Please select the first letter of the last name you are looking for.

Helene Cousin

Assistant Professor

During development, extensive cell movements change the shape the embryo from a sphere with a radial symmetry to an elongated, multilayered and asymmetric organism. The first morphogenetic movement occurs at gastrulation, when the mesoderm (that gives rise to the muscles, heart and blood vessels) and the endoderm (that gives rise to the gut, liver, pancreas etc…) are internalized. During neurulation, the neural tissue “rolls up” into a tube and the somitic mesoderm (future muscles) undergoes segmentation and rotation. After neurulation is complete, the dorsal most cells called neural crest cells undergo extensive migrations in the embryos and give rise to the melanocytes, and ganglia in the trunk and to most of the facial structures in the head. The Cranial Neural Crest (CNC) originate from the dorsal tube of the brain and migrate along define pathways (mandibular, hoid and branchial) and will coordinate the entire development of the face. They will eventually differentiate into many structures including the majority of the craniofacial bones, cranial nerves, glial cells and teeth. The CNC is one of the most plastic cell populations in the animal kingdom, capable of differentiating into structures of variable shape depending on the species, allowing them to adapt themselves to their feeding habits. For example, the jaw and nasal region of birds forms the beak capable of breaking hardest seeds (Toucan and parrots) or capable of reaching down the long nectar tubes of flowers (humming birds), while in elephants, it forms an elongated and flexible trunk. The plasticity of the CNC is also evident in the variety of birth defects associated with it, which result from improper migration, survival or differentiation of the CNC (Cleft palate, Treacher Collins syndrome, CHARGE syndrome etc…). What drives this plasticity? Can we manipulate it so prevent or correct craniofacial defects?

Current Research
Two projects are currently developed. The first one concerns the role and the evolution of ADAM9, 12 13 and 19 during CNC migration and craniofacial development. The type extracellular metalloproteases are critical for CNC migration in the frog Xenopus laevis. We have showed that ADAM13 metalloprotease domain cleaves extracellular proteins important for cell migration like cadherin-11 while its cytoplasmic domain modulate the transcription of various genes by a mechanism similar to the described for Notch. Interestingly, a mutation event has deleted the cytoplasmic region in placental mammals, which raise the following questions: Are ADAM expressed in the CNC of other species? Are involved in their craniofacial development? Do they perform the same functions as the frog ADAM13? We are currently investigating these questions in zebrafish, chicken, grey tail opossum and mouse with Drs. Thisse, Taneyhill, Sears and Tremblay. The second project investigates the role of the protein LBH during CNC migration and craniofacial development in the frog embryo. This project is developed in collaboration with Dr Albertson, who works on the microevolution in cichlids and has found that lbh could be one of the genes involved in the rapid evolution of their jaw.

Learn more at www.vasci.umass.edu/research-faculty/helene-cousin

Academic Background

  • PhD Université Paris VI, France (2000)
  • Postdoctoral training: University of Virginia, Charlottesville; University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Cousin H. (2018). Cranial Neural Crest Transplants. Cold Spring Harb Protoc. 2018 Jan 10. doi: 10.1101/pdb.prot097402. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 29321285.
Cousin H. (2018). Spemann Mangold Transplants. Cold Spring Harb Protoc. 2018 Jan 10. doi: 10.1101/pdb.prot097345. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 29321278.
Cousin H. (2018). Einsteck Transplants. Spring Harb Protoc. 2018 Jan 10. doi: 10.1101/pdb.prot097352. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 29321288.
Cousin H, Alfandari D. Cranial Neural Crest Explants. Cold Spring Harb Protoc. 2018 Mar 1;2018(3):pdb.prot097394. doi: 10.1101/pdb.prot097394. PubMed PMID: 29321283; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5834405
Khedgikar V, Abbruzzese G, Mathavan K, Szydlo H, Cousin H, Alfandari D. Dual control of pcdh8l/PCNS expression and function in Xenopus laevis neural crest cells by adam13/33 via the transcription factors tfap2α and arid3a. Elife. 2017 Aug 22;6. pii: e26898. doi: 10.7554/eLife.26898. PubMed PMID: 28829038; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5601995.
Cousin H. Cadherins function during the collective cell migration of Xenopus Cranial Neural Crest cells: revisiting the role of E-cadherin. Mech Dev. 2017 Dec;148:79-88. doi: 10.1016/j.mod.2017.04.006. Epub 2017 Apr 30. Review. PubMed PMID: 28467887; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5662486
Abbruzzese G, Gorny AK, Kaufmann LT, Cousin H, Kleino I, Steinbeisser H, Alfandari D. The Wnt receptor Frizzled-4 modulates ADAM13 metalloprotease activity. J Cell Sci. 2015 Jan 22. pii: jcs.163063. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 25616895.
Abbruzzese G, Cousin H, Salicioni AM, Alfandari D. GSK3 and Polo-like kinase regulate ADAM13 function during cranial neural crest cell migration. Mol Biol Cell. 2014 Dec 15;25(25):4072-82. doi: 10.1091/mbc.E14-05-0970. Epub 2014 Oct 8. PubMed PMID: 25298404; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4263450.
Powder KE, Cousin H, McLinden GP, Craig Albertson R. A nonsynonymous mutation in the transcriptional regulator lbh is associated with cichlid craniofacial adaptation and neural crest cell development. Mol Biol Evol. 2014 Dec;31(12):3113-24. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msu267. Epub 2014 Sep 18. PubMed PMID: 25234704; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4245823.
Ji YJ, Hwang YS, Mood K, Cho HJ, Lee HS, Winterbottom E, Cousin H, Daar IO. EphrinB2 affects apical constriction in Xenopus embryos and is regulated by ADAM10 and flotillin-1. Nat Commun. 2014 Mar 24;5:3516. doi: 10.1038/ncomms4516. PubMed PMID: 24662724; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4120273.
Wang L, Pawlak EA, Johnson PJ, Belknap JK, Eades S, Stack S, Cousin H, Black SJ. Impact of laminitis on the canonical Wnt signaling pathway in basal epithelial cells of the equine digital laminae. PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e56025. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0056025. Epub 2013 Feb 6. PubMed PMID: 23405249; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3566061.
Cousin H, Abbruzzese G, McCusker C, Alfandari D. 2012. ADAM13 function is required in the 3 dimensional context of the embryo during cranial neural crest cell migration in Xenopus laevis. Dev. Biol. 368: 335-344.
Cousin H, Abbruzzese G, Kerdavid E, Gaultier A, Alfandari D. 2011. Translocation of the cytoplasmic domain of ADAM13 to the nucleus is essential for Calpain8-a expression and cranial neural crest cell migration. Developmental cell. 20(2):256-63.
Alfandari D, Cousin H, Marsden M. 2010. Mechanism of Xenopus cranial neural crest cell migration. Cell adhesion & migration. 4(4):553-60.
McCusker C, Cousin H, Neuner R, Alfandari D. 2009. Extracellular cleavage of cadherin-11 by ADAM metalloproteases is essential for Xenopus cranial neural crest cell migration. Molecular biology of the cell. 20(1):78-89.
Contact Info

Department of Veterinary & Animal Sciences
427N ISB
661 North Pleasant Street
Amherst, MA 01003-9292

(413) 577-1156