The aim of my project is to understand the cellular and molecular basis of light-induced spawning and oocyte meiotic maturation, using the hydrozoan-class jellyfish Clytia hemisphaerica. Spawning in response to light is a common characteristic of marine autonomously functioning isolated gonads. Light provokes immediate release of putative peptides from gonads somatic cells, which act on the oocytes to trigger meiotic maturation and on neighbouring somatic cells to promote gamete release. My PhD research project involves characterization of light-induced spawning in Clytia using a range of approaches. The spectral characteristics of the response to light will be determined in collaboration with G. Jékely (Max Planck Research School, Tübingen). Potential light and peptide receptors, as well as their downstream signaling intermediates, will be identified by a candidate gene approach combined with comparative transcriptomics. A shortlist of candidate receptors will first be compiled by Digital Gene Expression (DGE) of separated gonad tissues and staged oocytes. Molecular phylogeny and expression profiling (In situ hybridisation and Q-PCR) will be performed for candidate genes, and the physiological activity of short-listed receptors tested by injection of synthetic mRNAs into Xenopus oocytes (Collaboration with C.Jessus/O. Haccard, Paris). Subsequent functional analysis in Clytia will require the PhD fellow to participate in ongoing group efforts in technology development: adapting si RNA and/or gene knock out (transgenesis) approaches to adult medusae, potentially including interactions with the NEPTUNE industrial partner SIGMA.
My interest and devotion for scientific research started while I was helping a graduate student from my university in Barcelona doing some experimental work in the lab. I realized back then that being a researcher meant to learn new things every day, to be surrounded by constantly working minds and to be able to develop projects and pursue new discoveries for science. All these characteristics are perfectly related to my personality and my career aims, so I easily decided that being a researcher suited me, and I hope that I can pursue my research career after finishing my PhD. I am glad to be exposed to the sort of courses that Neptune offers (Private sector, Scientific writing, etc.), as they will help me to shed light on my long-term possible career goals.
My main interests in science are developmental biology, stem cells and regeneration, and evolution. I enjoy trying to dissect and modify molecular pathways that lead to a specific outcome which in turn depends entirely on the context in which the experimental organism is being subject to. I also have a natural attraction to working with marine invertebrates and I am happy to be part of a big project that focuses the research on them.