What makes IGFL unique?
As discussed in the scientific description of the institute (here), the IGFL research strategy is multifaceted with the idea of systematically tackling a limited number of biological questions with a large panel of complementary approaches.
The IGFL is organized in independent research teams. Each team is lead by a Principal Investigator, free to decide the scientific policy of his/her group. Interactions between the teams are actively encouraged and teams often engage in collaborations, contributing to the melting pot culture we strive for.
The IGFL develops functional genomic and integrative biology approaches to understand developmental, evolutionary and physiological processes. We promote interfaces between evolutionary and adaptive biology, development and morphogenesis, integrative physiology as functioning systems of cells and organs and physiopathology. A challenge is to maintain both a good balance between the different scientific axes and promote new intra-IGFL interactions.
Our current main research axes are:
1- Genomics of adaptation and macroevolution
This axis aims to decipher the ultimate cause of biological phenomena or processes, to understand the genetic bases of animal diversity and adaptation using functional genomics approaches. A large continuum of evolutionary science disciplines cover this axis such as palaeontology, molecular evolution, evolutionary ecology, evolutionary developmental biology, comparative genomics, comparative morphology and biomodelling. We use various animal models ranging from the established model organisms to select ‘key evolutionary’ organisms including fossil species and diverse living vertebrate and invertebrate species (unconventional models). Goudemand’s team investigates macroevolutionary patterns in the history of the interactions between conodonts and their abiotic and biotic environment and Viriot’s team studies the relation between morphological modifications of the fish dentition with specific genetic changes throughout evolution. Volff’s team explores the evolution and function of transposable elements in vertebrate genomes and how they serve as a source of new genes. At the interface between axes 1 and 2, Khila’s team develops a multidisciplinary project that aims at analysing the significance of genes, structures, and environmental conditions to animal adaptation and diversification using semi-aquatic insect models.
2- Mechanisms of development and regeneration
This axis focuses on understanding general principles of developmental and regenerative biology. The key regulatory molecular networks and signalling pathways that orchestrate gene expression, cell dynamics and development processes are central questions, addressed using both vertebrate and invertebrate animals models and genetic approaches. Merabet’s team investigates the dynamics of molecular networks established by a well-conserved family of transcription factors, the Hox proteins and addresses the question of Hox interactomes during normal developmental processes in Drosophila. Averof’s team studies the mechanisms of body axis formation and segmentation of short-germ arthropods in Tribolium. A common theory in Biology is that regeneration recapitulates development. However, regeneration of organs and appendages is not universal among animals. Two teams address this question by using classic and emerging animal models with high regenerative potential and plasticity. Ruggiero's team uses the zebrafish caudal fin regeneration model to investigate the roles of collagens in this process. Averof’s team investigates the cellular basis of limb regeneration in Parhyale. Some groups, notably Merabet’s and Ruggiero’s teams, develop projects at the interface between axes 2 and 3.
3- Integrative physiology and physiopathology
This axis deals with different aspects of general physiology from the understanding of developmental processes during organogenesis and postembryonic development to their disruption in pathological situations. The level of analysis is integrative physiology with emphasis on whole-organism function and its applications to human health and disease. Several teams explore different areas of physiology (general physiology, endocrinology, digestive system…) by combining in vivo and in vitro approaches and using various developmental biology animal models such as drosophila, mouse, zebrafish... Using zebrafish, mice and human cell models, Ruggiero’s team investigates the functional diversity and the pathological roles of collagens, a superfamily of extracellular matrix proteins that are typically highly conserved across species, notably in in skin and neuromuscular system. Merabet’s team studies aberrant Hox protein activities in human myeloid leukaemia. Flamant’s team addresses the relationship between the structure and function of thyroid hormone receptors in developing and adult mouse brain and their role in peripheral functions and Vanacker’s team studies the molecular mechanisms of the orphan nuclear receptor ERRalpha regulation in physiopathological processes such as cancer progression and bone homeostasis. Finally, Leulier’s team analyses the molecular dialogue governing the mutualistic interaction between intestinal bacteria and their host using drosophila and mouse models.