One of our doctoral candidates within the MITGEST doctoral network, recently undertook a three-month secondment at Goethe University Frankfurt. Under the esteemed guidance of Dr. Ilka Wittig and Dr. Alfredo Cabrera-Orifice, this transformative period, spanning from September to November, marked a significant milestone in her PhD journey.

DC4 Maria Valentina Nino, who is currently based at the Radboudumc Center for Mitochondrial Medicine (Nijmegen, Netherlands), will be sharing her detailed experience, highlighting the research advancements and collaborative insights gained during this pivotal secondment.

A crucial leap in mitochondrial gene expression research

Mitochondria often hailed as the powerhouses of the cell, are pivotal for energy production, with their ribosomes playing a central role in protein synthesis. Recent studies indicate that early steps in mitoribosome biogenesis occur in conjunction with mitochondrial nucleoids—functional units comprising mtDNA and associated proteins. My research endeavours centred on developing and employing large pore gel electrophoresis to scrutinize mtDNA nucleoids and their involvement in ribosome biogenesis.


This methodology yielded invaluable insights into the composition and integrity of early mitochondrial ribosomes at the nucleoid level, elucidating the genetic information and molecular mechanisms underpinning mitochondrial protein synthesis. Furthermore, we leveraged the same approach to investigate the biogenesis and composition of RNA granules, providing critical insights into the mitochondrial gene expression system.


During my secondment, my primary focus was to refine my expertise in clear native/blue native gel electrophoresis, complexome profiling, and data analysis. The ultimate objective was to develop and optimise a high-resolution protocol for large pore native gel electrophoresis—a technique poised to deepen our understanding of the mitochondrial respiratory chain and facilitate the analysis of complexes too large for standard native gels.

The collaborative impact of research networks

Being part of the MITGEST network has been profoundly enriching. The collaborative nature of the network allows early career researchers like myself to interact with experts from diverse institutions, fostering innovation and broadening our scientific perspectives. My secondment at Goethe University Frankfurt showed the power of such collaborations.


Under the mentorship of Dr. Ilka Wittig and Dr. Alfredo Cabrera-Orifice, I received invaluable guidance and support throughout my stay. Their expertise and insights significantly boosted my research efforts, helping me overcome challenges and improve my techniques. Working in their lab and learning from their experience was key to advancing my PhD project.

Enriching experience and takeaways

Last, but not least, travelling from the Netherlands to Frankfurt, Germany being a professional milestone was also an exciting personal journey. The chance to explore another country, experience its rich culture, and enjoy a variety of German foods added a delightful dimension to my stay. Meeting new people and experiencing the warmth and hospitality of Frankfurt’s community enriched my experience and broadened my perspectives.


I also had the chance to participate in very interesting workshops such as “The General Principles of Mass Spectrometry”. These workshops not only enhanced my technical skills but also provided a platform to network with fellow researchers and professionals, further fostering collaborative opportunities.


As I conclude this enriching secondment, I am eager to apply the techniques and knowledge acquired to enhance my ongoing research. The optimized protocols for large pore gel electrophoresis and complexome profiling promise to improve the quality and impact of my work on mitochondrial gene expression. For fellow researchers and members of the MITGEST network, the importance of collaborative efforts cannot be overstated. They not only provide technical expertise and knowledge but also foster professional development and innovation. I encourage everyone to take advantage of the opportunities provided by our network and actively engage in similar secondments and collaborations.


Stay tuned for updates on our research efforts and the important discoveries we aim to uncover in mitochondrial biology.


The news item was written by DC4 Maria Valentina Nino.

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