Looking for the right balance between rigidity and elasticity in embryo protection

Supervisor: Dr. Isabelle Migeotte

Our research explores the morphogenesis of the tissues at the interface between mother and fetus, using the mouse embryo as primary model. The extra- embryonic membranes provide nutrition, gas exchange, as well as protection from trauma and infection. Those tissues are both very solid and very elastic. We aim to understand the molecular determinants underlying these mechanical properties. The cytoskeleton, formed of microfilaments, intermediate filaments and microtubules, is a key point determining cell behavior. Using live imaging of ex-vivo cultured embryos bearing cytoskeletal reporters alone or in combination, we will record the organization of cytoskeletal networks.

We will characterize embryos devoid of keratin to evaluate the functional role of the multicellular keratin cables we previously observed.
Through transcriptomic and proteomic analysis of cells sorted and/or micro- dissected, we will capture the nature and post-transcriptional modifications of cytoskeletal proteins and their partners.

Specific cell types will be recovered from the embryo, and cultured in controlled conditions with defined substrate composition, rigidity, and 3D pattern, to define which environment is best suited to maintain cell identity and mechanical properties.

Finally, in collaboration with biophysicists, the physical characteristics of the identified cytoskeletal networks will be studied in vitro, from pure recombinant proteins.
Those experiment are expected to provide data guiding the design and validation of mouse embryonic stem cells-based germ line and embryo models.

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