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Morphogenesis of early embryos: mechanisms underlying collective cell behaviours in vivo

Supervisor: Bénédicte Sanson

We are offering a number of projects that investigate the basic mechanisms by which embryos and organs acquire their complex tri-dimensional shapes, a process called morphogenesis. We study this problem by considering not only the role of genetic programs in shaping tissues, but also the physical environment of the embryo, for example how the embryonic architecture imposes stresses or constrains cell behaviours. To integrate both genetic and physical mechanisms, our approaches include developmental genetics, confocal imaging, image analysis and computational modelling, the latter working closely with interdisciplinary collaborators. We take advantage of the Drosophila embryo model, which is easy to image live and to manipulate genetically. We image live embryos labelled with fluorescent proteins to analyse the behaviour of the cytoskeleton, the changes in cell shapes and the movement of cells relative to each other. We focus on a window of developmental time from gastrulation to the first signs of segmentation. This is a period rich in morphogenetic events, where we can investigate for example the conserved and important morphogenetic processes of axis extension and tissue boundary formation [1-3]. A possible project is to build on [1] and investigate further how cells are sorted according to their identities during axis extension, but other projects are available in the lab and can be discussed upon contact.

 

Relevant references

 [1] Tetley*, R.J., Blanchard*§, G.B., Fletcher, A.G., Adams, R.J. and B. Sanson§ (2016) Unipolar distributions of junctional Myosin II identify cell stripe boundaries that drive cell intercalation throughout Drosophila axis extension. Elife, e12094. doi.org/10.7554/eLife.12094.

 [2] Lye, C. M., Blanchard, G. B., Naylor, H. W., Mureşan, L., Huisken, J., Adams, R. J., & Sanson, B. (2015). Mechanical coupling between endoderm invagination and axis extension in Drosophila. PLoS Biology, 13(11), e1002292. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1002292

[3] Monier, B., Pellissier-Monier, A. P. E., Brand, A. H., & Sanson, B. (2010). An actomyosin-based barrier inhibits cell mixing at compartmental boundaries in Drosophila embryos. Nature Cell Biology, 12(1), 60–65. http://doi.org/doi:10.1038/ncb2005