Published on November 19, 2021 Updated on November 24, 2021

Discover Dr Bruno's Antonny interview, one of the three PI of the SPHERES project and Team leader Dynamics of lipid membranes and protein coats, at the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology.

Q: The SPHERES project started one year ago, how would you assess this first year?

A: Rita Araujo an expert in lipid chemistry was the first person to be hired. Soon she was followed by Akim Bello our engineer in biochemistry and cell biology and more recently by David Kovacs, a researcher in cell biology. Altogether and thanks to inputs from Stockholm and Toulouse, they succeeded in introducing the main material that is at the very heart of the project: the adipocyte and more precisely a minimal form to study it in 3D the adipocyte spheroid. Their efforts are accompanied by other people, notably Joëlle Bigay for the biochemistry of adipocyte proteins, Romain Gautier for structural bioinformatics, and Delphine Debayle and Lucille Fleuriot for lipodomics. Our work is done in close collaboration with the new group of Alenka Copic, a researcher in Montpellier, who is also a SPHERES member and with whom we studied our first LD protein a few years ago. Thus, after one year, we have now in hand this fragile and highly differentiated material and the people to study it.

Q: You were awarded an ERC Advanced Grant in 2010 on a project concerning biological membrane sensors. How did these two grants help you in the progress of your research? And what differences do you notice between these two grants?

A: The grants are not only different by their topics but also by their spirit. For the first one, I was the only PI and thus had all freedom to follow my curiosity. For this one, we have to get familiar with a new language linked to a new biological material. We need to listen to our collaborators who are the real experts in adipocyte biology and in the related pathologies. Thus, the situation is more restrictive at the beginning. But the rewarding might be high because it is just now that we are realizing how little we know about the biochemistry that is going on at the surface of the lipid droplet of a mature adipocyte. In other words, we are getting a feel for an organelle and a cell thanks to the initial constraints that the Synergy grant imposes.

Q: What do you think has been the most significant scientific result of the SPHERES project so far?

A: That adipocyte spheroids can be handled in a quite reproducible manner and that part of the lipidomic analysis can be done at the scale of a single spheroid. We are also fascinated by the recent results of the Ryden/Mejhert lab showing the existence of three main types of white adipocytes.

Q: In his interview, Mikael Ryden explained that the project is largely based on F2F interactions. What are the next exchanges planned and between which partners? And what are the objectives?

A: For the first time, we will all meet in Toulouse in early February 2022. The pandemic delayed this first meeting. Nothing better than having people sitting on a table drinking a tea or a beer and sharing their data and ideas, without the time constraints of a video conference. We hope that this will be a good opportunity for the young faculty to take over the SPHERES program and bring all their energy, expertise and curiosity.