Denis Duboule is a developmental geneticist, based in Geneva and Lausanne. He has contributed to precise detailing of how, during embryonic development, a mass of unspecified cells becomes organised into a body plan through genetic controls. He works particularly on Hox genes and has shown that they control trunk and limb patterning in diverse species.
Hox genes are a family of related genes found clustered together in groups. Denis revealed the structure of the first large complex of mouse Hox genes. Together with partners, he discovered that the physical ordering of Hox genes in vertebrates corresponds to the position of the body parts they organise — a phenomenon called colinearity — and that this genetic system is conserved throughout metazoan evolution.
Denis went on to prove that the activation of each Hox gene one after another also occurs in a colinear fashion, following a time sequence that he termed the ‘Hox clock’. He has also shown that the Hox body-patterning system was co-opted during vertebrate evolution to control the development of various structures and organs.
Professor of Biology, Department of Genetics and Evolution, University of Geneva Professor of Biology, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale De Lausanne (EPFL)