We use Caenorhabditis elegans as a model system to discover fundamental mechanisms in biology within the fields of developmental biology and innate immunity.
First, we are interested in the relationship between genotype and developmental phenotypes. We investigate what makes developmental systems robust, which means that they continue producing consistent end results (i.e. phenotypes) in the presence of genetic or environmental perturbations. We currently focus our experiments on a population of epidermal stem cells, known as seam cells, which show robust and stereotypic stem-cell like patterns of division. We would like to identify mechanisms that ensure developmental robustness and address their evolutionary significance and consequences for a given system and organism.
More recently, we became interested in some new natural infections of nematodes by oomycetes. Oomycetes are eukaryotic pathogens known to infect both animals and plants, causing losses in plant production and aquaculture and leading to human disease. However, animal infections by oomycetes have been relatively understudied due to the lack of experimentally tractable model hosts. To redress this, we are introducing C. elegans with its widely available resources as a model to study oomycete infections. We currently study how C. elegans detects the pathogen to mount the appropriate innate immunity response and how the pathogen counteracts this response to kill the nematode host.
To answer these questions we use techniques ranging from functional genetics (e.g. CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing) and genomics (e.g. WGS, RNAseq) to developmental imaging (e.g. smFISH).
We have received funding by the European Commission Council, the BBSRC, the Leverhulme Trust, the Royal Society and Imperial College.
I did my PhD and first Post-doc at the University of Oxford, working on plant developmental genetics in the Tsiantis lab. In 2009, I moved to the Félix lab at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, where I was introduced to C. elegans and worked on questions related to developmental robustness.
If you are interested in joining our international and enthusiastic team, either as a student (undergraduate, MSc/Mres, Ph.D) or Post-doc, please get in touch.
PhD/ Post-doc positions are now available !!
et al., 2017, Stochastic loss and gain of symmetric divisions in the C. elegans epidermis perturbs robustness of stem cell number., Plos Biol, Vol:15
et al., 2016, Evolution of New cis-Regulatory Motifs Required for Cell-Specific Gene Expression in Caenorhabditis, Plos Genetics, Vol:12, ISSN:1553-7404
et al., 2016, Anchor cell signaling and vulval precursor cell positioning establish a reproducible spatial context during C. elegans vulval induction, Developmental Biology, Vol:416, ISSN:0012-1606, Pages:123-135
Boukhibar LM, Barkoulas M, 2016, The developmental genetics of biological robustness, Annals of Botany, Vol:117, ISSN:0305-7364, Pages:699-707
Felix M-A, Barkoulas M, 2015, Pervasive robustness in biological systems, Nature Reviews Genetics, Vol:16, ISSN:1471-0056, Pages:483-496