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Developmental Biology at the Bench

Master in Life Sciences, ENS
Bio-M2-E37 | Developmental Biology at the Bench
Year and Semester : M2 | S1
Duration : 1 week | 30 hours
First and last day of class : January 10th-14th, 2022
Hours : 9 am-12 pm, 2 pm-6 pm
Maximum class size : 9 students


Iris Salecker, PU, Département de Biologie, ENS (responsable du module)




9 am-12 pm, 2 pm-6 pm (there will be no Thursday afternoon session).
12h lectures (including journal clubs) and 18h workshops.


Developmental biology | Model organisms : chick, Drosophila melanogaster, C. elegans | Neural stem cells | Cell fate specification | Axonal wiring | Brainbow technologies | Mosaic analysis | Electroporation | Spinning disc and confocal microscopy

Course prerequisites

There will be no specific requirements to attend this module. However, participants should bring plenty of curiosity and an inquisitive mind. Some background in cell, molecular and developmental biology, as well as neurobiology and genetics would be recommended.

Course objectives and description

Aims : This module will enable participants to gain practical experience in a set of basic and advanced technologies underpinning Developmental Biology and in particular Developmental Neurobiology research as one topic in the wider field.
Themes : The brain is an astonishingly complex organ in the body of animals. It consists of a large diversity of neuron and glial subtypes, each endowed with distinct morphologies and functions within interconnected neural networks. Understanding, how a nervous system is assembled step by step during development remains a fascinating challenge. Recent years taught us that the integration of findings obtained through studies in different animal species –each offering distinct advantages and experimental possibilities– is instrumental for uncovering fundamental developmental principles. Our course seeks to bring across this notion by introducing students to three model organisms, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster and the chick Gallus gallus.
Lectures and practical workshops will center around three questions : (1) how do neural stem cells switch between proliferation and differentiation, (2) how is the fate of neurons specified, and (3) and how do neurons wire together ? The students will gain practical experience in different experimental genetic strategies used by « worm, fly and chick people » that hold the key to tackle these questions. A focus will be on the visualization of above specific developmental steps in conjunction with high end light microscopy (including electroporation and multicolor Brainbow technologies) and the exploration of underlying molecular mechanisms through targeted manipulation of candidate gene function.
Organisation : The module will include a set of lectures introducing the three model organisms and the conceptual and technical background of planned experiments, as well as a key note lecture. This will be complemented by ateliers where the students learn hands-on how to work with worms, flies and chick embryos at different developmental stages, to prepare samples following genetic manipulations, as well as to acquire and interpret images obtained through microscopy.


Grades will be based on article presentations and discussions (« journal clubs ») by each student, on their participation in course activities, as well as final team presentations reporting their results and experiences with the three workshop projects.

Course material

Pdf versions of Powerpoint presentations and reading material for the workshops will be provided online via Moodle.

Suggested readings in relation with the module content

• Primary literature and review articles related to presented topics will be provided via Moodle.
• Some chapters in relevant textbooks (Michael Barresi and Scott Gilbert : Developmental Biology ; Lewis Wolpert, Cheryll Tickle, Alfonso Martinez Arias : Principles of Development)
• Key papers about course topics will be provided one week before the start of the module via Moodle.

Teaching Team

Marie Gendrel, MCF, Département de Biologie, ENS
Xavier Morin, DR CNRS, Département de Biologie, ENS
Iris Salecker, PU, Département de Biologie, ENS

* Image credits
Left : CNS C. elegans (image J.L. Bessereau lab)
Middle : Larval optic lobe Drosophila melanogaster (image I. Salecker lab)
Right : Chickbow labeled CNS Gallus gallus (image X. Morin lab)