Michael Borg

Development and Chromatin Biology in Red Algae

Max Planck Insitute for Biology
Faculty in: TIPP


  • PhD, University of Leicester, UK (2010)
  • BBSRC-funded Postdoc, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK (2011-2014)
  • Lise Meitner Fellow and Senior Postdoc, Gregor Mendel Institute, Vienna, Austria (2014-2020)
  • Group Leader, Department of Algal Development and Evolution, MPI for Biology, Tübingen, Germany (since 2021)

Research Interest

The development of complex multicellular organisms is controlled through the interplay of both genetic and chromatin-based information. Although the impact of these molecular process on animal and plant development is well-understood, their function and relevance in marine algae is largely unexplored. Our newly-formed group aims to tackle these questions by leveraging an interdisciplinary approach using bulk and single-cell genomics, cell biology, biochemistry, and evolutionary biology in model organisms of brown and red algae. Our main focus is red algae, an ancient eukaryotic phylum of aquatic organisms within the Plant kingdom that date back at least 1.2 billion years. They played a key role in the evolution of life on our planet by being the ancient donor of plastids to other major groups of algae like dinoflagellates, diatoms and brown algae. Given that they form a divergent lineage that is sister to all green algae and plants, red algae also make a compelling case study for comparative evolutionary studies within the Plant kingdom. Despite their unique phylogenetic position, their ancient origins and the essential role they play in aquatic ecosystems, virtually nothing is known about red algae at a molecular level. Our goal is to tackle the genetics and epigenetics underlying development and reproduction in this fascinating group of eukaryotes, which we aim to place in a broader light through comparative studies with their green cousins to reveal the evolutionary forces that drove the diversity of developmental strategies across the Plant kingdom.


Filamentous red algae







Red algae life cycle.








Available PhD Projects in the TIPP:

  • Epigenetic reprogramming in the red algal life history: Red algae are a diverse group of marine algae that form a distinct eukaryotic lineage within the Plant kingdom. Like plants, red algae also undergo an alternation of generations during their life history, but they are unique among eukaryotes in that they express three distinct life forms. Navigation through this complex life history involves the differentiation of complex organs that support a sophisticated mode of sexual reproduction that rivals that seen in land plants. Despite this, nothing is known about red algal development at a molecular level, while many other aspects of biology in red algae remain virtually unexplored. This project aims to establish a novel model organism to study molecular and developmental biology in red algae and ultimately determine how the epigenome influences their fascinating reproduction and unique life history.

Before registering to apply please check that you meet our requirements and familiarize yourself with the application process.

For more information please have a look at the detailed job description.


Selected Reading

  • Vigneau, J. and Borg, M., 2021. The epigenetic origin of life history transitions in plants and algae. Plant Reproduction, 34(4): 267-285.
  • Borg, M., Papareddy, R.K., Dombey, R., Axelsson, E., Nodine, M.D., Twell, D. and Berger, F., 2021. Epigenetic reprogramming rewires transcription during the alternation of generations in Arabidopsis. Elife, 10: e61894.
  • Borg, M., Jiang, D. and Berger, F. Histone variants take center stage in shaping the epigenome. 2021. Current Opinion in Plant Biology, 61: 101991.
  • Borg, M., Jacob, Y., Susaki, D., LeBlanc, C., Buendia, D., Axelsson, E., Kawashima, T., Voigt, P., Boavida, L.C., Becker, J.D., Higashiyama, T., Martienssen, R. and Berger,. F. 2020. Targeted reprogramming of H3K27me3 resets epigenetic memory in plant paternal chromatin. Nature Cell Biology, 22(6): 621.
  • Jiang, D., Borg, M., Lorković, Z.J., Montgomery, S.A., Osakabe, A., Yelagandula, R., Axelsson, E. and Berger, F., 2020. The evolution and functional divergence of the histone H2B family in plants. PLoS Genetics, 16(7): p.e1008964.


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