Sonia Stefanovic PhD - Developmental Molecular Biologist - Congenital Heart Disease

Course and current status

Area of expertise: Congenital heart disease, heart development, cell fate decisions, gene regulation, epigenetic regulation, non-coding DNA, molecular biology, transgenic mouse models, pluripotent stem cells

Dr Stefanovic received her PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology at the Institute for Stem cell Therapy and Exploration of Monogenic diseases (ISTEM) in the Paris district in 2009 (Dr Peschanski’s lab, Dr Puceat’s group). She then worked as a postdoctoral research scientist at the University of Amsterdam, at the Academic Medical Center for 4 and a half years (Prof Christoffels lab). Dr Stefanovic was recruited as a permanent researcher by the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research (INSERM) in 2016.

Scientific summary

Since the beginning of her career, Dr Stefanovic has been interested in the molecular mechanisms involved in cardiac development in order to clarify the genetic basis of congenital heart defects. For the last 12 years, she has been working on the role of non-coding DNA sequences during cardiogenesis. She discovered that some cardiac regulatory elements act as cell-type-specific switches. During her PhD, she was trained on early cardiac fate specification during pluripotent stem cell differentiation (mouse, human ES and iPS cells). During her post-doctoral training, she used a complementary in vivo model (mouse transgenic embryos), to understand how cardiac progenitors become specialized and differentiate into pacemaker cells. Currently in Dr Zaffran’s department at the Marseille Medical Genetics (MMG) center, she is leading a research project on the roles of Vitamin A metabolism in the development of the heart during pregnancy.

Dr Stefanovic has a high level of expertise in manipulating transgenic mice and characterizing the function and phenotype of disease models of congenital heart defects, a strong expertise in dissecting regulatory elements through a wide range of novel experimental methods in molecular biology such as transcriptomics, epigenomics (RNA-seq, ATAC-seq, ChIP-seq), as well as in pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes to model the early steps of cardiogenesis.

She was granted the European Molecular Biology Organization fellowship (2010), the European Society of Cardiology research grant (2013), the Lefoulon-Delalande grant (2014) and the European Marie-Curie Fellowship (2015) to initiate a project on the epigenetic control of Vitamine A-dependent genes in congenital heart defects.

Number of publications: total: 19, as first author: 9 (including 6 peer-reviewed scientific publications and 4 reviews)

Best 5 selected peer-reviewed scientific publications:

van Eif VWW*, STEFANOVIC S*, van Duijvenboden K, Bakker M, Wakker V, de Gier-de Vries C, Zaffran S, Verkerk AO, Boukens BJ, CHRISTOFFELS VM. Transcriptome analysis of mouse and human sinoatrial node cells reveals a conserved genetic program. Development. 2019 PMID: 30936179 IF 6

STEFANOVIC S, Barnett P, van Duijvenboden K, Weber D, Gessler M, CHRISTOFFELS VM. GATA-dependent regulatory switches establish atrioventricular canal specificity during heart development. Nat Commun. 2014 PMID: 24770533 IF 12

Blin G*, Nury D*, STEFANOVIC S*, Neri T, Guillevic O, Brinon B, Bellamy V, Rücker-Martin C, Barbry P, Bel A, Bruneval P, Cowan C, Pouly J, Mitalipov S, Gouadon E, Binder P, Hagège A, Desnos M, Renaud JF, Menasché P, PUCÉAT M (2010). A purified population of multipotent cardiovascular progenitors derived from primate pluripotent stem cells engrafts in postmyocardial infarcted nonhuman primates. The Journal of Clinical Investigation PMID: 20335662 IF 13

STEFANOVIC S, Abboud N, Désilets S, Nury D, Cowan C, PUCÉAT M (2009). Interplay of Oct4 with Sox2 and Sox17: a molecular switch from stem cell pluripotency to specifying a cardiac fate. The Journal of Cell Biology. PMID: 19736317 IF 9

Leschik J*, STEFANOVIC S*, Brinon B*, PUCÉAT M (2008). Cardiac commitment of primate embryonic stem cells. Nature Protocols. PMID: 19736317 IF 12

*co-first author

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