We use Caenorhabditis elegans and related nematodes as model systems to study the relationship between genotype and developmental phenotypes. We are interested in understanding 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 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, study how these mechanisms evolve 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, which are eukaryotic pathogens that are superficially similar to fungi although evolutionary distinct. Oomycetes are known to infect both animals and plants, causing losses in plant production and aquaculture and 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 host 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, Ph.D) or Post-doc, please get in touch.
PhD/ Post-doc positions are now available !!
et al., 2016, Evolution of New cis-Regulatory Motifs Required for Cell-Specific Gene Expression in Caenorhabditis, Plos Genetics, Vol:12, ISSN:1553-7404
Boukhibar LM, Barkoulas M, 2016, The developmental genetics of biological robustness, Annals of Botany, Vol:117, ISSN:0305-7364, Pages:699-707
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
Felix M-A, Barkoulas M, 2015, Pervasive robustness in biological systems, Nature Reviews Genetics, Vol:16, ISSN:1471-0056, Pages:483-496
et al., 2015, Invasive Cell Fate Requires G1 Cell-Cycle Arrest and Histone Deacetylase-Mediated Changes in Gene Expression, Developmental Cell, Vol:35, ISSN:1534-5807, Pages:162-174