Christine Petit

Institut Pasteur


Primary Section: 24, Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
Membership Type: International Member (elected 2016)

Biosketch

Christine Petit is a geneticist and neurobiologist recognized for her work on the molecular mechanisms of hearing and deafness. By initiating neurogenetic approaches to deciphering these mechanisms, she has shed light in particular on those underlying the development and the functioning of the auditory sensory hair cells, at the level of both the hair bundle -their sensory antenna- and their synapse, and the pathogenesis of a broad spectrum of sensorineural forms of hereditary hearing impairment.

Christine Petit was born in a small village in Burgundy, France. She holds degrees in genetics and biochemistry from the University of Sciences, Paris VII and in medicine from the University School of Medicine, Paris VI, and with a PhD at Institut Pasteur, Paris and an MD. She has directed the Institut Pasteur “Genetics and Physiology of Hearing" laboratory, affiliated to INSERM and University Paris VI, since 1993. She is Professor at the College de France, holding the chair of “Genetics and Cellular Physiology” since 2002, and Professor at Institut Pasteur. She is a member of the French Academy of Sciences and of both the US National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine.

Research Interests

Christine Petit’s laboratory is interested in the hair bundle and auditory hair cell synapse functioning. Through a genetic approach based on the identification of genes causing early-onset forms of sensorineural deafness in humans and interdisciplinary studies of relevant mouse mutants, Christine Petit and her colleagues have revealed dynamic networks of adhesive and cytoskeletal proteins (such as the protein complexes encoded by Usher syndrome genes) essential for hair-bundle development and the mechanotransduction operated by this structure. They have determined the molecular composition of the various fibrous links of the hair bundle and elucidated the key roles they play in hair bundle morphogenesis and sound processing. Based on these findings they are currently investigating the essential functions some of these adhesion links ensure in the photoreceptor cells. They have shown that the hair cell ribbon synapse is endowed with a unique molecular exocytosis machinery, which underlies its specific physiological properties. They have found a general mechanism protecting the auditory system against damage due to overexposure to noise, namely an adaptive proliferation of peroxisomes. Their new research topics focus on the auditory cortex dysfunctions associated with early-onset cochlear defects and therapeutic interventions for hearing impairment.

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