Institute of Biology, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands
Denis Duboule is one of the most influential and highly-cited scientists in developmental biology. Born in Geneva in 1955, he holds dual Swiss and French nationality. His undergraduate studies in biology at the University of Geneva included research on mouse embryology. He later learned molecular techniques in the laboratory of Pierre Chambon, becoming a major player in characterising the newly-discovered vertebrate Hox genes. He helped discover their genomic clustering, realising that they had arisen by trans duplication. With Gaunt and Sharpe, he proposed that vertebrate Hox clusters might show spatial colinearity, and subsequently extended this concept to the timing of gene activation (temporal colinearity). Along with the Krumlauf laboratory, he reported the structural and functional conservation of the homeotic systems in flies and vertebrates. His lab was the first to describe nested patterns of Hox gene expression in the developing mouse limb, and later showed that digit-associated Hoxd gene expression was lacking in zebrafish paired fin development. His concept of phylotypic progression helps explain major evolutionary developmental phenomena in terms of Hox gene regulatory networks. His research helped reveal that the genital tubercle may, like the limb, be patterned by Hox genes. His lab developed targeted meiotic recombination (TAMERE), using it to make profound advances in our understanding of Hox gene regulation. Remote enhancers linked to digit patterning have been uncovered, together with a likely mechanism for colinearity. Denis lives in Geneva with his wife Brigitte Galliot, also a scientist, with their four children.