factor in the development of IBD. The main hypothesis of the ENERGISED project is that alterations in intestinal microbiota in IBD contributes to the alteration of the energy metabolism of human intestinal and immune cells, and to the development of disease. The goals of ENERGISED are multiple: identify the components of the microbiota that have an impact on the energy metabolism of human cells and related mechanisms; decipher the consequences of changes in the intestinal microbiota on the energy metabolism of human cells in IBD; and develop new therapeutic strategies based on the microbiota to manipulate the cellular energy state  in IBD.

Harry Sokol also won an ERC Starting grant in 2016, see the article.

Pascale Moliiertranslated by Inge Laino


Moussa BenhamedIPS2 Institute of Plant Sciences - Paris Saclay

Harry Sokol MICALIS Institute


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