Team members

Evolution and Morphogenesis of Epithelia

Our team investigates the origin and evolution of the defining features of epithelial tissues (intercellular junctions, apico-basal polarity, basement membrane) and the biomechanical cues that control them.

Epithelia are layers of apico-basally and planar polarized cells, connected through intercellular junctions and resting on a basal lamina. This organization allows the epithelia to resist to internal and/or external stresses, as well as to define a medium compartimentalization necessary for homeostasis. The formation of epithelia has thus been instrumental for animals to appear and evolve in all the diversity of shapes that we can observe today. The goal of our team is to understand how epithelia were first formed during evolution and how their features are conserved or modified from sponges to human. Since epithelia express many genes involved in either the formation of cell-cell junctions or in the establishment of cell polarity we are investigating their role using state-of-the-art techniques in molecular, cellular and tissue biology. We have shown that many genes essential for building junctions and apico-basal polarity in human and whose mutations are associated with cancers are already present in sponges that appeared between 600 and 800 M years ago. Our work on human intestinal epithelial cells is showing that polarity proteins such as PAR6B or CRB3 are necessary for these cells to organize as single monolayers or to modulate their internal actin cytoskeleton to migrate. We are now investigating the role of these molecules in the transmission of forces between epithelial cells using state-of-the-art physical approaches. In addition, we are deciphering the composition of junctions in both a sponge from the Marseille bay area and in a placozoan to understand how these structures have appeared and evolved during animal evolution. By taking these different approaches we hope to answer some important questions in animal cell biology.
Drosophila suzukii assesses the quality of a ripe cherry before deciding where to lay an egg


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of the team

Team members

They drive our research


They contributed to our research
Pierre Mangeol
Lecturer, AMU
Juliette Raitière
Private company
Benoît Aigouy
Céline Burcklé
Lecturer, Rennes
Christopher Toret
Post-doc, Suisse
Veronika Aksenova
Private company, Russie
Pauline Salis
Post-doc, Suisse
Emilie Pallesi
Enginieer Inserm
Marion Sangiardi
Technicienne CNRS
Giovanna Mottola
Lecturer, AMU
Clément Ricard
Lecturer, Paris
Richard Roy
professeur, Mc Gill

Funding bodies

They support our research