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Probing the molecular and cellular basis of developmental morphogenesis

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My research focuses on the molecular and cellular basis of tissue morphogenesis during animal development and evolution. This is a fundamental but also challenging problem to address that requires studies at multiple levels of biological organization: from gene expression and function, to dynamic cell behaviors, to tissue and organ morphogenesis. To bridge these scales, we have been carrying out complementary studies on different arthropod species that satisfy a number of appealing biological and technical requirements. In this talk, I will focus on recent advances made in studying appendage morphogenesis in the crustacean amphipod Parhyale hawaiensis. Parhyale embryos are direct developers exhibiting a striking morphological gradation along the anterior-posterior body axis. Each embryo develops a variety of specialized appendages that differ in size, shape and pattern, offering exceptional material to study the cellular and molecular basis of tissue morphogenesis. Using multi-view Selective Plane Illumination Microscopy, we have been able to image developing appendages at single-cell-resolution over 5 days of embryogenesis, from early specification until late differentiation stages. In parallel, we have been developing image-processing platforms that allow navigation through these massive data sets (in the terabyte range), as well as cell tracking and cell lineage reconstruction from multiple views of the same embryo. Using this comprehensive pipeline, we have now all necessary tools to systematically analyze all sorts of cell behaviors underlying the morphological diversification of Parhyale serially homologous appendages. Finally, we are making the link between developmental gene activity and morphogenetic cell behaviors by combining live imaging with functional genetic approaches for visualization and manipulation of gene expression in vivo.

This talk is part of the Evolution and Development Seminar Series series.

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