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Hélène MARTIN-YKENChargée de Recherches



Academic Researcher at INRA, the French National Institute for Agricultural Research.


+689 89 52 31 88

helene.martin @ insa-toulouse.fr


Nationality: French. 



Engineering Diploma from the National Institute of Applied Sciences. First of promotion.

PhD Thesis with honours, from the National Institute of Applied Sciences (INSA) and University of Toulouse, France.

Post-doctoral research position Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA.

Habilitation à Diriger des Recherches Degree, National Polytechnic Institute (INP) Toulouse.

Domains of Expertise

Genetics, Molecular Biology, Biochemistry

Eukaryotic Micro-organisms, Cell wall, Stress Response, Toxins, Drugs

Model and Pathogenic Yeasts

Emerging Marine Toxins, Biosensors




Cell Wall Synthesis and Stress Response in the model yeast S. cerevisiae.

Specifically: mechanisms of cell integrity maintenance and cell wall adaptation upon heat, mechanical or osmotic stress and exposure to drugs involving cellular signal transduction pathways, from sensors cell wall proteins to gene expression.

Investigation of fungal cell wall biophysics by Atomic Force Microscopy.

Characterization of cell surface topology and physical characteristics at the nanoscale.

Use of AFM technology to describe and quantify the effects on fungal cell wall of several stresses: heat shock (Pillet et al., 2014), Caspofungin treatment (Formosa et al., 2013, A.A.C.), osmotic shock (Ene et al., 2015) and exposure to Killer toxin (Liu et al., 2015).

Development of new Single Molecule Force Spectroscopy (SMFS) strategies using AFM and Optical Tweezers to measure interaction forces taking place between single cells and other elements, to detect and map receptors, enzymes, adhesins, or any other molecules on living cells. Specific mapping of Ha-tagged proteins at the surface of different cell types, including S. cerevisiae yeast cells undergoing sexual differentiation (Formosa et al., 2015) ; characterization of C. albicans new adhesins (Cabral, 2014. PLoS Path), role of Knr4/Smi1 in S. cerevisiae and C. albicans (Martin-Yken et al., 2016, 2018).


Development of new biosensors for Marine Toxins. Taking advantage of the high level of conservation of signaling pathways within the eukaryotic kingdom, we have engineered new biosensor strains based on the detection of a transcriptional signal activated in the model yeast S. cerevisiae to detect emerging marine toxins, at the moment specifically Ciguatoxins. These strains are tested on purified toxins and natural contaminated micro-algae extracts, and the results compared with standard analytical methods. Contaminated fish samples from different origins will further be used for method validation assays. (Martin-Yken et al., 2018 Environmental Research). Characterization of the molecular binding of these complex toxins on mammalian voltage gated sodium channels by SMFS. 




Martin-Yken H., Bedekovic T., Brand A. C., Richard M.  L., Znaidi S., d'Enfert Ch., Dague E. 2018. A conserved fungal hub protein involved in adhesion and drug resistance in the human pathogen Candida albicans. The Cell Surface. DOI: 10.1016/j.tcsw.2018.10.002


Martin-Yken H., Gironde C., Derick S., Darius H.T., Furger C., Laurent D. and Chinain M. 2018. Ciguatoxins activate the Calcineurin signalling pathway in Yeasts: a perspective for future detection tool? Environmental Research (162) 144-151. DOI: 10.1016/j.envres.2017.12.022


Formosa-Dague C., Castelain M., Martin-Yken H., Dunker K., Dague E., Sletmoen M. 2018 Review. The Role of Glycans in Bacterial Adhesion to Mucosal Surfaces: How Can Single-Molecule Techniques Advance Our Understanding? Microorganisms DOI: 10.3390/microorganisms6020039


Martin-Yken, H. Francois, J.-M. ; Zerbib, D. 2016. Knr4: a disordered hub protein at the heart of fungal cell wall signalling. Full Review Article.  Cellular Microbiology, 18, (9), 11. DOI: 10.1111/cmi.12618


Schiavone M., Formosa-Dague C., Elsztein C., Teste M-A., Martin-Yken H., De Morais Jr. M. A., Dague E. and François J. M. 2016. Evidence for a Role for the Plasma Membrane in the Nanomechanical Properties of the Cell Wall as Revealed by an Atomic Force Microscopy Study of the Response of Saccharomyces cerevisiae to Ethanol Stress. Applied Environmental Microbiology, 82 (15): 4789. DOI: 10.1128/AEM.01213-16


Ene, I. ; Walker, L. ; Schiavone, M. ; Lee, K. K. ; Martin-Yken, H. ; Dague, E. ; Gow, N. A. ; Munro, C. A. ; Brown, A. J. P. 2015. Cell wall remodeling enzymes modulate fungal cell wall elasticity and osmotic stress resistance. mBio, 6 (4). DOI: 10.1128/mBio.00986-15


Liu J., C. Formosa, Schiavone M., Dague E., François J.M. and Martin-Yken H. 2015. Combining Atomic Force Microscopy and genetics to investigate the role of Knr4 in Saccharomyces cerevisiae sensitivity to K9 Killer toxin. Letters in Applied NanoBioScience, 4 (4), 2015, 306-315.


Julien S., Tondl P., Durand F., Dagkessamanskaia A., van Tilbeurgh H., François J.M., Mourey L. , Zerbib D., Martin-Yken H. and Maveyraud L. 2015. Crystallographic studies of the structured core domain of Knr4 from Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Acta Cryst. F71, 1120. DOI: 10.1107/S2053230X15012522

Liu J., Martin-Yken H., Bigey F., Dequin S., François J.M., Capp J.P. Genome Biology and Evolution. 2015. Natural yeast promoter variants reveal epistasis in the generation of transcriptional-mediated noise and its potential benefit in stressful conditions. Genome Biology and Evolution, 7 (4): 969-984. DOI: 10.1093/gbe/evv047

Formosa C., Lachaize V., Galés C., Rols M.P., Martin‐Yken H., François J.M., Duval R.E., Dague E. 2015. Mapping HA-tagged protein at the surface of living cells by atomic force microscopy. Journal of Molecular Recognition; 28(1). DOI: 10.1002/jmr.2407

Cabral V., Znaidi S., Walker L. A, Martin-Yken H., Dague E., Legrand M., Lee K., Chauvel M., Firon A., Rossignol T., Richard M. L, Munro C. A, Bachellier-Bassi S., d'Enfert Ch. 2014. Targeted changes of the cell wall proteome influence Candida albicans ability to form single and multi -strain biofilms. PLoS Pathogens 10 (12), DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1004542

Walther T., Letisse F., Peyriga L., Alkim C., Liu Y., Lardenois A., Martin-Yken H., Portais J.C., Primig M., François J. M. 2014. Developmental stage dependent metabolic regulation during meiotic differentiation in budding yeast. BMC Biology, 12(1):60. DOI: 10.1186/s12915-014-0060

Schiavone M., Vax A., Formosa C., Martin‐Yken H., Dague E., François J.M. 2014. A combined chemical and enzymatic method to determine quantitatively the polysaccharide components in the cell wall of yeasts. FEMS Yeast Research 14(6). DOI: 10.1111/1567-1364.12182

Pillet F., Lemonier S., Schiavone M., Formosa C., Martin-Yken H., Francois J. M., Dague E. 2014. Uncovering by Atomic Force Microscopy of an original circular structure at the yeast cell surface in response to heat shock. BMC Biology . 12(1):6. DOI: 10.1186/1741-7007-12-6

François J.M., C. Formosa, Schiavone M., Pillet F., Martin-Yken H., Dague E. 2013. Current Genetics. Use of atomic force microscopy (AFM) to explore cell wall properties and response to stress in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. DOI: 10.1007/s00294-013-0411-0

Formosa C., Schiavone M., Martin-Yken H., François J. M., Duval R. E., Dague E. 2013. Nanoscale effects of Caspofungin against two yeast species, Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Candida albicans. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy; 57(8). DOI: 10.1128/AAC.00105-13