Offres d’emploi

Master students

We have regularly open projects for master (M2) students in our group. For more details, see here


In vivo compression and imaging in mouse brain to measure the effects of solid stress.

We recently developed an in vivo compression device that simulates the solid mechanical forces exerted by a growing tumor on the surrounding brain tissue and delineates the physical versus biological effects of a tumor. This device, to our knowledge the first of its kind, can recapitulate the compressive forces on the cerebellar cortex from primary (e.g., glioblastoma) and metastatic (e.g., breast cancer) tumors, as well as on the cerebellum from tumors such as medulloblastoma and ependymoma. We adapted standard transparent cranial windows normally used for intravital imaging studies in mice to include a turnable screw for controlled compression (acute or chronic) and decompression of the cerebral cortex. The device enables longitudinal imaging of the compressed brain tissue over several weeks or months as the screw is progressively extended against the brain tissue to recapitulate tumor growth-induced solid stress. The cranial window can be simply installed on the mouse skull according to previously established methods, and the screw mechanism can be readily manufactured in-house. The total time for construction and implantation of the in vivo compressive cranial window is <1 h (per mouse). This technique can also be used to study a variety of other diseases or disorders that present with abnormal solid masses in the brain, including cysts and benign growths.

LKB1 specifies neural crest cell fates through pyruvate-alanine cycling.

Metabolic processes underlying the development of the neural crest, an embryonic population of multipotent migratory cells, are poorly understood. Here, we report that conditional ablation of the tumor suppressor kinase in mouse neural crest stem cells led to intestinal pseudo-obstruction and hind limb paralysis. This phenotype originated from a postnatal degeneration of the enteric nervous ganglia and from a defective differentiation of Schwann cells. Metabolomic profiling revealed that pyruvate-alanine conversion is enhanced in the absence of . Mechanistically, inhibition of alanine transaminases restored glial differentiation in an mTOR-dependent manner, while increased alanine level directly inhibited the glial commitment of neural crest cells. Treatment with the metabolic modulator AICAR suppressed mTOR signaling and prevented Schwann cell and enteric defects of mutant mice. These data uncover a link between pyruvate-alanine cycling and the specification of glial cell fate with potential implications in the understanding of the molecular pathogenesis of neural crest diseases.

C57BL/6 congenic mouse NRAS melanoma cell lines are highly sensitive to the combination of Mek and

RAS is frequently mutated in various tumors and known to be difficult to target. NRAS are the second most frequent mutations found in human skin melanoma after BRAF . Aside from surgery, various approaches, including targeted therapies, immunotherapies, and combination therapies, are used to treat patients carrying NRAS mutations, but they are inefficient. Here, we established mouse NRAS melanoma cell lines and genetically derived isografts (GDIs) from Tyr::NRAS mouse melanoma that can be used in vitro and in vivo in an immune-competent environment (C57BL/6) to test and discover novel therapies. We characterized these cell lines at the cellular, molecular, and oncogenic levels and show that NRAS melanoma is highly sensitive to the combination of Mek and Akt inhibitors. This preclinical model shows much potential for the screening of novel therapeutic strategies for patients harboring NRAS mutations that have limited therapeutic options and resulted in poor prognoses.

Molecular and cellular basis of depigmentation in vitiligo patients.

Vitiligo is a chronic skin disease characterized by the appearance of zones of depigmentation. It is mostly described as an autoimmune disease in which the immune system destroys the melanocytes. Consistent with this origin, genetic studies have implicated genes encoding proteins mediating the immune response targeting melanocytes in the aetiology of this disease, together with proteins specific to these cells. However, the destruction of melanocytes by the immune system is neither global nor complete, because the patients do not display total depigmentation. The etiopathology of vitiligo is clearly complex and cannot be simply reduced to an autoimmune reaction directed against pigmented cells. Intrinsic changes have been observed in the melanocytes, keratinocytes and dermal cells of vitiligo patients. Identification of the molecular and cellular changes occurring in normally pigmented skin in vitiligo patients, and an understanding of these changes, is essential to improve the definition of trigger events for this disease, with a view to developing treatments with long-term efficacy. This review focuses on the early events identified to date in the non-lesional regions of the skin in vitiligo patients and discusses the process of repigmentation from melanocyte stem cells.

Melanoma Risk and Melanocyte Biology.

Cutaneous melanoma arises from melanocytes following genetic, epigenetic and allogenetic (i.e. other than epi/genetic) modifications. An estimated 10% of cutaneous melanoma cases are due to inherited variants or de novo mutations in approximately 20 genes, found using linkage, next-generation sequencing and association studies. Based on these studies, 3 classes of predisposing melanoma genes have been defined based on the frequency of the variants in the general population and lifetime risk of developing a melanoma: (i) ultra-rare variants with a high risk, (ii) rare with a moderate risk, and (iii) frequent variants with a low risk. Most of the proteins encoded by these genes have been shown to be involved in melanoma initiation, including proliferation and senescence bypass. This paper reviews the role(s) of these genes in the transformation of melanocytes into melanoma. It also describes their function in the establishment and renewal of melanocytes and the biology of pigment cells, if known.

Netrin-1 and Its Receptor DCC Are Causally Implicated in Melanoma Progression.

Deleted in colorectal cancer (DCC), the receptor for the multifunctional cue netrin-1, acts as a tumor suppressor in intestinal cancer and lung metastasis by triggering cancer cell death when netrin-1 is lowly expressed. Recent genomic data highlighted that DCC is the third most frequently mutated gene in melanoma; we therefore investigated whether DCC could act as a melanoma tumor suppressor. Reexpressing DCC in human melanoma cell lines promoted tumor cell death and tumor growth inhibition in xenograft mouse models. Genetic silencing of DCC prodeath activity in a BRAF mouse model increased the proportion of mice with melanoma, further supporting that DCC is a melanoma tumor suppressor. Netrin-1 expression was elevated in melanoma compared with benign melanocytic lesions. Upregulation of netrin-1 in the skin cells of a BRAF-mutated murine model reduced cancer cell death and promoted melanoma progression. Therapeutic antibody blockade of netrin-1 combined with dacarbazine increased overall survival in several mouse melanoma models. Together, these data support that interfering with netrin-1 could be a viable therapeutic approach in patients with netrin-1-expressing melanoma. SIGNIFICANCE: Netrin-1 and its receptor DCC regulate melanoma progression, suggesting therapeutic targeting of this signaling axis as a viable option for melanoma treatment.

Sequencing two Tyr::CreER transgenic mouse lines.

The Cre/loxP system is a powerful tool that has allowed the study of the effects of specific genes of interest in various biological settings. The Tyr::CreER system allows for the targeted expression and activity of the Cre enzyme in the melanocyte lineage following treatment with tamoxifen, thus providing spatial and temporal control of the expression of specific target genes. Two independent transgenic mouse models, each containing a Tyr::CreER transgene, have been generated and are widely used to study melanocyte transformation. In this study, we performed whole genome sequencing (WGS) on genomic DNA from the two Tyr::CreER mouse models and identified their sites of integration in the C57BL/6 genome. Based on these results, we designed PCR primers to accurately, and efficiently, genotype transgenic mice. Finally, we discussed some of the advantages of each transgenic mouse model.

Chromatin remodellers Brg1 and Bptf are required for normal gene expression and progression of

Somatic oncogenic mutation of BRAF coupled with inactivation of PTEN constitute a frequent combination of genomic alterations driving the development of human melanoma. Mice genetically engineered to conditionally express oncogenic Braf and inactivate Pten in melanocytes following tamoxifen treatment rapidly develop melanoma. While early-stage melanomas comprised melanin-pigmented Mitf and Dct-expressing cells, expression of these and other melanocyte identity genes was lost in later stage tumours that showed histological and molecular characteristics of de-differentiated neural crest type cells. Melanocyte identity genes displayed loss of active chromatin marks and RNA polymerase II and gain of heterochromatin marks, indicating epigenetic reprogramming during tumour progression. Nevertheless, late-stage tumour cells grown in culture re-expressed Mitf, and melanocyte markers and Mitf together with Sox10 coregulated a large number of genes essential for their growth. In this melanoma model, somatic inactivation that the catalytic Brg1 (Smarca4) subunit of the SWI/SNF complex and the scaffolding Bptf subunit of the NuRF complex delayed tumour formation and deregulated large and overlapping gene expression programs essential for normal tumour cell growth. Moreover, we show that Brg1 and Bptf coregulated many genes together with Mitf and Sox10. Together these transcription factors and chromatin remodelling complexes orchestrate essential gene expression programs in mouse melanoma cells.

An OTX2-PAX3 signaling axis regulates Group 3 medulloblastoma cell fate.

OTX2 is a potent oncogene that promotes tumor growth in Group 3 medulloblastoma. However, the mechanisms by which OTX2 represses neural differentiation are not well characterized. Here, we perform extensive multiomic analyses to identify an OTX2 regulatory network that controls Group 3 medulloblastoma cell fate. OTX2 silencing modulates the repressive chromatin landscape, decreases levels of PRC2 complex genes and increases the expression of neurodevelopmental transcription factors including PAX3 and PAX6. Expression of PAX3 and PAX6 is significantly lower in Group 3 medulloblastoma patients and is correlated with reduced survival, yet only PAX3 inhibits self-renewal in vitro and increases survival in vivo. Single cell RNA sequencing of Group 3 medulloblastoma tumorspheres demonstrates expression of an undifferentiated progenitor program observed in primary tumors and characterized by translation/elongation factor genes. Identification of mTORC1 signaling as a downstream effector of OTX2-PAX3 reveals roles for protein synthesis pathways in regulating Group 3 medulloblastoma pathogenesis.

Germline Elongator mutations in Sonic Hedgehog medulloblastoma.

Cancer genomics has revealed many genes and core molecular processes that contribute to human malignancies, but the genetic and molecular bases of many rare cancers remains unclear. Genetic predisposition accounts for 5 to 10% of cancer diagnoses in children, and genetic events that cooperate with known somatic driver events are poorly understood. Pathogenic germline variants in established cancer predisposition genes have been recently identified in 5% of patients with the malignant brain tumour medulloblastoma. Here, by analysing all protein-coding genes, we identify and replicate rare germline loss-of-function variants across ELP1 in 14% of paediatric patients with the medulloblastoma subgroup Sonic Hedgehog (MB) ELP1 was the most common medulloblastoma predisposition gene and increased the prevalence of genetic predisposition to 40% among paediatric patients with MB. Parent-offspring and pedigree analyses identified two families with a history of paediatric medulloblastoma. ELP1-associated medulloblastomas were restricted to the molecular SHHα subtype and characterized by universal biallelic inactivation of ELP1 owing to somatic loss of chromosome arm 9q. Most ELP1-associated medulloblastomas also exhibited somatic alterations in PTCH1, which suggests that germline ELP1 loss-of-function variants predispose individuals to tumour development in combination with constitutive activation of SHH signalling. ELP1 is the largest subunit of the evolutionarily conserved Elongator complex, which catalyses translational elongation through tRNA modifications at the wobble (U) position. Tumours from patients with ELP1-associated MB were characterized by a destabilized Elongator complex, loss of Elongator-dependent tRNA modifications, codon-dependent translational reprogramming, and induction of the unfolded protein response, consistent with loss of protein homeostasis due to Elongator deficiency in model systems. Thus, genetic predisposition to proteome instability may be a determinant in the pathogenesis of paediatric brain cancers. These results support investigation of the role of protein homeostasis in other cancer types and potential for therapeutic interference.

The vertebrate-specific VENTX/NANOG gene empowers neural crest with ectomesenchyme potential.

During Cambrian, unipotent progenitors located at the neural (plate) border (NB) of an chordate embryo acquired the competence to form ectomesenchyme, pigment cells and neurons, initiating the rise of the multipotent neural crest cells (NC) specific to vertebrates. Surprisingly, the known vertebrate NB/NC transcriptional circuitry is a constrained feature also found in invertebrates. Therefore, evidence for vertebrate-specific innovations endowing vertebrate NC with multipotency is still missing. Here, we identified VENTX/NANOG and POU5/OCT4 as vertebrate-specific innovations. When VENTX was depleted in vivo and in directly-induced NC, the NC lost its early multipotent state and its skeletogenic potential, but kept sensory neuron and pigment identity, thus reminiscent of invertebrate NB precursors. In vivo, VENTX gain-of-function enabled NB specifiers to reprogram embryonic non-neural ectoderm towards early NC identity. We propose that skeletogenic NC evolved by acquiring VENTX/NANOG activity, promoting a novel multipotent progenitor regulatory state into the pre-existing sensory neuron/pigment NB program.

[Chromatin mobility upon DNA damage: a multi-scale story].

[When science and music meet].

Evaluation of the extent of the binding site in human tissue kallikrein by synthetic substrates

We have synthesized internally quenched peptides spanning the Met379-Lys380 or Arg389-Ser390 bonds of human kininogen (hkng) that flank lysyl-bradykinin and have studied the kinetics of their hydrolysis by human tissue kallikrein. The kinetic data for the hydrolysis of the Met-Lys bond in substrates with an N-terminal extension showed that interactions up to position residue P10 contribute to the efficiency of cleavage. In contrast, there were no significant variations in the kinetic data for the hydrolysis of substrates with C-terminal extensions at sites P’4 to P’11. A similar pattern was observed for the cleavage of substrates containing an Arg-Ser bond because substrates extended up to residue P6 were hydrolysed with the highest kcat/Km values in the series, whereas those extended to P’11 on the C-terminal side had a lower susceptibility to hydrolysis. Time-course studies of hydrolysis by human and porcine tissue kallikreins of a Leu373 to Ile393 human kininogen fragment containing omicron-aminobenzoic acid (Abz) at the N-terminus and an amidated C-terminal carboxyl group Abz-Leu-Gly-Met-Ile-Ser-Leu-Met-Lys-Arg- Pro-Pro-Gly-Phe-Ser-Pro-Phe-Arg-Ser-Ser-Arg-Ile-NH2 (Abz-[Leu373-Ile393]-hkng-NH2) indicated that the cleavage of Met-Lys and Arg-Ser bonds in the same molecule occurs via the formation of independent enzyme-substrate complexes. The hydrolysis of Abz-F-R-S-S-R-Q-EDDnp [where EDDnp is N-(2,4-dinitrophenyl)ethylenediamine] and Abz-M-I-S-L-M-K-R-P-Q-EDDnp by human tissue kallikrein had maximal kcat/Km values at pH 9-9.5 for both substrates. The pH-dependent variations in this kinetic parameter were almost exclusively due to variations in kcat. A significant decrease in kcat/Km values was observed for the hydrolysis of Arg-Ser and Met-Lys bonds in the presence of 0.1 M NaCl. Because this effect was closely related to an increase in Km, it is likely that sodium competes with the positive charges of the substrate side chains for the same enzyme subsites.

Kininogenase activity by the major cysteinyl proteinase (cruzipain) from Trypanosoma cruzi.

The major isoform of Trypanosoma cruzi cysteinyl proteinase (cruzipain) has generated Lys-bradykinin (Lys-BK or kallidin), a proinflammatory peptide, by proteolysis of kininogen. The releasing of this peptide was demonstrated by mass spectrometry, radioimmunoassay, and ileum contractile responses. The kinin-releasing activity was immunoabsorbed selectively by monoclonal antibodies to the characteristic COOH-terminal domain of cruzipain. To determine the hydrolysis steps that account for the kininogenase activity of cruzipain, we synthesized a fluorogenic peptide (o-aminobenzoyl-Leu-Gly-Met-Ile-Ser-Leu-Met-Lys-Arg-Pro-Pro-Gly-Phe-S er-Pro-Phe-Arg389-Ser390-Ser-Arg-Ile-NH2) based on the sequence Leu373 to Ile393 of the human high molecular weight kininogen. The hydrolysis products from this peptide were isolated by high performance liquid chromatography, and Lys-BK was characterized as the major released kinin by mass spectrometry. Intramolecularly quenched fluorogenic peptides spanning the Met379-Lys380 and Arg389-Ser390 bradykinin-flanking sequences were then used to assess the substrate specificity requirements of the parasite-derived protease compared with two COOH-terminal truncated recombinant isoforms (cruzain and cruzipain 2). In contrast to the high catalytic efficiency of parasite-derived cruzipain, the recombinant proteinases cleaved the bradykinin-flanking sites at markedly different rates. In addition, we also demonstrated that cruzipain activates plasmatic prekallikrein, which would be a second and indirect way of the parasite protease to release bradykinin.

Chromogenic and fluorogenic glycosylated and acetylglycosylated peptides as substrates for serine,

We synthesized short chromogenic peptidyl-Arg-p-nitroanilides containing either (Galbeta)Ser or (Glcalpha,beta)Tyr at P2 or P3 sites as well as O-acetylated sugar moieties and studied their hydrolysis by bovine trypsin, papain, human tissue kallikrein and rat tonin. For comparison, the susceptibility to these enzymes of Acetyl-X-Arg-pNa and Acetyl-X-Phe-Arg-pNa series, in which X was Ala, Phe, Gln and Asn were examined. We also synthesized internally quenched fluorescent peptides with the amino acid sequence Phe8-His-Leu-Val-Ile-His-Asn14 of human angiotensinogen, in which [GlcNAcbeta]Asn was introduced before Phe8 and/or after His13 and ortho-aminobenzoic acid (Abz) and N-[2-, 4-dinitrophenyl]-ethylenediamine (EDDnp) were attached at N- and C-terminal ends as a donor/receptor fluorescent pair. These peptides were examined as substrates for human renin, human cathepsin D and porcine pepsin. The chromogenic substrates with hydrophilic sugar moiety increased their susceptibility to trypsin, tissue kallikrein and rat tonin. For papain, the effect of sugar depends on its position in the substrate, namely, at P3 it is unfavorable, in contrast to the P2 position that resulted in increasing affinity, as demonstrated by the higher inhibitory activity of Ac-(Gal3)Ser-Arg-pNa in comparison to Ac-Ser-Arg-pNa, and by the hydrolysis of Ac-(Glcalpha,beta)Tyr-Arg-pNa. On the other hand, the acetylation of sugar hydroxyl groups improved hydrolysis of the susceptible peptides to all enzymes, except tonin. The P’4 glycosylated peptide [Abz-F-H-L-V-I-H-(GIcNAcbeta)N-E-EDDnp], that corresponds to one of the natural glycosylation sites of angiotensinogen, was shown to be the only glycosylated substrate susceptible to human renin, and was hydrolysed with lower K(m) and higher k(cat) values than the same peptide without the sugar moiety. Human cathepsin D and porcine pepsin are more tolerant to substrate glycosylation, hydrolysing both the P’4 and P4 glycosylated substrates.

Internally quenched fluorogenic substrates for angiotensin I-converting enzyme.

Development of internally quenched fluorogenic substrates for sensitive and continuous assays of angiotensin I-converting enzyme (ACE).

Comparison of human and porcine tissue kallikrein substrate specificities.

Little is known about the species specificity of tissue kallikrein-kininogen interaction since the kinetic parameters for Lys-bradykinin release from kininogen by tissue kallikreins from different animal species have not been reported. We have now determined the kinetic parameters for hydrolysis by human and porcine tissue kallikrein, hK1 and pK1, respectively (Berg et al., 1992) of two series of intramolecularly quenched fluorogenic peptides having the sequences that flank the scissile Arg-Ser or Met-Lys bond in human and bovine kininogen. Results have shown that peptides having sequences from human kininogen are better substrates for hK1 and peptides derived from bovine kininogen are better substrates for pK1. Kinetic data for hydrolysis of the Arg-Ser bond showed that differences in the interaction of residue(s) in positions P2′-P10′ contribute to the efficiency of the cleavage and may be responsible for differences in their susceptibilities to the two kallikreins. Significant variations in the kinetic data were observed for the hydrolysis of the Met-Lys bond in substrates with an N-terminal extension at sites P3-P9. The highest k(cat)/Km value in the hydrolysis of Abz-[Gln370-Gln381]-bkng-EDDnp by pk1 demonstrates an important interaction of subsites S5-S4 with Gln and Thr residues in the bovine kininogen segment. A Gln370-Gln391 bovine kininogen fragment used to study the cleavage of both Met-Lys and Arg-Ser bonds in the same molecule confirmed the importance of an extended interaction site for species specificity among tissue kallikreins.

Specificity of cathepsin B to fluorescent substrates containing benzyl side-chain-substituted amino

We have determined the kinetic parameters for the hydrolysis by cathepsin B of peptidyl-coumarin amide and intramolecularly quenched fluorogenic peptides with the general structures epsilonNH2-Cap-Leu-X-MCA and Abz-Lys-Leu-X-Phe-Ser-Lys-Gln-EDDnp, respectively. Abz (orthoaminobenzoic acid) and EDDnp (2,4-dinitrophenyl-ethylenediamine) are the fluorescent donor-acceptor pair, and X was Cys(SBzl), Ser(OBzl), and Thr(OBzl) containing benzyl group (Bzl) at the functional side chain of Cys, Ser, and Thr. The peptidyl-coumarin-containing Cys(SBz1), Ser(OBzl), and Thr(OBzl) have higher affinity cathepsin B, supporting the interpretation of the crystal structure of rat cathepsin B complexed with the inhibitor Z-Arg-Ser(OBzl)-CH2Cl that the benzyl group attached to Ser hydroxyl side chain occupies the enzyme S'(1) subsite [Jia et al. (1995), J. Biol. Chem. 270, 5527]. A similar effect of benzyl group was also detected in the internally quenched peptides. Finally, the benzyl group in substrates containing Cys(SBzl) amino acid at P1 seems to compensate the absence of adequate S2-P2 interaction in the hydrolysis of the peptides having Pro or Ala at P2 position.