Animal development produces a spectacular diversity in morphology, from organism-wide features, to the specific shape of organs, tissues and ultimately individual cells. An important challenge is thus to identify the genetic mechanisms that control changes in the three-dimensional architecture of developing tissues and how they have been modified to evolve animal morphology.
Much of our work is focused on epidermal development in flies, a simple system to dissect the molecular basis for morphological differentiation, within a well-known developmental framework. Major outcomes concern the function and evolution of Gene Regulatory Networks specifying the pattern of epidermal trichomes, as well as the discovery of an unexpected class of regulatory small peptides for the control of developmental programs. We also identified cellular effectors that execute cell shape remodeling during epidermal development, and further investigated the functions and regulations of some of those that are of biomedical relevance, in particular for cell migration and cell division.