Open Projects 2019

Marketa Kaucka Petersen

Marketa will start her research group at the MPI in summer.
Please contact Marketa for further information on the project:

Genetic and developmental basis of facial heterogeneity

The head represent the most complex and sophisticated part of the vertebrate body. This body compartment comprises of many tissue types that are assembled together during morphogenesis. A particularly interesting type of tissue that has been linked to the actual evolution of the head is cartilage. The existence of such a stiff matrix allowed for protection of sensitive tissues such as central nervous system and sensory tissues, formation of efficient feeding apparatus and development of other important functions and specialized structures. In majority of vertebrate species the frontal part of the chondrocranium, commonly referred to as “the face”, accommodates important sensory organs and feeding apparatus and exhibits features that are the basis for individuality. The diversity of facial features among animals is immense and various facial shapes offer to develop very specific skills and functions. Some species, such as humans, even use the facial individuality as a fast and efficient tool for mutual recognition and information transfer in a complex society.

The underlying mechanisms that are responsible for generating the diversity of individual facial features are not know. The candidate will investigate such mechanisms and reveal the genetic, molecular and developmental logic behind generating a multitude of individual facial shapes.

In the proposed project we aim to:

1: investigate the gene regulatory programs driving the early phases of craniofacial development.

2: reveal the genetic mechanisms that are responsible for the variety of the facial features among different species (for instance xenopus, zebrafish, chicken, mouse).

3: relate findings about underlying molecular mechanisms, the sources of morphogenic signals and face formation to rare congenital craniofacial syndromes.

To answer fundamental questions about craniofacial development, we will combine our expertise in developmental biology with new bioinformatics approaches, for instance single cell omics technology. Specifically, we will generate CT-scans and transcriptome datasets from early stages of craniofacial development in different species. To validate results, understand and challenge the discovered systems, we will use state-of-the-art methods such as genetic tracing with multicolor reporters, we will employ multiple mouse transgenic strains, perform genetic modifications in zebrafish and chick models, use micro-computed tomography, ex vivo tissue cultures with microfluidics systems and others. We will also take advantage of existing comparative genomics databases including 1000 Human Genome, 10 000 Human Genome and other large-scale sequencing projects and we will combine them with newly generated datasets from our own single cell analysis experiments. The candidate shall be ready to work with embryonic stages of various animal models or have expertise in handling transcriptomics datasets.

Hereby, we are inviting an inventive candidate who is interested in the exploration of genetic and developmental mechanisms responsible for the formation of the head to become our new colleague. The candidate will learn to combine state-of-the-art methods and work in interdisciplinary team in stimulating and collaborative environment.


For a better picture of the existing expertise of our team and the knowledge in the field, please see:

1)     Kaucka et al. Oriented clonal cell dynamics enables accurate growth and shaping of vertebrate cartilage. eLife, 2017.

2)     Kaucka et al. Signals from the brain and olfactory epithelium control shaping of the mammalian nasal capsule cartilage. eLife, 2018.

3)     Kaucka and Adameyko. Evolution and development of the cartilaginous skull: From a lancelet towards a human face. SCDB, 2017.

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