We are exploiting the simple marine invertebrate Trichoplax adhaerens as a model organism to study the morphogenesis and dynamics of epithelial tissues. T. adhaerens is characterised by a high morphological plasticity and an extremely high wound repair capacity. It has been shown that several neuropeptides secreted by Trichoplax gland cells can influence the dynamic behaviour of its epithelia, but the cellular and molecular basis of this phenomenon remains completely unexplored. We will adopt a variety of experimental approaches (microsurgery, laser ablation, pharmacological treatments, gene expression studies, immunofluorescence, confocal videomicroscopy, mathematical modelling) to study the cellular and molecular phenomena underlying the neuropeptide-controlled epithelial plasticity in Trichoplax. Particular attention will be devoted to the role of the actin cytoskeleton. The study of such a highly derived organism will shed light on some of the extreme adaptations of epithelial organization common to all metazoans, leading to a better understanding of the evolutionary history of epithelia and their interactions with the nervous system.
Applicants should have a background in developmental or cell biology, with a strong interest in quantitative aspects of biology.
The project is suitable for biologists with a strong interest in quantitative biology, or physicists with a strong motivation to perform biological experiments. A passion for studying the evolution of marine organisms and prior knowledge of the fundamentals of neuropeptide signalling would be an advantage. The ability to communicate in English is mandatory.
The successful candidate will work within a multidisciplinary team including a research director, three research fellows, a postdoctoral fellow, a research engineer and a PhD student. The team and the institute have all the expertise and tools necessary for the successful completion of the thesis. The doctoral student will benefit from a very high-level scientific environment, and the progress of his/her work will be followed by a thesis monitoring committee. The candidate will be able to present/discuss his/her results on a weekly basis during meetings with the supervisor, but also during team meetings and institute seminars. As soon as possible, he/she will be encouraged to present his/her work at scientific conferences. All tasks will be carried out within the ‘Evolution and morphogenesis of epithelia’ team of IBDM, with leading expertise in cell and molecular biology, image analysis and quantitative approaches. The student will be supervised mainly by the project leader, A. Pasini (CRCN CNRS), who has extensive experience in cell and molecular biology of aquatic models (zebrafish, Ciona, Xenopus), as well as by an IR with expertise in cell biology and imaging. The work will benefit from the world-class infrastructure (especially in the field of imaging) and the highly interactive environment of IBDM. The safety of the working environment is guaranteed by the health and safety department of IBDM. The feasibility of the project will be guaranteed by the financial resources already allocated to the team, as well as by future funding applications. For more information see also TheNode