Team members

Genetic control of heart development

Our team studies heart development in order to identify biological mechanisms underlying organogenesis, regeneration and congenital disease.

Learning how organs form in the embryo is essential to understand the origins of congenital disease and to develop approaches for repairing adult tissue after damage. The heart is the first organ to form and function in the embryo and cardiac development involves complex interactions between genes, progenitor cell populations and inter-cellular signaling events. This complexity is reflected in the fact that congenital heart defects affect 1 in 100 births. Our group studies heart development in the mouse, where the developmental sequence of events is very similar to that in humans, focusing on two critical areas.

Firstly, we investigate the growth of the embryonic heart by progressive addition of myocardium from progenitor cells known as the second heart field (SHF). SHF derived parts of the heart are hotspots for common congenital heart defects. We study the properties of SHF cells and the mechanisms driving their deployment to the heart. The genetic program of the SHF is shared with head muscle progenitor cells, and we also investigate how a common program diverges to give rise to heart and head muscle.

Secondly, we study the development of the cardiac conduction system that forms the electrical wiring of the heart and coordinates the heartbeat. The conduction system is derived from common progenitor cells with contractile cardiomyoctyes of the heart and we investigate the cellular and genetic mechanisms required for the establishment of these specialized myocytes during normal development and under pathological conditions.

Immunofluorescence showing gene expression in the heart and adjacent pharyngeal apparatus in a sagittal section of a mouse embryo at embryonic day 9.5. The expression of Tbx1 (pharyngeal mesoderm and endoderm) is shown in blue, Isl1 (second heart field and pharyngeal epithelia) in green, Vegfr2 (endothelial cells) in red and nuclei in grey. Blood cells appear in yellow (picture: Estelle Jullian).

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Alumni

They contributed to our research
Adachi Noritaka
Assistant Professor, Tokyo Medical and Dental University, Tokyo, Japan
Choquet Caroline
Post-doc, Lescroart lab, Marseille Medical Genetics Unit, Inserm UMR_S910, Medical School, Aix-Marseille University, Marseille
Cortes Claudio
Post-doc, Riley lab, Department of Physiology, Anatomy & Genetics, University of Oxford, UK
De Bono Christopher
Post-doc, Morrow lab, Department of Genetics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York, USA
Francou Alexandre
Post-doc, Hadjantonakis lab, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, SKI, Developmental Biology Department, 430 E 67th St, New York, NY10065, USA
Mesbah Karim
Manager of the functional exploration platform at the l’IGF-IGH, Montpellier.
Rochais Francesca
Group leader, Marseille Medical Genetics Unit, Inserm UMRS910, Medical School, Aix-Marseille University, Marseille
Theveniau-Ruissy, Magali
Research Scientist, Rochais lab, Marseille Medical Genetics Unit, Inserm UMRS910, Medical School, Aix-Marseille University, Marseille

Funding bodies

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