The 2018 annual PhD prize was awarded to Jeshlee Cyril VIJAYAKUMAR at the autumn meeting of the Doctoral School of Life and Health Sciences of “Université Nice Côte d’Azur”. On this occasion, Jeshlee presented a summary of her thesis work done in Florence BESSE’s team at the iBV, entitled Role of the Prion-like domain of Imp in neuronal RNP granule regulation.

Jeshlee was finishing her Master at the DZNE, the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, in Bonn (Germany) when she contacted Florence BESSE to do a thesis in her lab. She successfully went through the Doctoral School of Life and Health Sciences interview process and obtained a fellowship for 3 years which was prolonged via a 4th year “Fondation ARC” fellowship.

During her PhD, Jeshlee has studied the role of Prion-like domains (PLDs) in the intracellular transport of RNA-protein complexes and the remodeling of neuronal cells. She showed that the PLD of Drosophila Imp, a conserved component of neuronal ribonucleoprotein (RNP) granules, is essential for the developmentally-controlled localization of Imp RNP granules to axons and regulates in vivo axonal remodeling.  Her results, published in the journal Nature communications, uncover a physiological function for PLDs in the spatio-temporal control of neuronal RNP assemblies and open up new perspectives on the function of this long-ignored part of the proteome in healthy or pathological contexts.

In the course of her thesis, Jeshlee has been visiting several host labs to perform and develop assays important for her project. To develop in vitro reconstitution assays, she joined the lab of Simon ALBERTI (MPI-CBG, Dresden, Germany) for one year, with the support of both Doctoral School and Canceropole travel grants. To perform Circular Dichroism experiments, she also went for a short stay in Orsay to work with Luc BOUSSET in Ronald Melki’s lab (Paris-Saclay Institute of Neuroscience).

For her future career, Jeshlee is keeping options open and is starting establishing contacts with both academic labs and industries.

The prion-like domain of Drosophila Imp promotes axonal transport of RNP granules in vivo.
Vijayakumar J, Perrois C, Heim M, Bousset L, Alberti S, Besse F, Nat Commun. 2019 Jun 13.