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    The team « Robustness and Evolvability of life » has recently joined the Institut Cochin


    Each of the seven research groups that have joined or will join the Institut Cochin during the year 2019

    will be the subject of a Focus. The first team in this series of presentations is the "Robustness and Evolvability of Life" team headed by Ivan Matic, who joined the Institut Cochin in January 2019.

    The team headed by Ivan Matic, a CNRS research director, has been located at the Faculty of Medicine of Paris Descartes since 2001. This team studies how phenotypic and genetic variation is generated in bacterial populations, especially in response to environmental stresses, and how they modulate evolvability and robustness of these populations. We are also elucidating molecular mechanisms driving evolution of persistence and resistance to antibiotic. Besides generating fundamental knowledge, our research may facilitate development of new therapeutic strategies to predict and combat the emergence of antibiotic resistances.

    In order to face conceptual and technical challenges posed by these projects, besides genetic, genomic and molecular biology methods, we are developping novel methodologies allowing studying single live bacterial cells. For this, we developed an experimental framework based on the microfluidic technology. We are also developing novel assays allowing monitoring mutation and mistranslation error rates, as well as metabolic state of living single cells.


    What are the recent contributions of the team?

    • The team revealed the existence of subpopulations of bacteria with abnormally high mutation rates, called phenotypic mutators, in isogenic bacterial populations. The presence of these mutators does not affect either the average frequency of mutations or the mean fitness of the population in a stable environment. However, these mutators contribute to the overall adaptability of the population in fluctuating environments by serving as a reservoir of increased genetic variability. (Matic I, 2019, Mol Cell 75:421-425; Woo AC, et al., 2018, Science Advances 4:eaat1608)
    • The treatment of bacterial cells with genotoxic agents increases the production of reactive oxygen species that damage the DNA. The team has shown that repairing these lesions is ultimately responsible for cell death. (Matic I. 2018, Current Genetics 64 (3):567-569; Giroux X. et al. 2017, PNAS USA, 114:11512-11517)
    • The team showed that, in the face of chronic exposure to antibiotics, bacteria increase energy production, translational capacity and repair of macromolecules. All these responses play an important role in the robustness of the bacteria exposed to antibiotic treatments but also to constant environmental fluctuations. (Mathieu A. et al. 2016, Cell Reports 7: 46-57)

    Legend of the photo
    : from left to right: Marie-Florence Bredeche, Ivan Matic, Chantal Lotton, Sébastien Fleurier, Wei-Lin Su, Arnaud Gutierrez.

    Filed under: focus