Vicent Pelechano

Vicente Pelechano Garcia

Principal researcher

Research description

Genomic dissection of non-genetic cellular heterogeneity

One of the biggest challenges in biology is to understand how apparently identical cells respond differently to the same stimulus. In some cases, this differential behaviour can be explained by alterations of their genetic material, however in other cases identical (clonal) cells can also display phenotypically heterogeneous responses. We use state of the art genomic technologies to study the regulatory mechanism leading to the appearance of divergent gene expression programs in clonal population.

In the last decades, the biomedical field has suffered a revolution thanks to the development of the massive parallel sequencing technologies. Now we can obtain the complete genetic information of a person and analyse how this information is being used in a few days and with a limited cost. This technology makes possible a kind of research that was unthinkable a few years back. Our group, combining experimental and computational work, aims to develop and apply novel genome-wide techniques to address fundamental biological questions with medical implications. We are especially interested in how subtle variations in gene expression can lead to differential cellular phenotypes in humans and microorganism. Specifically, we investigate:

1. Molecular bases of non-genetic cellular heterogeneity: We focus on understanding how single-cell variability, cellular plasticity and transcriptional memory contribute to the appearance of drug-tolerant cancer persister cells (i.e. those cells that, although genetically sensitive to a drug, do not respond to it). To reach that goal we combine the dissection of genetic factors controlling non-genetic heterogeneity with the development of novel genome-wide technologies to study this process.

2. Crosstalk between ribosome dynamics and mRNA degradation. We have previously shown how the existence of widespread co-translational mRNA degradation allows to study ribosome dynamics by sequencing mRNA degradation intermediates (5P-Seq). Using that work as staring point, we to dissect the molecular crosstalk between mRNA degradation and ribosome dynamics in multiple organisms. We are characterizing how alterations in the translation process modulates mRNA stability and explore the utility of mRNA degradation signatures as reporters for cellular fitness in multiple organisms (from bacteria to cancer cells). We are particularly interested to use this technology as a new molecular reporter to investigate antibiotic response in complex bacterial samples.

3. Novel tools for molecular diagnosis. We are using our genomics expertise to improve and develop new molecular diagnosis and clinical genomic tools. We develop sequencing-based approaches to improve cancer-patient stratification and to accelerate the diagnosis of antimicrobial resistant infections.

Our group is affiliated to MTC and the Science for Life Laboratory ( where our lab is located. External group homepage:

Photo credit of my portrait: Magnus Bergström

Teaching portfolio

Since 2018 I co-direct the Karolinska PhD course “Genomics for Biomedical scientist: Handle your gene expression data (3230)”,  co-directed with my MTC/SciLifeLab colleague Dr. Claudia Kutter.

In addition, I teach in multiple Master and PhD courses in the field of Genomics, Gene Expression and Epigenetics.


2003 Biochemistry Graduate. University of Valencia, Spain.

2009 PhD in Molecular Biology.University of Valencia, Spain.

2009-2012 Postdoctoral training at EMBL Genome Biology Unit. Heidelberg. Germany

2012-2015 Staff Scientist at EMBL Genome Biology Unit. Heidelberg. Germany

2016-2020 Assistant Professor and Group Leader. Karolinska Institutet. Department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology (MTC)