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Intergenerational determinism of emotional and cognitive impairment in fish
Deadline for applications
Date of publication


Details on the type of contract
PhD contract
Duration of contract
3 years

Gross salary: 2700


Name of unit of assignment
UR1037 LPGP Laboratoire de Physiologie et Génomique des Poissons
Address of unit of assignment
INRA - BEAULIEU avenue du Général Leclerc Campus de Beaulieu, Bât 16 35042 RENNES CEDEX
Website of unit of assignment
Region of assignment


Working environment


Under aquaculture conditions, fish are submitted to various external stressors (i.e. high temperature) that are likely to impact next generation fish in terms of behavioral phenotypes and ability to cope with rearing systems. These intergenerational effects remain however poorly investigated. The present project aims at understanding the impacts of maternal exposure to a stressor on offspring behavior, including the impacts on cognitive and emotional capacities. This approach is original in fish in which our understanding of intergenerational mechanisms remains limited. The project will take advantage of the possibility of a large number of eggs per batch to conduct in parallel molecular analyses and behavioral phenotyping. In addition, the project will use state of the art 3D imaging and genome editing techniques in order to be relevant in an international context.

We have preliminary evidence showing that maternal exposure to high temperatures triggers impaired cognitive and emotional capacities in rainbow trout. These impaired capacities are associated with dysregulation of the maternal gene expression of several key neurodevelopment genes including auts2, activator of transcription and developmental regulator previously known as autism susceptibility candidate 2. The aim of the present work will be to understand how a dysregulation of maternal genes (and maternally inherited RNAs) can trigger cognitive and/or emotional impairments. Non-coding RNAs that are involved in the regulation of epigenetic mechanisms and gene expression will also receive special attention.


Main steps of the thesis and scientific procedure:

1- Transcriptome analysis in eggs and embryos originating from mothers exposed or not to a stressor

2- Transcriptome analysis will be extended to non-coding RNA, especially microRNA (miRNA) and long non-

coding RNAs that can possibly play a role in epigenetic regulations

3- In parallel, behavioral studies/phenotyping will be conducted on fish originating from the same egg batches

in order to thoroughly characterize behavioral changes triggered by maternal stress. Fish will be subjected

to emotional reactivity tests and their learning skills will be evaluated

4- A functional analysis will be conducted on some candidate genes (including auts2) and will be extended to

other candidates yielded by the RNA-seq analysis during the project. This part of the work will include:

- Expression analysis of the gene under both control and maternally-stressed conditions. This will include 3D expression analysis after transparisation as well as the analysis of epigenetic marks in the promoter

region of investigated genes

- Gene knock out in a model species (zebrafish or medaka) using the CRISPR/Cas9 technology


See detailed project here: https://theses.u-bretagneloire.fr/egaal/theses-2019/bases-moleculaires-du-determinisme-mater?key=jzDkBv3zPJZgRDrmk8NwHjCFS6J4dwkc5H7CbBgRBj7XmS9sKTmN7MWN

Training and skills required

Diploma: Master in biology, molecular biology or agronomy

Skills: reproduction, cell and molecular biology, bio-informatic

Additional appreciated skills: knowledge in fish reproductive biology and/or behavior. Previous experience in microscopy or video analysis beneficial


Qualities: Great communication skills (oral and writing), good English knowledge, autonomy and rigor and team working abilities are required. Interest for animal behavior.




Julien Bobe / Violaine Colson
02 23 48 70 07
julien.bobe@inra.fr ; violaine.colson@inra.fr