Honors & Awards

  • Highest honors for research internship, Department of Biology, Ecole Polytechnique (2007)
  • Doctoral Fellowship, Ecole Polytechnique (2007-2010)
  • Doctoral Fellowship, French Foundation for Medical Research (FRM) (2010-2011)

Professional Education

  • Ingenieur, Ecole Polytechnique (2007)
  • Master of Science, Ecole Polytechnique (2007)
  • Doctor of Philosophy, Universite De Paris Vi (2011)

Stanford Advisors

Research & Scholarship

Lab Affiliations


All Publications

  • Meiotic recombination modulates the structure and dynamics of the synaptonemal complex during C. elegans meiosis PLOS GENETICS Pattabiraman, D., Roelens, B., Woglar, A., Villeneuve, A. M. 2017; 13 (3)


    During meiotic prophase, a structure called the synaptonemal complex (SC) assembles at the interface between aligned pairs of homologous chromosomes, and crossover recombination events occur between their DNA molecules. Here we investigate the inter-relationships between these two hallmark features of the meiotic program in the nematode C. elegans, revealing dynamic properties of the SC that are modulated by recombination. We demonstrate that the SC incorporates new subunits and switches from a more highly dynamic/labile state to a more stable state as germ cells progress through the pachytene stage of meiotic prophase. We further show that the more dynamic state of the SC is prolonged in mutants where meiotic recombination is impaired. Moreover, in meiotic mutants where recombination intermediates are present in limiting numbers, SC central region subunits become preferentially stabilized on the subset of chromosome pairs that harbor a site where pro-crossover factors COSA-1 and MutSĪ³ are concentrated. Polo-like kinase PLK-2 becomes preferentially localized to the SCs of chromosome pairs harboring recombination sites prior to the enrichment of SC central region proteins on such chromosomes, and PLK-2 is required for this enrichment to occur. Further, late pachytene nuclei in a plk-2 mutant exhibit the more highly dynamic SC state. Together our data demonstrate that crossover recombination events elicit chromosome-autonomous stabilizing effects on the SC and implicate PLK-2 in this process. We discuss how this recombination-triggered modulation of SC state might contribute to regulatory mechanisms that operate during meiosis to ensure the formation of crossovers while at the same time limiting their numbers.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pgen.1006670

    View details for Web of Science ID 000398043000023

    View details for PubMedID 28339470

  • Maintenance of Heterochromatin by the Large Subunit of the CAF-1 Replication-Coupled Histone Chaperone Requires Its Interaction with HP1a Through a Conserved Motif GENETICS Roelens, B., Clemot, M., Leroux-Coyau, M., Klapholz, B., Dostatni, N. 2017; 205 (1): 125-?


    In eukaryotic cells, the organization of genomic DNA into chromatin regulates many biological processes, from the control of gene expression to the regulation of chromosome segregation. The proper maintenance of this structure upon cell division is therefore of prime importance during development for the maintenance of cell identity and genome stability. The chromatin assembly factor 1 (CAF-1) is involved in the assembly of H3-H4 histone dimers on newly synthesized DNA and in the maintenance of a higher order structure, the heterochromatin, through an interaction of its large subunit with the heterochromatin protein HP1a. We identify here a conserved domain in the large subunit of the CAF-1 complex required for its interaction with HP1a in the Drosophila fruit fly. Functional analysis reveals that this domain is dispensable for viability but participates in two processes involving heterochromatin: position-effect variegation and long range chromosomal interactions during meiotic prophase. Importantly, the identification in the large subunit of CAF-1 of a domain required for its interaction with HP1 allows the separation of its functions in heterochromatin-related processes from its function in the assembly of H3-H4 dimers onto newly synthesized DNA.

    View details for DOI 10.1534/genetics.116.190785

    View details for Web of Science ID 000393677300009

    View details for PubMedID 27838630

  • Manipulation of Karyotype in Caenorhabditis elegans Reveals Multiple Inputs Driving Pairwise Chromosome Synapsis During Meiosis. Genetics Roelens, B., Schvarzstein, M., Villeneuve, A. M. 2015; 201 (4): 1363-1379


    Meiotic chromosome segregation requires pairwise association between homologs, stabilized by the synaptonemal complex (SC). Here, we investigate factors contributing to pairwise synapsis by investigating meiosis in polyploid worms. We devised a strategy, based on transient inhibition of cohesin function, to generate polyploid derivatives of virtually any Caenorhabditis elegans strain. We exploited this strategy to investigate the contribution of recombination to pairwise synapsis in tetraploid and triploid worms. In otherwise wild-type polyploids, chromosomes first sort into homolog groups, then multipartner interactions mature into exclusive pairwise associations. Pairwise synapsis associations still form in recombination-deficient tetraploids, confirming a propensity for synapsis to occur in a strictly pairwise manner. However, the transition from multipartner to pairwise association was perturbed in recombination-deficient triploids, implying a role for recombination in promoting this transition when three partners compete for synapsis. To evaluate the basis of synapsis partner preference, we generated polyploid worms heterozygous for normal sequence and rearranged chromosomes sharing the same pairing center (PC). Tetraploid worms had no detectable preference for identical partners, indicating that PC-adjacent homology drives partner choice in this context. In contrast, triploid worms exhibited a clear preference for identical partners, indicating that homology outside the PC region can influence partner choice. Together, our findings, suggest a two-phase model for C. elegans synapsis: an early phase, in which initial synapsis interactions are driven primarily by recombination-independent assessment of homology near PCs and by a propensity for pairwise SC assembly, and a later phase in which mature synaptic interactions are promoted by recombination.

    View details for DOI 10.1534/genetics.115.182279

    View details for PubMedID 26500263

  • DNA Helicase HIM-6/BLM Both Promotes MutS gamma-Dependent Crossovers and Antagonizes MutS gamma-Independent Interhomolog Associations During Caenorhabditis elegans Meiosis GENETICS Schvarzstein, M., Pattabiraman, D., Libuda, D. E., Ramadugu, A., Tam, A., Martinez-Perez, E., Roelens, B., Zawadzki, K. A., Yokoo, R., Rosu, S., Severson, A. F., Meyer, B. J., Nabeshima, K., Villeneuve, A. M. 2014; 198 (1): 193-?
  • Evidence that masking of synapsis imperfections counterbalances quality control to promote efficient meiosis. PLoS genetics Mlynarczyk-Evans, S., Roelens, B., Villeneuve, A. M. 2013; 9 (12)

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pgen.1003963

    View details for PubMedID 24339786

  • Live Imaging of Bicoid-Dependent Transcription in Drosophila Embryos CURRENT BIOLOGY Lucas, T., Ferraro, T., Roelens, B., Chanes, J. D., Walczak, A. M., Coppey, M., Dostatni, N. 2013; 23 (21): 2135-2139


    The early Drosophila embryo is an ideal model to understand the transcriptional regulation of well-defined patterns of gene expression in a developing organism. In this system, snapshots of transcription measurements obtained by RNA FISH on fixed samples cannot provide the temporal resolution needed to distinguish spatial heterogeneity from inherent noise. Here, we used the MS2-MCP system to visualize in living embryos nascent transcripts expressed from the canonical hunchback (hb) promoter under the control of Bicoid (Bcd). The hb-MS2 reporter is expressed as synchronously as endogenous hb in the anterior half of the embryo, but unlike hb it is also active in the posterior, though more heterogeneously and more transiently than in the anterior. The length and intensity of active transcription periods in the anterior are strongly reduced in absence of Bcd, whereas posterior ones are mostly Bcd independent. This posterior noisy signal decreases progressively through nuclear divisions, so that the MS2 reporter expression mimics the known anterior hb pattern at cellularization. We propose that the establishment of the hb pattern relies on Bcd-dependent lengthening of transcriptional activity periods in the anterior and may require two distinct repression mechanisms in the posterior.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2013.08.053

    View details for Web of Science ID 000326993600023

    View details for PubMedID 24139736

  • The time to measure positional information: maternal Hunchback is required for the synchrony of the Bicoid transcriptional response at the onset of zygotic transcription DEVELOPMENT Porcher, A., Abu-Arish, A., Huart, S., Roelens, B., Fradin, C., Dostatni, N. 2010; 137 (16): 2795-2804


    It is widely accepted that morphogenetic gradients determine cell identity by concentration-dependent activation of target genes. How precise is each step in the gene expression process that acts downstream of morphogens, however, remains unclear. The Bicoid morphogen is a transcription factor directly activating its target genes and provides thus a simple system to address this issue in a quantitative manner. Recent studies indicate that the Bicoid gradient is precisely established in Drosophila embryos after eight nuclear divisions (cycle 9) and that target protein expression is specified five divisions later (cycle 14), with a precision that corresponds to a relative difference of Bicoid concentration of 10%. To understand how such precision was achieved, we directly analyzed nascent transcripts of the hunchback target gene at their site of synthesis. Most anterior nuclei in cycle 11 interphasic embryos exhibit efficient biallelic transcription of hunchback and this synchronous expression is specified within a 10% difference of Bicoid concentration. The fast diffusion of Bcd-EGFP (7.7 mum(2)/s) that we captured by fluorescent correlation spectroscopy in the nucleus is consistent with this robust expression at cycle 11. However, given the interruption of transcription during mitosis, it remains too slow to be consistent with precise de novo reading of Bicoid concentration at each interphase, suggesting the existence of a memorization process that recalls this information from earlier cycles. The two anterior maternal morphogens, Bicoid and Hunchback, contribute differently to this early response: whereas Bicoid provides dose-dependent positional information along the axis, maternal Hunchback is required for the synchrony of the response and is therefore likely to be involved in this memorization process.

    View details for DOI 10.1242/dev.051300

    View details for Web of Science ID 000280339000019

    View details for PubMedID 20663819