We are motivated by an important open question in animal evolution: how did the morphogenetic mechanisms of animal development first evolve? What was the morphology of the first multicellular precursors of animals, how was it established during development, and how did it evolve? We address these questions by studying choanoflagellates, the closest living relatives of animals, which bridge the gap between unicellular and multicellular lifestyles. Choanoflagellates have a polarized cell architecture – comparable to the one of epithelial cells – whose most conspicuous element is the collar complex, a ring of microvilli surrounding the apical flagellum. As a similar collar complex is found in the cells of sponges and other marine invertebrates, it has often been hypothesized to have been present in the single-celled ancestors of animals. Yet, this inference remains uncertain in the absence of detailed molecular knowledge on collar composition and morphogenesis. The successful candidate will characterize the composition, regulation, function and self-assembly of the choanoflagellate collar complex by a combination of omic approaches (RNA-seq, proteomics) and functional genetics (CRISPR/Cas9, transgenesis). This will yield fundamental insights both into the logic of single-cell morphogenesis and into the origin of animal cell architecture.
We also welcome spontaneous applications and candidate-driven projects related to any of our research directions: see here for a list.
Applicants should hold (or expect shortly) a PhD in life sciences and have a background in cell biology, developmental biology, molecular biology, evolutionary biology, or biochemistry. Bioinformatic skills are not necessary but would be a plus. Prior experience working with choanoflagellates or other protists it not necessary.
The successful candidate will join the team “Evolutionary cell biology and evolution of animal morphogenesis” headed by Thibaut Brunet in the Department of Cell Biology and Infection. The successful candidate will benefit from the support of the principal investigator (who has extensive experience culturing and studying choanoflagellates) and of a research technician who will assist with choanoflagellate culture and functional genetics. The Institut Pasteur is located in the center of Paris and houses outstanding facilities for sequencing, imaging, biochemistry and bioinformatics that provide access to state-of-the-art technology. The successful candidate will thus be integrated in a highly collaborative and supportive environment and will have the opportunity to develop multiple skills as well as to study a fundamental biological question in an integrative fashion.
How to apply?
The position will start between March and May 2022. The position is funded for 3 years and is extendable through application to postdoctoral fellowships and pending funding requests. Applications should be sent to thibaut.brunet[at]pasteur.fr and include a CV, a brief motivation letter and the contacts of 2 or 3 referees. Deadline: January 31st, 2022, but the earlier the better.