Short Bio

Thomas Boulin heads the team "Molecular and cellular neurobiology of C. elegans" at the Institut NeuroMyoGène - CNRS/INSERM/Université Lyon 1. He has worked on various aspects of C. elegans neurobiology for the past 20 years.

During his PhD with Oliver Hobert at Columbia University, he studied molecular and cellular mechanisms controling the formation and the maintenance of the C. elegans nervous system (Buelow, Neuron 2003). As a post-doc with Jean-Louis Bessereau at École Normale Supérieure in Paris, he developed genetic and electrophysiological strategies to study synaptic function and acetylcholine receptor modulation (Boulin, PNAS 2008 ; Boulin, Nature Neuroscience 2012).

His team is now focusing on the role played by potassium channels in the control of cellular excitability and the regulation of the cell's membrane potential. The goal of the team is to investigate the biology of these widely-conserved ion channels in their native cellular context by taking advantage of the powerful genetic tools available in C. elegans.

Academic Positions & Education

  • Since 2013   Group leader at Institut NeuroMyoGène - INMG.
  • Since 2009   Tenured researcher at CNRS, CRCN.
  • 2016        Habilitation à diriger des Recherches (HDR), Université Lyon 1.

  • 2020 - 2025 Member of LabEx CORTEX
  • Since 2019   Scientific Council; Association Aïda,
  • Since 2016   Scientific Advisor, CNRS UMS 3421.
  • 2013 - 2019 Member of the Management Committee of COST Action BM1408.

  • 2005 - 2009 Post-doctoral fellow with Jean-Louis Bessereau, École Normale Supérieure, Paris.
  • 2001 - 2005 PhD with Oliver Hobert, Columbia University, HHMI, New York.
  • 2000 - 2001 Masters / D.E.A. Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire du Dévelopement (BMCD), Université Paris 6.
  • 1998 - 2002 Student of the École Normale Supérieure (ENS Paris).


20| Functional analysis of a de novo variant in the neurodevelopment and generalized epilepsy disease gene NBEA.
Boulin T, Itani O, El Mouridi S, Leclercq-Blondel A, Gendrel M, Macnamara E, Soldatos A, Murphy JL, Gorman MP, Lindsey A, Shimada S, Turner D, Silverman GA, Baldridge D; Undiagnosed Diseases Network, Malicdan MC, Schedl T, Pak SC.
Molecular Genetics and Metabolism (2021) Download PDF here
Neurobeachin (NBEA) was initially identified as a candidate gene for autism. Recently, variants in NBEA have been associated with neurodevelopmental delay and childhood epilepsy. Here, we report on a novel NBEA missense variant (c.5899G > A, p.Gly1967Arg) in the Domain of Unknown Function 1088 (DUF1088) identified in a child enrolled in the Undiagnosed Diseases Network (UDN), who presented with neurodevelopmental delay and seizures. Modeling of this variant in the Caenorhabditis elegans NBEA ortholog, sel-2, indicated that the variant was damaging to in vivo function as evidenced by altered cell fate determination and trafficking of potassium channels in neurons. The variant effect was indistinguishable from that of the reference null mutation suggesting that the variant is a strong hypomorph or a complete loss-of-function. Our experimental data provide strong support for the molecular diagnosis and pathogenicity of the NBEA p.Gly1967Arg variant and the importance of the DUF1088 for NBEA function.
19| A single-nucleotide change underlies the genetic assimilation of a plastic trait.
Vigne P, Gimond C, Ferrari C, Vielle A, Hallin J, Pino-Querido A, El Mouridi S, Mignerot L, Frøkjær-Jensen C, Boulin T, Teotónio H, Braendle C.
Science Advances (2021) Download PDF here
Genetic assimilation-the evolutionary process by which an environmentally induced phenotype is made constitutive-represents a fundamental concept in evolutionary biology. Thought to reflect adaptive phenotypic plasticity, matricidal hatching in nematodes is triggered by maternal nutrient deprivation to allow for protection or resource provisioning of offspring. Here, we report natural Caenorhabditis elegans populations harboring genetic variants expressing a derived state of near-constitutive matricidal hatching. These variants exhibit a single amino acid change (V530L) in KCNL-1, a small-conductance calcium-activated potassium channel subunit. This gain-of-function mutation causes matricidal hatching by strongly reducing the sensitivity to environmental stimuli triggering egg-laying. We show that reestablishing the canonical KCNL-1 protein in matricidal isolates is sufficient to restore canonical egg-laying. While highly deleterious in constant food environments, KCNL-1 V530L is maintained under fluctuating resource availability. A single point mutation can therefore underlie the genetic assimilation-by either genetic drift or selection-of an ancestrally plastic trait.
18| Mutation of a single residue promotes gating of vertebrate and invertebrate two-pore domain potassium channels.
Ben Soussia I, El Mouridi S, Kang D, Leclercq-Blondel A, Khoubza L, Tardy P, Zariohi N, Gendrel M, Lesage F, Kim EJ, Bichet D, Andrini O, Boulin T.
Nature Communications (2019) Download PDF here
Mutations that modulate the activity of ion channels are essential tools to understand the biophysical determinants that control their gating. Here, we reveal the conserved role played by a single amino acid position (TM2.6) located in the second transmembrane domain of two-pore domain potassium (K2P) channels. Mutations of TM2.6 to aspartate or asparagine increase channel activity for all vertebrate K2P channels. Using two-electrode voltage-clamp and single-channel recording techniques, we find that mutation of TM2.6 promotes channel gating via the selectivity filter gate and increases single channel open probability. Furthermore, channel gating can be progressively tuned by using different amino acid substitutions. Finally, we show that the role of TM2.6 was conserved during evolution by rationally designing gain-of-function mutations in four Caenorhabditis elegans K2P channels using CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing. This study thus describes a simple and powerful strategy to systematically manipulate the activity of an entire family of potassium channels.
17| CRELD1 is an evolutionarily-conserved maturational enhancer of ionotropic acetylcholine receptors.
D'Alessandro M, Richard M, Stigloher C, Gache V, Boulin T, Richmond JE, Bessereau JL.
Elife (2018) Download PDF here
16| Reliable CRISPR/Cas9 Genome Engineering in Caenorhabditis elegans Using a Single Efficient sgRNA and an Easily Recognizable Phenotype.
El Mouridi S, Lecroisey C, Tardy P, Mercier M, Leclercq-Blondel A, Zariohi N, Boulin T.
G3 (Bethesda) (2017) Download PDF here
CRISPR/Cas9 genome engineering strategies allow the directed modification of the Caenorhabditis elegans genome to introduce point mutations, generate knock-out mutants, and insert coding sequences for epitope or fluorescent tags. Three practical aspects, however, complicate such experiments. First, the efficiency and specificity of single-guide RNAs (sgRNA) cannot be reliably predicted. Second, the detection of animals carrying genome edits can be challenging in the absence of clearly visible or selectable phenotypes. Third, the sgRNA target site must be inactivated after editing to avoid further double-strand break events. We describe here a strategy that addresses these complications by transplanting the protospacer of a highly efficient sgRNA into a gene of interest to render it amenable to genome engineering. This sgRNA targeting the dpy-10 gene generates genome edits at comparatively high frequency. We demonstrate that the transplanted protospacer is cleaved at the same time as the dpy-10 gene. Our strategy generates scarless genome edits because it no longer requires the introduction of mutations in endogenous sgRNA target sites. Modified progeny can be easily identified in the F1 generation, which drastically reduces the number of animals to be tested by PCR or phenotypic analysis. Using this strategy, we reliably generated precise deletion mutants, transcriptional reporters, and translational fusions with epitope tags and fluorescent reporter genes. In particular, we report here the first use of the new red fluorescent protein mScarlet in a multicellular organism. wrmScarlet, a C. elegans-optimized version, dramatically surpassed TagRFP-T by showing an eightfold increase in fluorescence in a direct comparison.
15| Microtubule severing by the katanin complex is activated by PPFR-1-dependent MEI-1 dephosphorylation.
Gomes JE, Tavernier N, Richaudeau B, Formstecher E, Boulin T, Mains PE, Dumont J, Pintard L.
Journal of Cell Biology (2013) Download PDF here
14| Biosynthesis of ionotropic acetylcholine receptors requires the evolutionarily conserved ER membrane complex.
Richard M, Boulin T, Robert VJ, Richmond JE, Bessereau JL.
PNAS (2013) Download PDF here
13| Positive modulation of a Cys-loop acetylcholine receptor by an auxiliary transmembrane subunit.
Boulin T, Rapti G, Briseño-Roa L, Stigloher C, Richmond JE, Paoletti P, Bessereau JL.
Nature Neuroscience (2012) Download PDF here
Auxiliary subunits regulate the trafficking, localization or gating kinetics of voltage- and ligand-gated ion channels by associating tightly and specifically with pore-forming subunits. However, no auxiliary subunits have been identified for members of the Cys-loop receptor superfamily. Here we identify MOLO-1, a positive regulator of levamisole-sensitive acetylcholine receptors (L-AChRs) at the Caenorhabditis elegans neuromuscular junction. MOLO-1 is a one-pass transmembrane protein that contains a single extracellular globular domain-the TPM domain, found in bacteria, plants and invertebrates, including nonvertebrate chordates. Loss of MOLO-1 impairs locomotion and renders worms resistant to the anthelmintic drug levamisole. In molo-1 mutants, L-AChR-dependent synaptic transmission is reduced by half, while the number and localization of receptors at synapses remain unchanged. In a heterologous expression system, MOLO-1 physically interacts with L-AChRs and directly enhances channel gating without affecting unitary conductance. The identification of MOLO-1 expands the mechanisms for generating functional and pharmacological diversity in the Cys-loop superfamily.
12| From genes to function : the C. elegans genetic toolbox.
Boulin T, Hobert O
Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews : Developmental Biology (2011) Download PDF here
11| Functional reconstitution of Haemonchus contortus acetylcholine receptors in Xenopus oocytes provides mechanistic insights into levamisole resistance.
Boulin T, Fauvin A, Charvet C, Cortet J, Cabaret J, Bessereau JL, Neveu C.
British Journal of Pharmacology (2011) Download PDF here
10| A neuronal acetylcholine receptor regulates the balance of muscle excitation and inhibition in Caenorhabditis elegans.
Jospin M, Qi YB, Stawicki TM, Boulin T, Schuske KR, Horvitz HR, Bessereau JL, Jorgensen EM, Jin Y.
PLoS Biology (2009) Download PDF here
9| The Small, Secreted Immunoglobulin Protein ZIG-3 Maintains Axon Position in Caenorhabditis elegans.
Benard C, Tjoe N, Boulin T, Recio J, Hobert O. (2009)
Genetics (2009) Download PDF here
8| Eight genes are required for functional reconstitution of the C. elegans levamisole-sensitive acetylcholine receptor.
Boulin T*, Gielen M*, Richmond J, Williams DC, Paoletti P and Bessereau JL.
PNAS (2008) Download PDF here
7| Mos1-mediated insertional mutagenesis in Caenorhabditis elegans.
Boulin T, Bessereau JL
Nature Protocols , (2007) Download PDF here
6| A novel Eph receptor-interacting IgSF protein provides C. elegans motoneurons with midline guidepost function.
Boulin T, Pocock R, Hobert O.
Current Biology (2006) 16(19):1871-83.
Reviewed by Quinn CC, Wadsworth, WG. Current Biology, 2006 ; 16(22):R954-5.
5| Developmental regulation of whole cell capacitance and membrane current in identified interneurons in C. elegans.
Faumont S, Boulin T, Hobert O, Lockery SR.
J. Neurophysiology (2006) 95(6):3665-73.
4| Reporter gene fusions
Boulin T*, Etchberger JF*, Hobert O.
WormBook (2006) Apr 5 ; 1-23.
3| Characterization of Mos1 Mediated Mutagenesis in C. elegans : A Method for the Rapid Identification of Mutated Genes.
Williams DC, Boulin T, Ruaud AF, Jorgensen EM, Bessereau JL.
Genetics (2005) 169(3):1779-85.
2| Differential functions of the C. elegans FGF receptor in axon outgrowth and maintenance of axon position.
Bülow H*, Boulin T*, Hobert O.
Neuron (2004) 42(3):367-74.
1| Identification of spatial and temporal cues that regulate postembryonic expression of axon maintenance factors in the C. elegans ventral nerve cord.
Aurelio O, Boulin T, Hobert O.
Development (2003) 130(3):599-610.

Favourite quote
Progress in science depends on new techniques, new discoveries and new ideas, probably in that order.

Sydney Brenner

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