morphogenesis, cell fate transitions and patterning dynamics in living flies
Looking at living organisms is an ever-ending source of wonders and questions. Looking at embryos under the microscope, we see cells adopting unique identities and beautiful shapes. They form tissues of reproducible size and shape and produce stereotyped patterns of cel fates. Looking at living adults, we see cells responding to environmental and physiological cues to maintain tissues in face of the insults of time and injuries. So, how do all these developmental events happen in a stereotyped, hence predictable, manner?
Of course, we can only see what we understand (see video below from famous research by J. Piaget), so describing is already one first step towards understanding. And as shape determines function, a better understanding of shape formation at various scales (cells, tissues…) is critical for a mechanistic understanding of physiology in normal and disease contexts.
While our research is largely curiosity- and observation-driven, we would like to go beyond observations and try to decipher the inner logic of these living processes. To make this possible, our laboratory is using fruit flies. This organism has been extremely useful to discover many of the important genes that are conserved in all animals, including humans, to build and maintain tissues. In the post-genomic era, fruit flies are very useful to study the fundamental principles of living systems as they provide outstanding tools to examine in a rapid and cost-efficient manner and with unsurpassed temporal and spatial resolutions the effects of controlled perturbations. We are therefore using and developing approaches in genome engineering, microscopy and computational biology to observe, measure, perturb (mostly through controlled genetic perturbations) and model a few specific cell fate transition and patterning events which involve cell-cell interactions mediated by the Notch receptor.
Our current research aims at understanding how neural stem cells are produced via coordinated changes in cell fate and morphology at the tissue level; how Notch receptor activation is regulated in vivo, notably in the context of asymmetric cell division; and how cells self-organize via cell-cell interactions mediated by Notch to produce stereotyped patterns of cell fates (see projects and recent publications below).
The lab at La Table, October 2021