MCB Faculty

Fabien Pinaud

Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, Chemistry and Physics and Astronomy

Contact Information
Phone: (213) 740-2262
Office: RRI 204A

Personal Website


  • B.S. Biomedical Sciences, Nottingham Trent University (UK), 6/1999
  • Ph.D. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of California Los Angeles, 6/2007

  • Postdoctoral Training

    • Marie Curie and EMBO Post-Doctoral Fellow, Ecole Normale SupĂ©rieure, Departments of Biology and Physics, Paris (France), 07/01/2007-07/01/2011  

    Academic Appointment, Affiliation, and Employment History

    Tenure Track Appointments
    • Assistant Professor in Biological Sciences and Chemistry, University of Southern California, 08/16/2011-  
    Visiting and Temporary Appointments
    • Assistyant Professor / Joint Appointment Faculty, USC Physics and Astronomy Department, 06/01/2012-  
    • Assistant Professor / Joint Appointment Faculty, USC Chemistry Department, 01/01/2012-  
    Other Employment
    • Member, USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, 06/01/2012-  

    Description of Research

    Summary Statement of Research Interests
    Professor Fabien Pinaud is the Principal Investigator of the Single Molecule Biophotonics Group. The Pinaud Lab focuses on using a variety of single molecule microscopy techniques to study how nanoscale cellular compartments modulate the diffusion and the activity of proteins involved in normal and pathological cellular signaling and responses. We also develops ultra-sensitive imaging probes that quantitatively report and influence biomolecular interactions in living cells and animals. Some of these probes have potential applications for cancer diagnostics and therapeutics.
    Research Keywords
    Cell and Molecular biology, Biophysics, Chemical biology, Nanoscience, Optics, Fluorescence microscopy, Molecular imaging, Single molecule detection, Quantum dots, Fluorescent proteins, Protein tracking, Quantitative imaging, Super-resolution imaging, Photoactivation, Protein manipulation, Plasma and Nuclear membranes, Microdomains and cavities, Signaling, Cancer.
    Detailed Statement of Research Interests

    The lab studies how spatially defined nanoscale subcellular compartments influence the diffusion, the location, the interactions, and thus the activity of biomolecules in living cells and tissues. We are particularly interested in understanding how plasma and nuclear membrane scaffolds, microdomains and cavities modulate the diffusion and the activity of proteins involved in normal and pathogenic intracellular signaling. At the nanoscale, membrane compartments can accommodate discrete biomolecular interactions that deviate from the classical laws of mass action at the ensemble level, thereby allowing few copies of biomolecules to influence whole cell processes.

    To resolve the spatial organization and the dynamics of such nanoscale processes involving so few biomolecules, we employ a variety of laser-based single molecule fluorescence techniques such as super-resolution microscopy imaging by PALM or dSTORM, single protein tracking using fluorophores, fluorescent proteins and quantum dots or FRET imaging. These techniques allow us to image nanoscale compartments, track signaling proteins and detect biomolecular interactions in cells with a spatial resolution of a few nanometers.

    We also develop new ultra-sensitive imaging probes that quantitatively report and influence such nanoscale interactions in both living cells and animals. Some of these probes, based on nanoparticle surface engineering and photonic amplification, will have direct applications for cancer cell targeting, detection and treatment.

    Our group is highly interdisciplinary as we work at the interface between cell and molecular biology, biological chemistry, biophysics, nanomaterial sciences and optical imaging. By merging ideas and tools from these different fields, we seek to gain new insight into the molecular mechanisms that govern nanostructures/protein function relationships in the context of signal processing, integration and regulation during cellular decision-making. We also aim at providing advanced nanoprobes for cancer diagnostics and therapeutics.

  • Department of Biological Sciences
  • University of Southern California
  • Allan Hancock Foundation Building
  • Los Angeles, CA 90089-0371