Development of the Vertebrate Central Nervous System
A long-standing goal of developmental biology is to understand how multiple cell types are generated and maintained in highly organized spatial patterns. Our group explores the mechanisms underlying the organization of cells into highly developed structures in the Nervous System, with special attention to the patterning of cell lineages. We want to address three fundamental questions in neural development: i) how cell diversity is generated from single precursors (cell lineage reconstruction); ii) how cell fate decisions are taken and regulated; and iii) how cell fate affects cell behavior. We tackle these questions in two structures, which are interconnected by neuronal circuits: the hindbrain and the inner ear. At the end we want to understand how sensory inputs from the inner ear are conveyed and relayed into the hindbrain, and how neural circuits are then established within the brain. We use zebrafish embryos as model system because permits functional genetic studies to be combined with 3D+time in vivo imaging.
Our current projects are the following:
- Global cell lineage reconstitution of the otic vesicle during early embryonic development. Our aim is to generate the complete lineage tree of the neurosensory elements of the inner ear by high spatial and temporal resolution 2-photon 3D+time imaging. We correlate the progenitor potentials to the temporal and spatial proneural gene requirements.
- Deciphering the topographical representation of the sensory information at central levels. We investigate the selective innervation of hindbrain regions by somatosensory afferents and the gene requirements. An extended goal is the study of how changes or variations in the behavior are reflected in the underlying neuronal activity and perform brain-wide neuronal dynamics in response to sensory stimuli.
- Understanding morphomechanics during hindbrain segmentation. We have recently shown the role of actomyosin cables acting downstream of EphA/Ephrin signaling in the segregation of rhombomeric cell populations. We are currently exploring the cellular machinery and the molecular players responsible of the assembly of the mechanical barrier.
- Exploring the fate of the Boundary Cell Population (BCP). The BCP is generated at interface between two rhombomeres, and displays a specific gene expression landscape. We study the biological BCP behaviour and seek its lineage combining in vivo imaging techniques with the generation of new transgenic lines by the CRISPR/Cas9 genome edition system.