Self-organizing principles of Class IV neuron dendritic arborization in Drosophila


A distinctive feature of neurons is their elaborate dendritic tree. Acquiring the proper dendritic pattern is critical for neurons as type-specific dendritic morphology plays an important role in defining their synaptic partners and in supporting the specific computation performed by a given neuron. Much work has been done to identify the molecules and to elucidate the mechanisms of dendritic patterning such as growth, tilling, or branch formation. However little is known about how type-specific dendritic morphology emerges during development. Specifically how the diversity in dendritic pattern is encoded by neurons and how these distinct dendritic forms arise. Using the different classes of dendritic arborization (da) neurons of the Drosophila larva sensory system, we propose to investigate how dendritic morphology emerges dynamically and to characterize how the cell specific dendritic patterns arise during development. The study will focus on class IV neurons that exhibit self-similar, space filling arborization.


Dendrites development/ Tissue morphogenesis/ Cytoskeleton/ Drosophila/ Modelling of developmental processes


The first part of the project will require to use high-resolution live imaging of class IV da neurons throughout development to provide a detailed quantitative characterization of their dendritic morphogenesis. From this description, simple developmental patterning rules will be extracted and to better understand how such rules generate complex shapes, we will generate data-driven models. These models will be later tested in vivo by taking advantage of the extensive characterization of mutants affecting da neurons morphology.

Expected profile

The ideal candidate will hold a PhD, should have a strong background in molecular biology and genetics and ideally experience with Drosophila, an interest in developmental biology, and a track record of peer-reviewed publications. The candidate must be able to work effectively in a team and is expected to actively collaborates with physicist to build and test mathematical models.

Continuation of an existing project

This is the continuation of a project that was initiated by a PhD student in Thomas Lecuit’s lab. The project was to carry on the characterization of dendritic patterning of Class I dendritic arborization (da) neurons. The project will pursue the characterization of another type of da neuron, the class IV, and will use previous results to compare how the two classes of neurons with distinct morphology are patterned. The outcome of this project is understanding how isometric (class I neurons) and self-similar, space filling growth (class IV neurons) emerge from cell intrinsic rules of branching.

Articles related to the project

Menon S, Gupton S. (2018) Recent advances in branching mechanisms underlying neuronal morphogenesis. F1000Research, 7:1779.

Hannezo E, Simons BD. (2018) Statistical theory of branching morphogenesis. Dev. Growth Differ. 60, 512-521.

Jan YN, Jan LY. (2010) Branching out: Mechanisms of dendritic arborization. Nat. Rev. Neurosci. 11, 316–328.