Postdoc Nicolas Cerveau

Geoscience Centre, University of Göttingen - GZG

Goldschmidtstr. 3
37077 Göttingen, Germany
Fax: +49-(0)551-39 27918


  • Born in 1985 in Gien (France)
  • 2012/02/15 – present: Post doctoral research in Geomicrobiology and Symbiosis group from university of Göttingen (Germany)
  • 2008/10/01 – 2011/12/06: Ph.D student in laboratory Ecology, Evolution and Symbiosis from university of Poitiers (France)
  • 2007/04/01 – 2007/07/31 and 2007/11/01 – 2008/07/31: Master student in laboratory Ecology, Evolution and Symbiosis from university of Poitiers (France)

About me

Favorite quotes

All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them (Galileo Galilei)

Hobbies and personal interests

Sport, animals, walking

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Research Interests

I am interested in host-bacteria symbiotic interactions because this is probably one of the major driving forces in evolution. It was notably at the origin and adaptation of eukaryotes.
During my master’s thesis, I investigated the evolution of the androgenic hormone gene in the framework of the symbiotic interaction between Armadillidium vulgare, a terrestrial isopod, and Wolbachia, a bacterium that induces the feminization of the male isopod. The androgenic hormone is an insulin-like protein produced in the androgenic gland that is responsible for the sexual differentiation in terrestrial isopod species. During the early phases of the development if the protein is expressed the juvenile will become a male, otherwise it will become a female. Thus, this protein is one of the putative targets of the feminizing bacteria. We amplified and sequenced the cDNA of several isopod species and we compared these results with results of Wolbachia transferring and androgenic gland grafting.
Since the start of my Ph.D, I focused my interest on the bacterial genomic aspect in symbiotic interactions. During my Ph.D, I studied  insertion sequences (IS) which are a type of bacterial transposable elements (TE). IS density is variable among bacterial genomes, especially related to the life style of the bacteria. The genome of old endosymbiotic bacteria are generally considered to contain no or few IS copies. Unexpectedly, new genome sequencing of endosymbiotic bacteria, such as Orientia tsutsugamushi or Sulfobolus solfataricus, shown a high TE density. I made the annotation of four available Wolbachia genomes that contain an unexpectedly high IS density. These annotations allowed us to describe the evolutionary dynamics of IS in bacterial genomes.
Currently, I am investigating the genomic base of the ectosymbiotic interaction between an amphipod, Niphargus, and a sulfur-oxidizing bacteria, Thiothrix, that takes place in a sulfidic cave located in Italy. This symbiotic interaction is relatively recent regarding the evolution time (~1 million of year) and this study could give us information concerning the first stages of symbiotic interactions. The aim of my project is to compare genome sequences of symbiotic and closely-related and co-occuring free-living bacterial strains to identify features and characteristics of this interaction.

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Teaching and mentoring

During the three years of my Ph.D, I gave 64 hours of instruction per year to students of Bachelor and Master levels. These courses covered several field of  biology, for e.g.: living diversity, population biology or chronobiology. Together with Sharmishtha and Linn, I am also developing a new course called “Ecology and Evolution of Symbioses” (Master’s level) starting in Winter semester 2012.

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Cerveau N, Leclercq S, Leroy E, Bouchon D and Cordaux R – Short and long-term evolutionary dynamics of bacterial insertion sequences: insights from Wolbachia endosymbionts – Genome Biology and Evolution (2011). 3, 1175-1186 pdf

Cerveau N, Leclercq S, Bouchon D and Cordaux R – Evolutionary dynamics and genomic impact of prokaryote transposable elements – In Evolutionary Biology: Concepts, Biodiversity, Macroevolution and Genome Evolution. Ed Pontarotti P: Springer; 2011 – pp 291 – 312. ISBN: 978-3-642-20762-4 (Co-first author with Leclercq S) abstract

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