Currently, we have two major evo-devo research projects in our team. One is about the functional evolution of ligand binding capacities (in part funded as the ANR project “AmphiNR”) and the second concerns the functional study of the FGF signaling in amphioxus, Branchiostoma lanceolatum (also partly funded by the ANR project, “Evolongation”).
The first research axis is about the role of gene duplications and its consequences in the functional evolution of two families of ligand-receptor pairs (i.e. NRH1 and FGF/FGFR). For example, does each copy have a unique and specific new ligand? Do the duplicated receptors show a promiscuous ability to bind a ligand? And, if so, can we explain their existence through differential expression during development or in different organs in adults?
Our second main project is about the role of different signaling pathways, and particularly the FGF (Fibroblast Growth Factor) signal, during the amphioxus embryonic development. Two different developmental processes are being especially investigated: somitogenesis and neural induction.
In both processes we intend to understand the gene regulatory networks directly and/or indirectly controlled by FGFs in amphioxus. Through a comparative approach we will determine the similarities and differences with vertebrates in order to shed light on how evolution produced the present diversity of forms in chordates.