Florence BESSE

Post-transcriptional control of neuronal plasticity

Main interests

  • understand how post-transcriptional regulatory processes control neuronal plasticity in vivo
  • study the regulatory mechanisms underlying neuronal RNP granule transport and dynamic properties
  • unravel the functions of mRNA transport and local translation in brain maturation and learning and memory processes
  • combine a variety of complementary approaches and perform multi-scale analyses

Scientific Questions

Our main research goal is to understand how post-transcriptional regulatory processes control neuronal plasticity in vivo. Specifically, we study how neuronal ribonucleoprotein (RNP) granules are regulated in space and time to promote local remodeling of neuronal cells during development, as well as in learning and memory processes. Neuronal RNP granules are dynamic macromolecular complexes that contain RNAs and regulatory proteins, assemble in the cell body, and are transported over long-distances to axons or dendrites. They are implicated in the transport of mRNAs, and in their local translation in response to external cues. Although alterations in the properties of neuronal RNP granules have been associated with different neurodegenerative diseases, surprisingly little is known about the molecular mechanisms underlying their formation and dynamics, as well as their physiological function and regulation.

Figure 1 – Neuronal RNP granules

Our Strategy

To understand the role of neuronal RNP granules in neuronal plasticity, as well as their spatio-temporal regulation in response to developmental signals or neuronal activity, one needs to i) dissect the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the assembly, transport and remodeling of these granules, and ii) test their functional impact during nervous system development or learning and memory processes. To address these questions, our lab performs multi-scale analyses, and uses Drosophila nervous system as an original in vivo system where advanced genetics, imaging and biochemistry can be combined. We use and develop a range of complementary assays including in vivo live-cell imaging, smFISH, in vivo RIP-seq, high throughput-microscopy, in vitro reconstitution assays. For some of our projects, we collaborate with computer scientists to perform automatic and quantitative image processing, and to develop mathematical models of the biological processes we study (See Morpheme Team ).

Figure 2 – GFP-Imp particle dynamic axonal transport


Research Aims

1- Neuronal RNP granules and axonal remodeling. We have shown that RNP granule components are actively recruited to axons undergoing remodeling in response to developmental cues. Furthermore, they are required for the regrowth of axonal processes that occurs after pruning of immature branches. Our objectives are i) to identify the mechanisms triggering RNP granule axonal recruitment and local translation of transported mRNAs, and ii) to understand their impact on axon regrowth and branching.

Figure 3 – 3D reconstruction of a single axon

2- Regulation of neuronal RNP granule assembly and dynamics. RNP granules are high order assemblages composed of RNAs and proteins dynamically exchanging with the cytoplasm. To identify regulators of the clustering and recycling of RNP granules, we are combining different approaches including biochemical purifications of RNP complexes, high throughput microscopy-based RNAi screens and in vitro reconstitution assays.

Figure 4 – Granules in cell culture

3- Regulation and function of neuronal RNP granules in synaptic plasticity and disease. We aim at understanding how neuronal RNP granules remodel in response to synaptic activity, and how this contributes to the structural changes underlying the establishment and retention of memories. As the progression of several neurodegenerative diseases has been linked to the formation of pathological RNP aggregates, we also study RNP granules assembled by RNA binding proteins involved in such diseases.

Figure 5 – Drosophila Mushroom Body


DE GRAEVE Fabienne - +33 489150746
MEDIONI Caroline - +33 489150746


DEHECQ Marine - +33 489150746


PUSHPALATHA Kavya Vinayan - +33 489150746
MORE Yogesh Walmikrao - +33 489150745
DE QUEIROZ Bruna - +33 489150746

Engineers & Technicians

PALIN Lucile - +33 489150746
RAMEAU Marion - +33 489150866
VERDES Léa - +33 489150746


CASSINI Paul - +33 489150746


Recent publications

  1. Pushpalatha, KV, Besse, F. Local Translation in Axons: When Membraneless RNP Granules Meet Membrane-Bound Organelles. Front Mol Biosci. 2019;6 :129. doi: 10.3389/fmolb.2019.00129. PubMed PMID:31824961 PubMed Central PMC6882739.
  2. Genovese, S, Clément, R, Gaultier, C, Besse, F, Narbonne-Reveau, K, Daian, F et al.. Coopted temporal patterning governs cellular hierarchy, heterogeneity and metabolism in Drosophila neuroblast tumors. Elife. 2019;8 :. doi: 10.7554/eLife.50375. PubMed PMID:31566561 PubMed Central PMC6791719.
  3. De Graeve, F, Debreuve, E, Rahmoun, S, Ecsedi, S, Bahri, A, Hubstenberger, A et al.. Detecting and quantifying stress granules in tissues of multicellular organisms with the Obj.MPP analysis tool. Traffic. 2019;20 (9):697-711. doi: 10.1111/tra.12678. PubMed PMID:31314165 .
  4. Formicola, N, Vijayakumar, J, Besse, F. Neuronal ribonucleoprotein granules: Dynamic sensors of localized signals. Traffic. 2019;20 (9):639-649. doi: 10.1111/tra.12672. PubMed PMID:31206920 .
  5. Vijayakumar, J, Perrois, C, Heim, M, Bousset, L, Alberti, S, Besse, F et al.. The prion-like domain of Drosophila Imp promotes axonal transport of RNP granules in vivo. Nat Commun. 2019;10 (1):2593. doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-10554-w. PubMed PMID:31197139 PubMed Central PMC6565635.
  6. Razetti, A, Medioni, C, Malandain, G, Besse, F, Descombes, X. A stochastic framework to model axon interactions within growing neuronal populations. PLoS Comput Biol. 2018;14 (12):e1006627. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1006627. PubMed PMID:30507939 PubMed Central PMC6292646.
  7. De Graeve, F, Besse, F. Neuronal RNP granules: from physiological to pathological assemblies. Biol Chem. 2018;399 (7):623-635. doi: 10.1515/hsz-2018-0141. PubMed PMID:29641413 .
  8. Dang, LT, Tondl, M, Chiu, MHH, Revote, J, Paten, B, Tano, V et al.. TrawlerWeb: an online de novo motif discovery tool for next-generation sequencing datasets. BMC Genomics. 2018;19 (1):238. doi: 10.1186/s12864-018-4630-0. PubMed PMID:29621972 PubMed Central PMC5887194.
  9. Khayachi, A, Gwizdek, C, Poupon, G, Alcor, D, Chafai, M, Cassé, F et al.. Sumoylation regulates FMRP-mediated dendritic spine elimination and maturation. Nat Commun. 2018;9 (1):757. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-03222-y. PubMed PMID:29472612 PubMed Central PMC5823917.
  10. Medioni, C, Besse, F. The Secret Life of RNA: Lessons from Emerging Methodologies. Methods Mol Biol. 2018;1649 :1-28. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-7213-5_1. PubMed PMID:29130187 .
  11. Gama-Carvalho, M, L Garcia-Vaquero, M, R Pinto, F, Besse, F, Weis, J, Voigt, A et al.. Linking amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and spinal muscular atrophy through RNA-transcriptome homeostasis: a genomics perspective. J Neurochem. 2017;141 (1):12-30. doi: 10.1111/jnc.13945. PubMed PMID:28054357 .
  12. Bruckert, H, Marchetti, G, Ramialison, M, Besse, F. Drosophila Hrp48 Is Required for Mushroom Body Axon Growth, Branching and Guidance. PLoS One. 2015;10 (8):e0136610. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0136610. PubMed PMID:26313745 PubMed Central PMC4551846.
  13. Medioni, C, Ephrussi, A, Besse, F. Live imaging of axonal transport in Drosophila pupal brain explants. Nat Protoc. 2015;10 (4):574-84. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2015.034. PubMed PMID:25763834 .
  14. Mottini, A, Descombes, X, Besse, F, Pechersky, E. Discrete stochastic model for the generation of axonal trees. Annu Int Conf IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2014;2014 :6814-7. doi: 10.1109/EMBC.2014.6945193. PubMed PMID:25571561 .
  15. Marchetti, G, Reichardt, I, Knoblich, JA, Besse, F. The TRIM-NHL protein Brat promotes axon maintenance by repressing src64B expression. J Neurosci. 2014;34 (41):13855-64. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3285-13.2014. PubMed PMID:25297111 PubMed Central PMC6608379.
  16. Medioni, C, Ramialison, M, Ephrussi, A, Besse, F. Imp promotes axonal remodeling by regulating profilin mRNA during brain development. Curr Biol. 2014;24 (7):793-800. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.02.038. PubMed PMID:24656828 .
  17. Medioni, C, Mowry, K, Besse, F. Principles and roles of mRNA localization in animal development. Development. 2012;139 (18):3263-76. doi: 10.1242/dev.078626. PubMed PMID:22912410 PubMed Central PMC3424039.
  18. Maury, P, Besse, F, Martin, S. Age differences in outdated information processing during news reports reading. Exp Aging Res. 2010;36 (4):371-92. doi: 10.1080/0361073X.2010.511962. PubMed PMID:20845118 .
  19. Besse, F, López de Quinto, S, Marchand, V, Trucco, A, Ephrussi, A. Drosophila PTB promotes formation of high-order RNP particles and represses oskar translation. Genes Dev. 2009;23 (2):195-207. doi: 10.1101/gad.505709. PubMed PMID:19131435 PubMed Central PMC2648539.
  20. Besse, F, Ephrussi, A. Translational control of localized mRNAs: restricting protein synthesis in space and time. Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2008;9 (12):971-80. doi: 10.1038/nrm2548. PubMed PMID:19023284 .
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2009 - HFSP Career Development Award

2008 - ATIP Biologie du Développement (CNRS)

2003 - HFSP, EMBO and FEBS Long-term Fellowships

iBV - Institut de Biologie Valrose

"Centre de Biochimie"

Université Nice Sophia Antipolis
Faculté des Sciences
Parc Valrose
06108 Nice cedex 2