The team combines evolutionary, ecological and quantitative approaches to the biology of a major model organism, the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans. Biological processes are generally studied in the laboratory under one environmental condition and in one reference genetic background. Instead, we study a biological system in its evolutionary context, focusing on C. elegans vulval cell fate patterning and its robustness, evolution and evolvability. In order to develop an evolutionary and ecological framework for this model organism, we started to isolate and study natural populations of C. elegans and relatives, especially their outcrossing rate, population structure and ecology. We study their co-evolution with natural pathogens, especially recently discovered viruses.
One main focus of the team is the evolution of a key model system in developmental genetics, nematode vulva development.
The second focus of the team concerns Caenorhabditis natural population studies. We could efficiently isolate Caenorhabditis species, study their habitats, discover many new Caenorhabditis species and determine C. elegans genetic population structure (spatial structure, outcrossing rate). Several natural pathogens of C. elegans were isolated, including microsporidia, bacteria, fungi and recently the first viruses that infect C. elegans or C. briggsae, which will be relevant to study defense systems and their rapid evolution.
Nematode strain collection of the team: http://www.justbio.com/worms/index.php
Duveau, F. and Félix, M.-A. (2011). Role of pleiotropy in the evolution of a cryptic developmental variation in C. elegans. PLoS Biology, in press.
Hoyos, E.*, Kim, K.*, Milloz, J., Barkoulas, M., Pénigault, J.-B., Munro, E. and Félix, M.-A. (2011). Quantitative variation in autocrine signaling and pathway crosstalk in the Caenorhabditis vulva network. Current Biology 21, 527-538.
Félix, M.-A.*, Ashe, A.*, Piffaretti, P.*, Wu, G., Nuez, I., Bélicard, T. , Jiang, Y., Zhao, G., Franz, C.J., Goldstein, L.D., Sanroman, M., Miska, E.A., Wang D. (2011). Natural and experimental infection of Caenorhabditis nematodes by novel viruses related to nodaviruses. PLoS Biology 9, e1000586.
Félix, M.-A. and Braendle, C. (2010). The natural history of Caenorhabditis elegans. Current Biology 20, R965-969.
Braendle, C., Baer, C. and Félix, M.-A. (2010). Evolution of the mutationally accessible phenotypic space in a developmental system. PLoS Genetics 6, e1000877.