TERC - Tremplin-ERC

Asymmetric spindle positioning in nematodes: from comparative biophysics to evolutionary cell biology – EvolSpindle

Submission summary

The cell is a level of biological organisation that has been poorly explored from an evolutionary perspective because basic cell functions (e.g. cell division) show remarkable conservation across phyla. Thus, an essential question remains: to what extent cellular mechanisms evolve without altering the basic function they sustain? EvolSpindle explores this question.
My lab has developed the asymmetric cell division of nematode embryos as a study system. The first embryonic division of the nematode C. elegans gives rise to two daughter cells of asymmetric size and fate, due to the asymmetric positioning of the mitotic spindle. This initial event is crucial to embryogenesis and conserved in most nematode species. We characterized the variation in spindle movements in embryos of 42 closely related species of nematodes. We found that significantly different combinations of spindle movements ultimately lead to an asymmetric displacement of the spindle and established that even between virtually identical phenotypes, mechanical optimization of the spindle differs. We are struck by the apparent paradox that an essential cellular function (asymmetric cell division) is maintained over the course of evolution while the underlying mechanisms that sustain it (asymmetric spindle positioning) change rapidly.
EvolSpindle exploits my lab’s unique collection and expertise, the availability of genome scale data and the large body of knowledge on spindle mechanics to ask which changes to spindle positioning mechanisms have occurred over the course of nematode evolution. Our approach combines modelling, comparative biophysics and molecular genetics. EvolSpindle will identify physical and molecular parameters that are either constraining change or building in flexibility and innovation between nematode species. Results will pioneer cross-disciplinary insights on the study of asymmetric cell division and the evolution of cellular systems.

Project coordination

Marie Delattre (Laboratoire de Biologie et Modélisation de la Cellule)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


CNRS - UMR5239 Laboratoire de Biologie et Modélisation de la Cellule

Help of the ANR 109,995 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: May 2017 - 18 Months

Useful links

Explorez notre base de projets financés



ANR makes available its datasets on funded projects, click here to find more.

Sign up for the latest news:
Subscribe to our newsletter