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Microinjection d'oeuf de medaka. © inra, F. Borel

Research units of PHASE division

Updated on 02/22/2018
Published on 02/04/2013

The Animal Physiology and Livestock Systems Division includes 14 INRA research units or joint research units (working together with other partners) and 5 research units working under contract. The units work on the major species of agronomical interest (fishes, birds and breeding mammals), on species used as models (mice, rats, fish models, Caenorhabditis elegans, etc.) and on cell models.

The research Units of the Division are spread over the French territory. The units work on the major species of agricultural interest (fishes, birds and breeding mammals), on species used as models (mice, rats, fish models, Caenorhabditis elegans, etc.) and on cell models. Different tools developed for exploring living systems (imaging, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics, etc.) and for analysing the in vitro and in vivo functioning of these systems are used in PHASE laboratories.

List of PHASE units

Animal and fonctionality of animal products -AFPA-
Developmental biology and reproduction -BDR-
Stem cells and brain  -CSC-
Muscle dynamism and metabolism -DMEM-
Animal Genetics and integrative Biology - GABI-
 Genetic, physiology and livestock systems -GENPHYSE-
 Herbivores -UMRH-
Fish Physiology, and genomic -LPGP-
Functional Genomics Institute of Lyon -IGFL-
Systemic Modelling of Ruminant Nutrition -MoSAR-
Neurobiology of Olfaction, 3D Image Modelling -NBO-
Nutrition, metabolism and aquaculture -NuMeA-
Physiology of reproduction and behaviour -PRC-
Physiology, Environment and Genetic for Animal and Livestock Systems -PEGASE-
 Avian Biology & Poultry Research -BOA-
Sol, Agro and hydroSystems -SAS-
Mediterranean and tropical livestock systems -SELMET-
Neurosciences Institut of Paris Saclay  -NeuroPSY-
Structural and Functional Glycobiology Unit -UGSF-

Animal and Functionalities of Animal Products

The concept of functionnality can be considered as the key concept which characterises the research work developed in the unit. It is related to three complementary aspects. First, the production of food and biomolecules addressed to human consumption to fulfil nutrients requirements. Secondly, it concerns the function of the organism to filter or to vectorize molecules, such as micronutrients or xenobiotics through the food chain. The third aspect corresponds to the use of the animal or the animal product as experimental models used to stimulate or to explore the effects for humans of environmental or nutritional constraints. This general orientation focuses the research unit in the area “Agronomy/Food Processing/Bio-ingeniery”.

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 • Developmental Biology and Reproduction

The “Biologie du Développement et Reproduction” (BDR) research unit is a joint research unit set up by INRA and ENVA (National Veterinary School of Alfort). It gathers about 125 scientists, professors, engineers, technicians and students. It contains 4 research teams working on embryonic and foetal development and the contribution of this developmental period to the animal phenotypes. In addition, the unit hosts three technological platforms (confocal microscopy, production of embryos (rabbit, sheep, goat and cow) and transgenesis (additional, homologous recombination and allelic replacement). The unit is pioneer in reproductive biotechnologies and nuclear (re)programming in domestic mammals. These animals are used for basic research (environmental control of animal phenotypes) and as models for biomedical research. The unit is also partner of researches on pluripotent cells (ES, iPS, EpisC) in livestock animals and their use in reproductive biotechnologies.

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Stem cells and brain

"Stem cells and brain" unit, a biotechnology research platform, has two goals: the development of stem cell technology for the repair of neuronal circuits involved in cognitive behavior and circadian rhythms, and the multi-disciplinary investigation of these circuits employing molecular and cellular biology, anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, mathematical modeling, psychophysics and clinical studies. The PrimaStem platform is currently developing new molecular and cellular techniques so as to optimise ES cell lines derivation from different non-murine mammalian species, including primates, rabbit and sheep. New developments are aimed at deriving and culturing ES cell lines without contact with murine feeder cells. We are implementing genetic engineering of ES cells so as to improve self-renewal capacities and large-scale amplification. The platform is accessible to outside teams who wish to acquire training and know-how in ES cells manipulation and culture.

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The Paris-Saclay Institute of Neuroscience (Neuro-PSI), joint Research Unit of the CNRS and Paris-Sud University, is developing fundamental and interdisciplinary aspects of the organization and functions of the nervous system, based on experimental and theoretical approaches at all scales of analysis. It will form, with its sister Institute NeuroSpin, the NeuroSaclay Center promoting Neuroscience at the highest international standards within the Paris-Saclay University.

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 • Muscle Dynamism and Metabolism

The principal objective of the Joint Research Unit DMEM is to understand the hormonal mechanisms involved in the regulation of muscle development, taking account of their agronomic importance. Muscle development at the prenatal (embryonic myoblasts) and postnatal (satellite cells, also involved in muscle regeneration) stages are studied at the same time. The involvement of adult stem cells in muscle regeneration is also under consideration. The influence of Myostatin (a member of the TGF beta family), thyroid hormone and retinoids on myoblast differentiation, and the molecular mechanisms involved, are the subject of particular study. Experiments are, for the most part, performed using cell cultures. In addition, different in vivo aspects are also developed. Some results raise the possibility of interesting medical applications (myopathies, muscle regeneration, cellular therapy).Studies performed on thyroid hormone have led to the discovery of new receptors located in mitochondria. They have opened a recent programme focused on the involvement of the organelles in metabolic diseases linked to hypercaloric diets.

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  • Herbivores

The mission of the Herbivore Research Unit is to contribute to the development of sustainable herbivore farming systems in accordance with public expectations, i.e. reconciling socio-economic viability and rural development, respect for the environment, product quality and animal welfare. In this respect, the Unit assesses the predominant and alternative production systems and proposes innovative techniques to optimise those systems, in particular under extensive conditions. To achieve this objective, the Unit analyses (with modern biology tools) and integrates the underlying biological mechanisms, together with the response laws for the animal with a view to proposing decision making tools to the main parties involved (producers, consumers, the public, the regional authorities, etc.).

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 • Fish Physiology and genomics Institute

The researches developed at INRA LPGP are mainly aiming at investigating fish biology in the perspective of supporting a more sustainable aquaculture.

More specifically, we are investigating the main physiological functions (Growth, Reproduction) using:

  • a diversity of methodological approaches: genomics and post-genomics (functional analysis), endocrinology, cellular biology, physiology, development and evolutionary biology
  • the animal as a model (from molecule to organism)
  • an evolutionary perspective to cope with the large diversity of fish species

The staff is 15 principal investigators, 34 technicians and research associates, 10 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows and 3 Research Groups

Our research is developed within a network of european and french partners in the frame of several EU-funded and national programs.

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 • Functional Genomics Institute of Lyon

Research at the institute involves the analysis of the genome’s role in the elaboration, the functioning, and the evolution of organized biological systems. The conceptual and methodological approaches rest heavily on those in functional genomics, integrative biology, and comparative genomics. The first research topics addressed by the IGFL concern the biology of reproduction, embryonic and post-embryonic development, morphogenesis, the development of the nervous system, and oncogene transformation. The applications of this fundamental research are planned for in the IGFL’s missions in the biomedical field, in biotechnology, and in agronomy.

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  • Animal Genetics and Integrative Biology unit

GABI's research objectives are aimed at improving our understanding of genetic variability of biological functions and developing methods and tools for genetic improvement and preservation of animal populations.

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  • Systemic Modelling of Ruminant Nutrition

The Systemic Modelling of Ruminant Nutrition (MoSAR) research unit brings together researchers and lecturers with backgrounds in animal nutrition, behaviour, rumen physiology, lipid metabolism, and modelling around a common research theme: Quantitative description of the processes by which ruminants acquire, ingest, digest, metabolise, and partition resources to production and other life functions. To achieve this, MoSAR is actively involved in knowledge generation through experimentation and modelling of the animal-feed complex. The Unit has a research herd of 120 goats and laboratory facilities for in vitro studies and nutrient analyses. The outcomes of this work will be: 1) improved tools to predict animal performance according to nutritional environment and physiological state, 2) the means to characterise individual differences between animals in their ability to adapt to challenges, and the underlying mechanisms. These two aspects are key to predicting the consequences of management and selection strategies on animal and system robustness.

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 • Neurobiology of Olfaction, 3D Image Modelling

NBO is interested in the genesis of olfactory signal, the plasticity of olfactory system, abd the three-dimensional modeling of central olfactory structures. The project of the NBO research unit aims at i) exploring the factors involved in the genesis of the olfactory signal initiated by an odorant stimulus, ii) investigating how the olfactory mucosa is affected by an exogenous disturbance, and iii) identifying, characterizing and spatially modeling the central neural networks linking olfactory perception to behaviors.

 NBO associates two research groups : BOB (Biologie de l’Olfaction et Biosenseurs), and AMIB (Analyse et Modélisation en Imagerie Biologique). BOB focuses on olfactory signal generation at the peripheral level and on olfactory mucosa plasticity, targeting zones from the dendritic compartment of olfactory sensory neurons to their axonal end connecting the olfactory bulb. AMIB studies, in the ventral striatum, the functional anatomical organization of neurons interfacing olfaction with behavioral responses. The complementary approaches of AMIB and BOB aim at a better understanding of the cascade of molecular, cellular and neuronal events between odor detection and behavior, to provide an integrative view upon the whole processing of odors.

 In addition, both BOB and AMIB develop original strategies and tools such as olfactory receptors-based micro and nanobiosensors (BOB), statistical three-dimensional modeling and 3D reconstruction software design (AMIB). Both teams are engaged into valorization of these tools and competences, through collaborative projects in various domains.

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  • Nutrition, Metabolism and Aquaculture

Researches in the INRA Unit NuMeA (Nutrition, Metabolism, Aquaculture) are conducted in a context of limited marine resources and a strong aquaculture development worldwide. They aim to understand the regulation of the metabolic pathways by nutrients in fish, using an integrative approach (from genes to the animal). The finalized goal is to provide recommendations for innovative strategies in aquaculture feeds in order to optimize growth and feed efficiency in respect of sustainability.

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 • Reproductive and Behavioural Physiology

The principal research orientations of teams in the Research Unit for Reproductive and Behavioural Physiology are:

 . social, maternal and nutritional behaviour of domestic animals, including behavioural and neurobiological investigations,

 . photoperiodic regulation of reproduction and the control of seasonality,

 . the release of hypothalamic GnRH neuropeptide to trigger ovulation,

 . secretion of pituitary hormones and control of their biological activities,

 . mechanisms of action of gonadotropins in order to improve control of the testicular and ovarian functions and ovulation,

 . epididymal maturation of spermatozoa, acquisition of fecundity and improvements to methods for sperm storage,

 . regulation of the development of ovarian follicles, the number of ovulations and oocyte maturation; improvements in methods for in vitro fertilisation in order to develop transgenesis and embryo production.

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 • Physiology, Environment and Genetics for Animal and Livestock Systems

Pegase is the acronym for "Physiologie, Environnement et Génétique pour l’Animal et les Systèmes d’Elevage" (Physiology, Environment and Genetics for the Animal and Livestock Systems).

Situated in Brittany, in western France, in the centre of one of the main agricultural regions in Europe, only 2 h from Paris, Pegase employs about 120 permanent staff and 30 temporary staff and students. Pegase has facilities in 3 locations in the vicinity of Rennes.

Pegase conducts research on animal biology and livestock systems with the ultimate goal to improve the sustainability and the competitiveness of animal production systems. More specifically, we aim to understand how the animal and livestock systems adapt to current and future conditions and challenges.

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 • Poultry 

The Poultry Research Unit and its experimental facilities carry out integrated research on the biology of birds, ranging from molecular biology to studies of animals in their environment. The aim is to be able to anticipate the demands of both consumers and producers, so that the knowledge acquired will enable improvements in poultry products and rearing techniques. Thus, by exploiting experimental lines and comparing farming methods, the unit develops and evaluates innovative systems which will improve product quality while ensuring animal welfare.

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 • Soil, Agro and hydroSystem

The objective is to understand the functioning of natural environnement, agriculture systems and landscape structures, to identify the interactions, in order to contribute to the elaboration of sustainable agricultural production systems, to the management and the planning of the countryside, and to the preservation of natural resources (soil, water, air) and patrimonial resources (landscape, agricultural systems). The units researchers are skilled in agronomy, soil science, hydrology and hydrochemistry. The unit works along three main lines:

 . Environmental evaluation of agricultural and aquacultural systems - Design of new systems.

. Soil quality. Dynamics of organic matter in cropping systems linked to livestock production.

 . Dynamics of water and chemical elements in agricultural watersheds.  

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 • Structural and Functional Glycobiology Unit

Research activity of the team « Glycobiology of olfaction » are delineated through 3 axes dealing with Mammalian Chemical Ecology (GDR CNRS MediatEC). One of the most important key-point in Mammalian life, reproduction, is mediated by exchange of chemical signals between partners, termed pheromones. Less than 20 pheromones were identified in mammals, despite their great potential of application for sustainable agriculture and breeding systems. Recently, environmental concerns, together with animal welfare concern have given a new impulsion in pheromone research, principally conducted by INRA (Institut National de Recherche Agronomique) and its private partner ALLICE in our laboratory.

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 • Mediterranean and tropical livestock systems

This unit’s research projects are conducted in Mediterranean and tropical zones on domestic ruminants in general and on sheep in particular. The overall objective is to understand and control animal performances in difficult breeding environments. The research activity is carried out by two teams : one studies the management of grazing resources, the other correlations between nutrition and reproduction.

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 • Genetics, Physiology and Lifestock systems

Research in GenPhySE (acronym) aims at understanding the genetics and physiological processes underlying livestock phenotypes, including when considering animals in their production systems. Our main activities concentrate around:

  • Improving knowledge on the structure and functional organization of genomes
  • Exploring the genetic variability of complex traits in livestock
  • Understanding biological mechanisms underlying the elaboration of phenotypes
  • Increasing genetic gain through genomic selection and design of new breeding programs
  • Improving our understanding of environmental effects on phenotypes
  • Designing more sustainable livestock production systems


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