Genetics and Development of the Cerebral Cortex

Research center

15 rue Hélène Brion
75205 Paris
Giuseppe Baldacci


Université Paris Diderot


UMR 7592
Available to host a PhD student


Ledonne F., Orduz D., Mercier J., Vigier L., Grove E.A., Tissir F., Angulo M.C., Pierani A. and Coppola E. Targeted inactivation of Bax reveals subtype-specific mechanism of Cajal-Retzius neuron death in the postnatal cerebral cortex.  Cell Reports (2016), 17, 3133–3141.

Freret-Hodara B., Cui Y., Griveau A., Vigier L., Arai Y., Touboul J. and Pierani A. Enhanced abventricular proliferation compensates cell death in the embryonic cerebral cortex. Cerebral Cortex (2016) Sept 12; doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhw264.

Karaz S.#, Courgeon M. #, Lepetit H., Bruno E., Pannone R., Tarallo A., Thouzé F., Kerner P., Vervoort M., Causeret F., Pierani A. and D'Onofrio G. Neuronal fate specification by the Dbx1 transcription factor is linked to the evolutionary acquisition of a novel functional domain. Evodevo (2016) Aug 12; doi: 10.1186/s13227-016-0055-5. eCollection 2016.

Barber, M., Arai, Y., Morishita, Y., Vigier, L., Causeret, F., Borello, U., Ledonne, F., Coppola, E., Contremoulins, V., Pfrieger, F.W., Tissir, F., Govindan, S., Jabaudon, D., Proux-Gillardeaux, V., Galli, T. and Pierani, AMigration speed of Cajal-Retzius cells modulated by vesicular trafficking controls the size of higher-order cortical areas. Current Biol. (2015), 25, 2466-2478. Epub 2015 Sep 17. Research Highlight in Nature Reviews Neuroscience (2015), 16, 644-645

Causeret, F., Sumia, I. and Pierani A. Kremen1 and Dickkopf1 control cell survival in a Wnt-independent manner. Cell Death and Differentiation (2015), Jul 24. doi: 10.1038/cdd.2015.100.

Underligned publications were signed as corresponding author. # : equal contribution

Fields of research

Neurogenetics / neurodevelopment

Research Theme

The neocortex represents the brain structure that has been subjected to a major expansion in its relative size and complexity during mammalian evolution. Cognitive functions depend on the accurate construction of complex neural circuits which begin early during development through a precise orchestration between proliferation of progenitors, spatio-temporal generation of distinct cell types and control of their migration and settling position. Growing evidence supports the notion that the aetiology of numerous neurological and psychiatric illnesses has to be found in alterations of developmental processes.The aim of our team is to understand the molecular mechanisms which coordinate growth and spatial patterning in the developing cerebral cortex. In particular, we study how Dbx1+ progenitors at the borders of the pallium have contributed to neocortical evolution. Using mouse genetics we have shown that these progenitors give rise to highly migratory cells which will distribute over long distances from their generation site and which will be present only for a transient period during development. We demonstrated that the presence of Dbx1-derived transient neurons is crucial for cortical development and for the establishment of functional cortical networks. Dbx1-derived Cajal-Retzius subtypes in layer I and transient neurons of the cortical plate are involved in tangential (early regionalization and formation of cortical areas) and radial growth of the neocortex, respectively, by controlling cortical progenitors divisions in a non-cell-autonomous manner, and therefore acting as “mobile signaling units”.Our work points towards a novel general strategy for long-range patterning in large structures, in addition to passive diffusion of morphogens, via migration of signaling cells. By coupling studies on the role of transient neurons in mice and primates we aim at bridging developmental neuroscience with evolution and pathology in humans.

Team members

Yoko Yang Ja ARAI PARK
Mélissa BARBER