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The Christiaen lab is part of the Department of Biology at New York University, since september 2009.


Our long-term goal is to elucidate how cardiopharyngeal gene regulatory networks (GRNs) control cell identities and the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying developmental cell behavior during embryogenesis. To this aim, our lab will study the transcriptional control of cellular processes underlying precardiac mesoderm cell migration in ascidian embryos.

The transcription-migration interface. bilateral pairs of migrating trunk ventral cells (TVCs) overlaid on cell-specific transcription profiles.

Ascidian embryos provide an attractive model system to study these questions, thanks to their relative simplicity, ease of manipulation and extensive resources available through user-friendly web interfaces. Moreover, ascidians are among the closest living relatives to vertebrates, thus providing a unique opportunity to investigate the cellular and molecular basis for chordate development in a simple system.

The ascidian precardiac mesoderm consists of only two pairs of cells, called trunk ventral cells (TVCs), which migrate from the tail to the trunk during the tailbud stage, about ten hours after fertilization. These cells express the suite of transcription regulators characteristic of the vertebrate and fly precardiac mesoderm. In addition, the gene regulatory network controls their migratory behavior. Following previous studies, our research will focus on specific projects to address the following questions:
1) What are the transcriptional regulators controlling cell migration and which downstream effectors genes do they regulate?
2) How do regulated effector genes control the cellular processes underlying cell migration?
3) What is the contribution of surrounding tissues to determine cell migration?
4) How are basic cellular processes regulated and coordinated in other cell types and migratory behaviors?

open positions

graduate students
post-doctoral fellows
please send resume to Lionel Christiaen (lc121 at nyu dot edu). Letters of reference, statement of research interests and long-term goals will be appreciated.