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Guillaume Balavoine

CNRS / University Paris Diderot
Institut Jacques Monod
15 rue Helaine Brion
Paris, Ile de France 75205 cedex 13

(33) 1 57 27 80 02

Taxa Studied: Invertebrate Animals
Techniques Employed: Degenerate PCR, Quantitative PCR (qPCR), Sanger Sequencing, 454 Pyrosequencing, Solexa (Illumina) Sequencing, Bioinformatics/Sequence Analysis, In Situ Hybridization, Antibody Staining, Sectioning for Histology, Scanning Electron Microscopy, Epifluoresence Microscopy, Confocal Microscopy, Time-Lapse Microscopy, Transgenesis, Morpholinos
Research Description: Our group compares the genetic networks that regulate the developmental patterning of key aspects of the body plan across metazoans, in order to reconstruct the early stages of animal evolution. Our current model is the marine annelid Platynereis dumerilii. This annelid species is easily reared in the lab and amenable to most molecular genetic investigation techniques. Annelids are part of the Spiralians, the large third branch of the bilaterian tree, alongside deuterostomes (vertebrates, echinoderms, ...) and ecdysozoans (arthropods, nematodes, ...). The main research axes are: • Was the last common ancestor of bilaterian animals (Urbilateria) a segmented animal ? We are trying to identify the genes responsible for segment formation in Platynereis. Some of these genes, such as engrailed, wingless or hedgehog apparently play in Platynereis a role similar to that in insects. We are investigating the roles of the Wnt/b-catenin, Hedgehog and Notch signalling pathways in segment formation. • What was the architecture of the nervous system like and how did it form in Urbilateria? Striking similarities are found at the genetic level between the formation of nervous systems in vertebrates on one hand and Platynereis on the other. Insects such as Drosophila look more derived in this respect. By elucidating the mechanisms of neurogenesis and nervous system patterning in an annelid, we hope we will be able to bridge the gap between protostomes and deuterostomes, to reconstitute ancestral characteristics and eventually to understand the origin of the complex and concentrated nervous system of vertebrates.
Lab Web Page: http://www.ijm.fr/en/ijm/research/research-groups/metazoaires/
Willing to Host Undergraduates: YES
Actively Seeking Undergraduates: YES
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