Elisa Varela, Ph.D

Principal Investigator of the Telomeres in Reproduction at FIVI-IVIRMA

IVI Madrid

Elisa Varela, Ph.D


Dr. Elisa Varela is the Principal Investigator of the Telomeres and Telomerase in Reproduction Group at FIVI-IVIRMA, Madrid, supported partly by a Torres Quevedo Contract. She obtained her Ph. D. in Biological Sciences, at the Autonomous University of Madrid in 1998, under the direction of Dr. M.J. Martínez, where she learned biochemistry and molecular biology, working with fungal enzymes involved in wood degradation. In 1999, she joined the laboratory led by Dr. M. Tien, at Pennsylvania State University (State College, PA, USA) as a postdoctoral fellow to learn the chemistry of free radicals and reactive oxygen species that attack wood.

During these years she had frequent contact with the laboratory of Dr. J. Workman, who was working on chromatin remodelers, directing her attention to the field of chromatin regulation and dynamics. In 2004, she returned to Europe and joined the laboratory of Prof. S. M. Gasser, in Switzerland, as a postdoctoral fellow.

She analyzed the mechanisms that coordinate chromosome decompaction with exit from mitosis and the re-localization of chromatin (rDNA and telomeres) to reform the architecture of functional postmitotic nucleus. During this period, she collaborated with Prof. S. Esposito, studying the transition from the first to the second meiotic division. She also visited the laboratory of Dr. F. Uhlmann in London, with an EMBO Short Term Fellowship. She mastered yeast genetics, cell biology and high resolution confocal microscopy. In 2009, she came back to Spain as staff scientist in the group of Dr. M. A. Blasco to continue her work with telomere dynamics and regulation in cancer, aging and the biology of stem cells, in the context of mammalian organisms.

Dr. Varela has collaborated with several outstanding scientists and published several original articles, most of them as first author, in high impact journals such as EMBO, PNAS and Nature Communications. She has participated as investigator in competitive projects funded both by the Spanish Government and the European Union.
Dr. Varela has been involved in teaching, taking part as a Faculty in the Masters Program of Molecular Genetics, organized by Universidad Autónoma, Universidad Complutense and Universidad de Alcalá de Henares, since 2014 and other seminars related to telomeres and organismal fitness and health. She has been invited to give talks in international meetings and has been an active member of several Scientific Societies.

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Graduated in Biology, Universidad Complutense, Madrid, Spain 1990
Ph.D. in Biology, Universidad Autonoma, Madrid, Spain 1998
Master in Education by the European University of Madrid 2016

Honores y reconocimientos

Torres Quevedo Contract. Ministery of Economy, Industry and Competitivity, Spain 2017
Fellowship Fundación Rafael del Pino for the Superior Course of Women and Leadership 2014-2015
EMBO short-term fellowship to visit the laboratory of F. Uhlmann 2008
Co-applicant with S. Gasser on a grant funded by the Swiss Cancer League 2004 – 2008
Postdoctoral Fellowship, Ministry of Education, Spain 2004 – 2006
US Department of Energy Fellowship, USA 1999 – 2003
European Union Fellowship, Spain 1992 – 1998


  • Telomeres in aging and reproduction.
    Varela E, Sánchez de Puerta I, García-Velasco JA.
    Current Opinion in Obstetrics and Gynecology (in preparation).

  • A Glenohumeral joint model for rehabilitation exoskeleton SOFI. Clinical trial and results.
    Varela Sanz J, Saltarén RJ, López J, Älvarez J, Varela E.
    IEEE Systems Journal, 14 (under review). 2017.

  • Generation of mice with longer and better preserved telomeres in the absence of genetic manipulations.
    Varela E, Muñoz-Lorente MA, Tejera MA, Ortega S, Blasco MA.
    Nature Communications, 7: 11739-11755.2016.

  • Different telomere-length dynamics at the Inner Cell Mass versus Established Embryonic Stem (ES) cells.
    Varela E, Schneider RP, Ortega S, Blasco MA.
    Proc Nat Acad USA, 108:15207-15212. 2011.

  • 2009 Nobel prize in phisyiology or medicine: telomeres and telomerase.
    Varela E, Blasco MA.
    Oncogene, 11: 1561-1565.2010.

  • Visualizing yeast chromosomes and nuclear architecture.
    Meister P, Gehlen LR, Varela E, Kalck V, Gasser SM.
    Methods in Enzymology, Guide to Yeast Genetics, Molecular and Cell Biology., 470: 535-567. 201. Gutherie C, Fink G. Academic Press. 2010.

  • Mitotic expression of Spo13 alters M-phase progression and nucleolar localization of Cdc14 in budding yeast.
    Varela E, Schlecht U, Moina A, Fackenthal JD, Washburn BK, Niederhauser-Wiederkehr C, Tsai-Pflugfelder M, Primig M, Gasser SM, Esposito RE.
    Genetics, 3:841-854.2010.

  • Lte1, Cdc14 and MEN-controlled Cdk inactivation in yeast coordinate rDNA decompaction with late telophase progression.
    Varela E, Shimada K, Laroche T, Leroy D, Gasser SM.
    EMBO J., 28:1562-1575. 2009.

  • Functional localization of DNA damage to pore complex bound to Slx5/8 SUMO-dependent E3 ligase.
    Nagai S, Dubrana K. Tsai-Pflufelder M, Davidson M, Roberts T, Brown G, Varela E, Hediger F, Gasser SM, Krogan NJ.
    Science, 322: 597-602. 2008.

  • TGF-beta regulates expression of transcription factor KLF6 and its splice variants, and promotes co-operative transactivation of common target genes through a Smad3/Sp1/KLF6 interaction.
    Botella LM, Sanz-Rodriguez F, Komi Y, Fernandez-L A, Varela, E, Garrido-Martin EM, Narla G, Friedman SL, Kojima S.
    Biochem. J., 419: 485-495. 2009.

  • A cross-talk between hypoxia and TGF-β orchestrates erytropoietin gene regulation through SP1 and SMADS.
    Sanchez-Elsner T, Ramirez JR, Sanz F, Varela, E, Bernabeu C, Botella LM.
    J. Mol. Biol., 336: 9-24. 2003.

  • Culture conditions affecting biodegradation components of the brown-rot fungus: Gloeophyllum trabeum.
    Varela E, Mester T, Tien M.
    Arch. Microbiology., 180: 251-256. 2003

  • The effect of pH and oxalate on hydroquinone-derived hydroxyl radical formation in brown-rot wood degradation.
    Varela E, Tien M.
    Appl. and Env. Microbiology, 69: 6025-6031. 2003.

  • Expression of Pleurotus eryngii aryl-alcohol oxidase in Aspergillus nidulans: purification and characterization of the recombinant enzyme.
    Varela E, Guillen F, Martinez AT, Martinez MJ.
    Biochem. Biophys. Acta, 1546: 107-13. 2001.

  • Southern blot screening for lignin peroxidase and aryl-alcohol oxidase genes in 30 fungal species.
    Varela E, Martinez AT, Martinez MJ.
    J. Biotechnology, 83: 245-251. 2000.

  • Aryl-alcohol oxidase protein sequence: a comparison with glucose oxidase and other FAD oxidoreductases.
    Varela E, Martinez AT, Martinez MJ.
    Biochem. Biophys. Acta, 1481: 202-8. 2000.

  • Biochemical characterization, cDNA cloning and protein crystallization of aryl-alcohol oxidase from Pleurotus pulmonarius. Biochim.
    Varela E, Bockle B, Romero A, Martinez AT, Martinez MJ.
    Biophys. Acta, 1476:129-38. 2000.

  • Molecular cloning of aryl-alcohol oxidase from the fungus Pleurotus eryngii, an enzyme involved in lignin degradation.
    Varela E. Martinez AT, Martinez MJ.
    Biochem. J., 341: 113-117. 1999.

  • Progress in biopulping of non-woody materials: Chemical, enzymatic and ultrastructural aspects of wheat straw dlignification with ligninolytic fungy from the genus Pleurotus.
    Martinez AT, Camarero S, Guillén F, Gutierrez A, Muñoz C, Varela E, Martinez MJ, Barrasa JM Ruel K, Pelayo JM.
    FEMS Microbiol. Rev., 13: 265-274. 1994.

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