Research

Our lab is interested in how cells coordinate their behaviour to form organs during development. To form an organ, cells need to simultaneously proliferate, differentiate, change their shape, get polarized and often migrate. All these biological processes must be done in a coordinated manner between all cells that will form this organ. We are interested in understanding how cells sense, integrate and respond to signals from their environment to achieve this challenging goal.

For this purpose, we use the Zebrafish Danio rerio as a model organism and we are particularly interested in a group of about 100 cells that migrate on both sides of the fish embryos during the second day of development from behind the ear to the tip of the tail (see Figure 1, movie 1). These migrating cells will later form a sensory system called the lateral line that is specific to aquatic Vertebrates. The lateral line is comprised of mechanosensory organs called neuromasts. These organs consist of mechano-sensory hair cells surrounded by support cells and are similar to the sensory organs of our inner ear (Figure 2, Movie 2). The lateral line allows fishes to sense water vibrations and therefore to receive information from the environment. The mechanosensory organs assemble and start to differentiate within the migrating group of cells called the lateral line primordium. As they migrate, cells at the back of the primordium change their shape to assemble into rosette-like structures that are then deposited and differentiate into neuromasts.

Cells of the lateral primordium simultaneously proliferate, differentiate, polarize, change their shape and migrate making this system ideal to understand how these processes are coordinated in time and space between all cells from the groups. To this aim, we combine molecular and cellular biology, pharmacological analysis and genetics to modern live imaging techniques, for which zebrafish embryos are particularly well suited since they are transparent. We are particularly interested in understanding how these cells sense and integrate biochemical but also mechanical signals from the environment and respond to it by modifying their behavior (proliferation, shape changes, migration…).