Prof. Bernard C. Rossier

Ms Marie-Madeleine
+41 22 704 36 41


Chemin Rieu 17
P.O. Box 270
1211 Geneva 17
+41 22 704 36 36
+41 22 704 36 37


Alex p. Gould

MRC National Institute for Medical Research,

Mill Hill, London (UK)

Division of Physiology and Metabolism

Wednesday, October 24, 09:30 - 10:00

Nutrients and the relative growth of organs in Drosophila

Moderate nutrient deprivation in animals is often compatible with development, albeit into an undersized adult. One important survival strategy here is to spare the growth of certain critical organs, such as the CNS, at the expense of others. For example, in humans, fetal nutrient restriction can result in asymmetric intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), characterized by undersized neonates with relatively large brains. We have been exploring the molecular mechanisms underlying this type of brain sparing in the context of the growing CNS of Drosophila. This work has identified a highly modified Insulin/TOR signalling network that permits neural stem cells to grow and divide at the normal rate under conditions of nutrient restriction that are severe enough to shut down all net growth of the body. We also find that optimal CNS growth during this type of nutrient stress requires neural stem cells to be metabolically coupled to their glial-cell niche. The possible relevance of these findings to mammalian brain sparing and, more generally, to the mechanisms by which nutrients regulate the relative growth of different tissues will be discussed.


Alex P. Gould obtained his PhD at the University of Cambridge (with Rob White), developing an early version of ChIP to identify Hox target genes. He then moved to MRC National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), Mill Hill (London) (with Robb Krumlauf), showing that Hox genes share enhancers and are induced in the CNS by retinoids from somites. He established his own laboratory at NIMR in 1998 and is now Head of the Division of Physiology and Metabolism. His current research uses Drosophila and vertebrate models to study how nutrients impact upon growth and metabolism. Alex P. Gould is a member of EMBO and was awarded the Hooke Medal in 2011.