We are looking for candidates wishing to apply to a CENTURI Program PhD fellowship to work on the cell biology of epithelia in the emerging model Trichoplax.Trichoplax is a small marine animal with a flat body (about 2mm in diameter and 25micron thick) composed of a few thousand cells organized in two epithelial sheets. One striking feature of Trichoplax is its morphological plasticity, single individuals being able to dramatically change their body shape in a few minutes. Despite the absence of a defined nervous system, several neuropeptides belonging to different families (Insulin-like, Endomorphin-like, YYamide, RWamide, SIFGamide, etc) are produced by scattered secretory cells and modulate the animal shape and behaviour. The project aims at exploring how neuropeptides affect the shape changes and collective movements of Trichoplax epithelial cells, eliciting distinct, rapid and reversible effects such as shrinking, flattening and increase or arrest of the intra-epithelial cell movements. A panel of experimental, computational and modelling approaches will be used to study how different selected neuropeptides affect the shape and collective behaviour of Trichoplax epithelial cells.
The project is highly interdisciplinary as it combines experimental biology, advanced tracking approaches and mathematical modelling. This combination has never been applied to Trichoplax and promises to shed light on the individual cell- and collective behaviours underlying the whole-body shape changes induced by neuropeptides in this basally-diverging animal.
All tasks will be carried out at the Marseille institute for Developmental Biology (IBDM), with leading expertise in cell and molecular biology, image analysis and quantitative approaches. The supervisors of the project have complementary background to cover project mentoring and significant experience in interdisciplinary research: developmental and cell biology of aquatic organisms for A. Pasini, in silico modelling applied to biological problems for R. Clément and computer vision methods for analysis of biodynamics for P. Roudot.