Gonçalo Castelo-Branco Group

Our research group is interested in the molecular mechanisms defining the epigenetic state of stem/progenitor cells. We are particularly focused on how interplay between transcription factors, non-coding RNAs and chromatin modifying enzymes contributes to the transition between epigenetic states in oligodendrocyte precursor cells, with the aim to design epigenetic based-therapies to induce regeneration (remyelination) in demyelinating diseases, such as multiple sclerosis.

Associate professor

Goncalo Castelo-Branco

Phone: +46-(0)8-524 879 36
Organizational unit: Goncalo Castelo Brancos group
E-mail: Goncalo.Castelo-Branco@ki.se

Twitter: @GoCasteloBranco


January 2018

Gonçalo is organising together with Katja Petzold, Alessandra Villa and Claudia Kutter the second edition of the EMBO Workshop RNA: Structure meets Function.

December 2017

November 2017: David’s and Eneritz’s open access review on single cell transcriptomics on oligodendrocytes in Current Opinion in Neurobiology

September 2017: Sueli's, Darya’s and David’s preprint in BioRxiv on single-cell RNA-Seq of oligodendrocyte progenitors, suggesting transcriptional convergence during development

July 2017: Swedish Brain Foundation grant to GCB group

November 2016: Gonçalo awarded with 5-years faculty funded career position as Senior Researcher by the Board of Research of Karolinska Institutet

September 2016: Gonçalo receives grant under the Ming Wai Lau Centre for Reparative Medicine, Karolinska Institutet’s new research centre for regenerative medicine.

June 2016: Paper in Science on oligodendrocyte heterogeneity, by Sueli and Amit (Linnarsson’s lab) et al.

January 2016: Gonçalo receives ERC Consolidator Grant

Research Area

All cells in a given organism are derived from a single cell (zygote) and thereby share an identical genome. Additional layers of epigenetic information overlaid on the genome achieve the plethora of cellular phenotypes present in development and in the adult body. This epigenetic information is stored at the level of chromatin, the complex where nuclear DNA is packaged together with histones. DNA methylation and post-translational modifications at histones define the epigenetic state of a cell and ultimately cell fate, by controlling key processes, including transcription. Non-coding RNAs have also emerged recently as key regulators of chromatin and cell fate.

Oligodendrocytes insulate neuronal axons through their myelin containing membranes. Myelin allows the fast and efficient impulse transmission between neurons through saltatory conduction and is important for axonal integrity, thereby being essential for the proper functioning of the central nervous system. Several diseases, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), are characterized by abnormal or defective myelination. Spontaneous remyelination occurs at initial stages of MS, promoted by endogenous oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs). However, this process progressively starts occurring with less efficiency, until it eventually fails. Oligodendrocyte precursors (OPCs) start to be specified early during embryogenesis, in different areas of the embryonic brain, but their terminal differentiation and functional maturation occurs only at post-natal stages. The epigenetic state of OPCs define their ability to remain as a precursor cell, differentiate or even de-differentiate into a stem cell state or a glioma initiating cell state.

The main focus of our research group is to investigate how different epigenetic states in OPCs are established, by identifying key chromatin modifying complexes and non-coding RNAs that are involved in epigenetic transitions, using technologies such as RNA-Seq (single-cells and in FACS sorted OPCs) and quantitative proteomics, among others. We have so far uncover the role of specific histone deacetylases in the differentiation of neural stem cells into the oligodendrocyte lineage (Stem Cell Reports 2014), investigated the use of HDACs inhibitors and thyroid hormone in models of multiple sclerosis (Neurobiology of Disease 2014). We also performed single cell RNA-Seq and identified several cell states within the oligodendrocyte lineage (Science 2015, Science 2016, in press). We generated a web-interface, in collaboration with Sten Linnarson’s lab, where all the data can be browsed (Oligodendrocyte Single Cell RNA-Seq 2016).

Research environment

Our research group is based at the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics (MBB), at the Karolinska Institutet (KI), Stockholm, Sweden, within the Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology. This Research Division has presently 8 research groups, focused on several aspects of development, stem cell biology, neuroscience and cancer, providing a unique critical mass and expertize, and vibrant scientific environment. Our research group has access to state-of-the-art resources in molecular and cell biology, biochemistry, and cell imaging within the unit, at the MBB department and the National Core Facility SciLifeLab at the KI campus. Furthermore, KI is a university focused on biomedical sciences and the Nobel Assembly at KI annually awards the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. KI ranks as one of the world's leading medical universities, with around 600 research groups covering all medical fields.

Latest Publications

Birth, coming of age and death: The intriguing life of long noncoding RNAs.
Samudyata , Castelo-Branco G, Bonetti A
Semin. Cell Dev. Biol. 2017 Nov;():

Single-cell transcriptomic analysis of oligodendrocyte lineage cells.
van Bruggen D, Agirre E, Castelo-Branco G
Curr. Opin. Neurobiol. 2017 Dec;47():168-175
Open Access at CON

Oligodendrocyte heterogeneity in the mouse juvenile and adult central nervous system.
Marques S, Zeisel A, Codeluppi S, van Bruggen D, Mendanha Falcão A, Xiao L, et al
Science 2016 Jun;352(6291):1326-1329
News article at KI

Brain structure. Cell types in the mouse cortex and hippocampus revealed by single-cell RNA-seq.
Zeisel A, Muñoz-Manchado A, Codeluppi S, Lönnerberg P, La Manno G, Juréus A, et al
Science 2015 Mar;347(6226):1138-42

Acute treatment with valproic acid and l-thyroxine ameliorates clinical signs of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis and prevents brain pathology in DA rats.
Castelo-Branco G, Stridh P, Guerreiro-Cacais A, Adzemovic M, Falcão A, Marta M, et al
Neurobiol. Dis. 2014 Nov;71():220-33
Open Access Publication at Elsevier.

Neural stem cell differentiation is dictated by distinct actions of nuclear receptor corepressors and histone deacetylases.
Castelo-Branco G, Lilja T, Wallenborg K, Falcão A, Marques S, Gracias A, et al
Stem Cell Reports 2014 Sep;3(3):502-15
Open Access Publication at Cell Press.

Citrullination regulates pluripotency and histone H1 binding to chromatin.
Christophorou M, Castelo-Branco G, Halley-Stott R, Oliveira C, Loos R, Radzisheuskaya A, et al
Nature 2014 Mar;507(7490):104-8
News article at ki.se.

The non-coding snRNA 7SK controls transcriptional termination, poising, and bidirectionality in embryonic stem cells.
Castelo-Branco G, Amaral P, Engström P, Robson S, Marques S, Bertone P, et al
Genome Biol. 2013 ;14(9):R98
News article at KI.

The epigenetics of cancer: from non-coding RNAs to chromatin and beyond.
Castelo-Branco G, Bannister A
Brief Funct Genomics 2013 May;12(3):161-3
Editorial, article at bfg.oxfordjournals.org

Doctoral courses and Conferences

Epigenetics in the nervous system: development and disease

We are organizing a conference on Epigenetics in the nervous system: development and disease, together with Abcam and Dr. Ana Pombo. 1 - 3 October 2018, at Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.

Regulatory RNAs

Our lab has organized in 2013, 2014 and 2015 a doctoral course in Regulatory RNAs in Development, Disease and Evolution, together with Dr. Andrea Hinas  and Dr. Paulo Amaral. The 2013 edition took place at Karolinska and included a KI conference on the same topic. The 2014 edition took place at the University of Uppsala, Sweden, while the 2015 edition took place at Karolinska Institutet and included a KI conference on Regulatory RNAs and Chromatin.

The Developing Brain

Gonçalo has been co-organising a doctoral course on the topic "The Developing Brain", together with Dr. Jens Hjerling-Leffler and Dr. Ulrika Marklund. This course has been associated with KI conferences on the same topic in 2014, 20152016 and 2017.

Posters for the conference Developing Brains 2014 - 2017.

EMBO Workshop "RNA structure meets function"

Gonçalo co-organised in June 2016 an EMBO workshop in the Stockholm Archipelago "RNA structure meets function”, together with Dr. Katja Petzold and Dr. Alessandra Villa. The three of us and Dr. Claudia Kutter will be organising the second edition of the workshop in July 2018, for updates please check the workshop's website.


Webinar on Single-Cell RNA-Seq and cell heterogeneity in the central nervous system.

Vad är RNA? (in Swedish)

Talk at TEDxCoimbra: I only know that I know nothing: the importance of research in basic science (YouTube, in portuguese)


Research in our laboratory is/was funded/supported by:

European Research Council (Consolidator grant, Horizon 2020)

Swedish Research Council

Marie Curie Actions European Union 7th Framework Programme (FP7)

Swedish Brain Foundation

Åke Wibergs Foundation

Clas Groschinsky Foundation

Swedish Society of Medicine

Karolinska Institutet

European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS)

Petrus och Augusta Hedlunds Foundation

Bioinformatics Long Term Support (WABI)

Ming Wai Lau Centre for Reparative Medicine


ALF Medicine, Stockholms läns landsting

Research group

Goncalo Castelo-Branco Principle Investigator
Ana Mendanha Falcao Post-doctoral fellow
Elisa Floriddia Post-doctoral fellow
Marek Bartosovic Post-doctoral fellow
Eneritz Agirre Post-doctoral fellow
Alessandro Bonetti Post-doctoral fellow
Mandy Meijer PhD Student
Samudyata PhD student
David van Bruggen PhD student
Rashid Holtinkoski Project student
Ka Lee Master Student

Goncalo Castelo-Branco research group.

Previous post-doctoral fellows

  • Sueli Marques

Previous project/bachelor/master students

  • Marjan Abbasi
  • Gloria Chen
  • Filip Cvetko
  • Helena Francis
  • Kedir Hamza
  • Iris Muller
  • Atul Paulson
  • Theresa Mader
  • Fatemah Rezayee
  • Abdirahman Farah
  • Diana Hernandez
  • João Santos
  • Wouter Beenker
  • Abeer Heskol
  • Bastienne Zaremba
  • Shupei Zhang


Ad-hoc applications are welcome. Please e-mail Gonçalo at Goncalo.Castelo-Branco@ki.se.

Lab Social


Group picture of the group on the ice with curling equipment. Photo: private.


The Castelo Branco group, wearing helmets and high-visibility vests in Biomedicum.

The Castelo Branco group, wearing helmets and high-visibility vests in Biomedicum.

Lab Retreat at Fotografiska, October 2017.

Lab Retreat at Fotografiska, October 2017.

Marek, Sam and Gonçalo at the meeting of the RNA Society of Sweden in Skåne, September 2017.

Gonçalo, Ana and David at Euroglia 2017, July 2017.

Farewell barbecue to João, Wouter and Abeer.

Molneuro retreat 2017.


Goncalo-Castelo-Branco group having christmas dinner in 2016

Curling kickoff 2016 with Hjerling-Leffler's, Marklund's and Linnarsson’s groups