About this person

General research interests

I'm interested in studying the basic aspects of animal development, at the molecular and cellular levels. I'm also deeply interested in evolution and understanding the interactions between development, environment, adaptation and evolution. I have combined these interests by undertaking comparative and evo-devo approaches, and worked on really diverse animal models and topics (vertebrates, tunicates, cnidarians, ctenophores / cell differentiation, tissue individualization and morphogenesis), at several integrative levels.

Current project

Atlantic salmon parr





My project in the Integrative Fish Biology team is part of the new Norwegian Research Council-funded project Light & Salt - Thyroid hormone deiodinase paralogs & the evolution of complex life-history strategy (to read more : http://uni.no/en/news/2015/04/30/how-mixing-light-salt-makes-smolt/).
When spring comes, the young salmon parr has to prepare migrating to a completely new environment, from the bottom of freshwater bodies to open sea, in a process called smoltification. It has been shown that light (duration of the day) and salt (change in salinity) induce drastic changes in the body of the parr, including in the outer pigmentation, the general metabolism, and specific changes at the level of the brain and the gills.
These changes involve endocrine activity, in particular thyroid hormone signaling. The team, through a wide international collaboration, has shown that the expression of the two thyroid hormone deiodinase type 2 paralogues (a and b) is increasing in response to light and salt, in areas know to be remodeled during smoltification.
My project is now to investigate the function of the thyroid hormone deiodinase 2b paralogue in brain development, specifically in the optic tectum. In addition to trying to understand what happens in the cells following the induction of the expression of the enzyme in the target cells, I will try to understand what intermediate signal lies upstream of this induction, between light perception and the upregulation of the enzyme.

In addition to basic biological knowledge, this project can bring lot of new informations and tools for people working on environment and aquaculture.


2008 - 2014 Post-doctoral researcher in developmental biology. Ascidian notochord morphogenesis team (group leader : Di Jiang), Sars international centre for marine molecular biology, UniResearch (Bergen, Norway).

Project 1 : Cell polarization during Ciona notochord morphogenesis: tubulogenesis in a simple cell cord requires the formation of bi-apical cells through two discrete Par domains.
Project 2 : Lumen growth during Ciona notochord tubulogenesis: a stepwise-controlled process requiring a fine-tuned balance in actomyosin activity and TGFβ signaling.

2010 Woods Hole Embryology Course (Woods Hole marine biology laboratory, U.S.A.)., directed by Nipam Patel and Lee Niswander.

2004 - 2008 Ph.D. in Developmental and Evolutionary biology. Evolution and development team (group leader : Michaël Manuel), UMR 7138, Pierre et Marie Curie University (Paris, France). Title: Evolution of neurons and neuron-related cells in Cnidaria: insights from Clytia hemisphaerica medusa.


Regulation by a TGFβ-ROCK-actomyosin axis secures a non-linear lumen expansion that is essential for tubulogenesis.
Denker E, Sehring IM, Dong B, Audisso J, Mathiesen B, Jiang D.
Development. 2015 May 1;142(9):1639-50.

An adhesome comprising laminin, dystroglycan and myosin IIA is required during notochord development in Xenopus laevis.
Buisson N, Sirour C, Moreau N, Denker E, Le Bouffant R, Goullancourt A, Darribère T, Bello V.
Development. 2014 Dec;141(23):4569-79.

An equatorial contractile mechanism drives cell elongation but not cell division.
Sehring IM, Dong B, Denker E, Bhattachan P, Deng W, Mathiesen BT, Jiang D.
PLoS Biol. 2014 Feb 4;12(2):e1001781.

Tubulogenesis in a simple cell cord requires the formation of bi-apical cells through two discrete Par domains.
Denker E, Bocina I, Jiang D.
Development. 2013 Jul;140(14):2985-96.

Ciona intestinalis notochord as a new model to investigate the cellular and molecular mechanisms of tubulogenesis.
Denker E, Jiang D.
Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2012 May;23(3):308-19.

Tube formation by complex cellular processes in Ciona intestinalis notochord.
Dong B, Horie T, Denker E, Kusakabe T, Tsuda M, Smith WC, Jiang D.
Dev Biol. 2009 Jun 15;330(2):237-49.

Are Hox genes ancestrally involved in axial patterning? Evidence from the hydrozoan Clytia hemisphaerica (Cnidaria).
Chiori R, Jager M, Denker E, Wincker P, Da Silva C, Le Guyader H, Manuel M, Quéinnec E.
PLoS One. 2009;4(1):e4231.

Horizontal gene transfer and the evolution of cnidarian stinging cells.
Denker E, Bapteste E, Le Guyader H, Manuel M, Rabet N.
Curr Biol. 2008 Sep 23;18(18):R858-9.

Acetylcholinesterase activity in Clytia hemisphaerica (Cnidaria).
Denker E, Chatonnet A, Rabet N.
Chem Biol Interact. 2008 Sep 25;175(1-3):125-8.

A function for dystroglycan in pronephros development in Xenopus laevis.
Bello V, Sirour C, Moreau N, Denker E, Darribère T.
Dev Biol. 2008 May 1;317(1):106-20.

Ordered progression of nematogenesis from stem cells through differentiation stages in the tentacle bulb of Clytia hemisphaerica (Hydrozoa, Cnidaria).
Denker E, Manuel M, Leclère L, Le Guyader H, Rabet N.
Dev Biol. 2008 Mar 1;315(1):99-113.


Other publications

  • Denker, Elsa; Nilsen, Tom Ole; Tronci, Valentina; Hazlerigg, David; Ebbesson, Lars O.E. Turning light into hormonal signalling: mapping the melatonin receptive cells in the brain of the juvenile Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), and circadian and seasonal variations through smoltification. 2016.
See all publications in CRIStin

Ongoing projects

All projects
cp: 2019-12-04 11:15:43