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Dr Nicolas Plachta

A*STAR Singapore

Nicolas Plachta

Presentation Title


Imaging the molecular and cell dynamics that form the early mouse embryo




Our goal is to reveal how mammalian cells resolve their fate, shape and position in the body in real time. Understanding how these decisions are made is critical to realize how embryos form, and what problems compromise human fertility. Yet, their real time control in vivo remains unknown. Because fixed specimens cannot capture cell dynamics, we established imaging technologies to study cells directly in live mouse embryos. We recently showed how transcription factors search and bind to the DNA to determine the first cell fates of the embryo. We found that differences in the binding of the transcription factor Sox2 to DNA appear as early as the 4-cell stage of development and predict cell fate. We also discovered that as cell choose their initial fates, they extend long filopodia protrusions to pull their neighbor cells closer, revealing a mechanism for embryo compaction and polarization. Finally, we established techniques to image how dynamic changes in the organization of the actin and microtubule cytoskeletons regulate the first spatial segregation of inner and outer cells to form the future pluripotent inner mass and placental tissues of the embryo. Together, our findings reveal some of the key dynamic mechanisms that pattern the early mouse embryo.



Nicolas studied biology at the University of Buenos Aires (Argentina) and University of Tel-Aviv (Israel). He did his Ph.D. in neuroscience and stem cell biology with Prof. Yves-Alain Barde at the Biozentrum (University of Basel, Switzerland) and his postdoc in biological imaging with Prof. Scott Fraser at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech, US), supported by fellowships from Swiss National Foundation, EMBO and CIRM. He was appointed as Group Leader at EMBL Australia (Monash University) in 2011 and joined A*STAR in 2015 as Senior PI. He received numerous grants including the A*STAR Investigatorship Award (2015, Singapore), the Australian Viertel Medical Fellowship, and various NHMRC and Australian ARC Grants. The Plachta Lab is highly cross-disciplinary and hosts international postdoctoral fellows supported by: NARSAD Brain & Behavior Research Foundation (US), Swedish Research Medical Council, Wenner-Gren Foundations, Swiss National Foundation, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Human Frontiers Science Program (HFSP) and the A*STAR Scholar program


Last Updated on Friday, 21 July 2017 02:22
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