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M2 internship - Genetics of the autonomic nervous system

Duration : 6 months
Location : IBENS, team Development and evolution of neural circuits
Contact : Jean-François Brunet

This project of developmental neuroscience concerns the autonomic nervous system of vertebrates, which controls vital functions such as respiration, digestions and blood circulation.

We recently uncovered the distinctive mode of formation of parasympathetic ganglia, which unlike sympathetic ones, are produced by neural crest cells that travel along the preganglionic nerves to form ganglia at their tips. We reclassified the sacral autonomic outflow to pelvic organs (made of preganglionic neurons in the sacral spinal cord and their targets in the pelvic ganglion), which has been considered “parasympathetic” for more than a century, as sympathetic, thus resolving a number of anomalies of the old classification and casting in a new light on the physiology of pelvic organs.

The M2 project will build on these data, by examining another part of the autonomic outflow, that preliminary data suggest is not as “parasympathetic” as textbooks claim. The project involves mouse genetics, analysis of gene expression patterns in mouse embryos by in situ hybridization and immunofluorescence on sections, and 3D imaging of cleared wholemount embryos.