Team members

Polarization and binary cell fate decisions in the nervous system

We are analyzing how the divisions of neuronal progenitors are regulated and how differentiated neurons are produced in a robust manner.

Neurons are often generated by asymmetric divisions of neuronal progenitors such as neural stem cells. During this process, a progenitor cell divides asymmetrically to generate two neurons with different identities, or one neuron and a new progenitor. In the nervous system, the asymmetric divisions of the different progenitors are tightly coordinated, implying a communication between cells. In addition, during nervous system development, a very precise set of different neuronal types is produced, meaning that their specification process has to be very robust.

Our team analyzes how the asymmetric divisions of neuronal progenitors are controlled and how various differentiated neuron types are produced in a robust manner. To address these questions we are using the nematode C. elegans as a model organism. C. elegans is a good system to study this process as its nervous system is simple and well characterized. In addition, in C. elegans, the lineage history of every neuron is known, the embryos are transparent and their development can be easily followed by 4D-videomicroscopy. The C. elegans system also offers numerous tools to dissect the molecular basis of biological processes such as genome-wide screens, transgenesis or CRISPR genome engineering. The combination of genome engineering and quantitative live imaging allows us to follow the dynamics of proteins and gene expression in vivo during nervous system development.

By characterizing the mechanisms controlling neuronal progenitor divisions and differentiation, our work may have an impact on the development of treatments against some types of cancer or neurodegenerative diseases.

Detection by smFISH of mRNAs for the neuronal transcription factor ttx-3 (green) in a C. elegans embryo.


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of the team

Lab members

They drive our research


They contributed to our research
Ute Rothbächer
Assistant Professor, University of Innsbruck, Austria
Guillaume Bordet
Postdoc, University North Dakota, USA
Pauline Mélénec
Research Assistant, EPFL, Lausanne, Switzerland
Shilpa Kaur
Postdoc, University of Chicago, USA
Sabrina Murgan
Medical Writer, La Timone Hospital, Marseille
Konstantina Filippopoulou
Postdoc, Institut Jacques Monod, Paris

Funding bodies

They support our research