Steven Robbens

(Group member from 2001 until 2008)

+ 32 (0) 9 33 13 692

VIB / Ghent University
Bioinformatics & Systems Biology
Technologiepark 927
B-9052 Gent


Birthdate: 23 April 1979, Ghent, Belgium.

January 2004 - December 2007: Ph.D. studies 'Barely visible but highly unique: the Ostreococcus genome unveils its secrets', Bioinformatics & Evolutionary Genomics, Ghent University/VIB, Belgium, (IWT post-graduate grant)"

January 2003 - January 2004: Marie Curie Training Site: 'Annotation of the Ostreococcus tauri genome', Observatoire Oceanologique de Banyuls - Laboratoire Arago Universite Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris 6 - CNRS - INSU, Banyuls-sur-Mer, France

October 1999 - September 2002: Licentiate Biotechnology (M. Sc.), Ghent University, Belgium. Thesis: 'Comparative analyses of CDKs and Cyclins, genes involved in the Cell Cycle in different Eukaryotic model organisms'

October 1997 - September 1999: Candidate Chemistry (B. Sc.), Ghent University, Belgium


After finishing my master thesis on the comparison of genes involved in the cell cycle in different eukaryotic organisms, I switched my focus to a tiny green organism, Ostreococcus tauri. Ostreococcus tauri is a unicellular green alga that was discovered in the Mediterranean Thau lagoon (France) in 1994. With a size less than 1 µm , comparable with the size of a bacterium, it is the smallest eukaryotic organism described until now. Its cellular organisation is rather simple with a relative large nucleus with only one nuclear pore, a single chloroplast, one mitochondrion, one Golgi body and a very reduced cytoplasmatic compartment. The presence of only one chloroplast and mitochondrion makes it interesting to use not only for evolutionary studies, but also for experimental studies. Phylogenetic analyses placed Ostreococcus within the Prasinophyceae, an early diverging group of the Chlorophyta (green algae).

Genome Annotation

After sequencing its genome (Laboratoire Arago, Banyuls, France), I was a member of the annotation group that performed the complete genome annotation. As a case study I annotated the core cell cycle genes which lead to two major conclusions: i) Ostreococcus harbors the first described cdc25 Dual-Specificity Phosphatase present in the green lineage (Khadaroo et al, 2004); ii) Ostreococcus shows the minimal yet complete set of core cell cycle genes described to date (Robbens et al, 2005). This knowledge was further used for the whole genome annotation of Ostreococcus tauri (Derelle et al, 2006). Besides the annotation of its nuclear genome, I was responsible for the annotation of both the chloroplast and mitochondrial genome.

Gene Family Evolution

With the availability of completely sequenced genomes of different members of the green lineage, I'm interested in the evolution of gene families. The goal of this research is to characterize genome dynamics within the green lineage and to unravel the molecular mechanisms responsible for the unique or common features present in these species using comparative genomics.


(9) Worden, A.Z., J-Lee, H., Mock, T., Rouzé, P., Simmons, M.P., Aerts, A., Allen, A., Cuvelier, M.L., Derelle, E., Everett, M.V., Foulon, E., Grimwood, J., Gundlach, H., Henrissat, B., Napoli, C., McDonald, S.M., Parker, M.S., Rombauts, S., Salamov, A., Von, P. Dasso, Badger, J., Coutinho, P.M., Demir, E., Dubchak, I., Gentemann, C., Eikrem, W., Gready, J.E., John, U., Lanier, W., Lindquist, E., Lucas, S., Mayer, K., Moreau, H., Not, F., Otillar, R., Panaud, O., Pangilinan, J., Paulsen, I., Piegu, B., Poliakov, A., Robbens, S., Schmutz, J., Toulza, E., Wyss, T., Zelensky, A., Zhou, K., Armbrust, V., Bhattacharya, D., Goodenough, U.W., Van de Peer, Y., Grigoriev, I. (2009) Green evolution and dynamic adaptations revealed by genomes of the marine picoeukaryotes Micromonas. Science 324(5924):268-72.

(8) Vandenbroucke, K., Robbens, S., Vandepoele, K., Inzé, D., Van de Peer, Y., Van Breusegem, F. (2008) Hydrogen Peroxide-Induced Gene Expression across Kingdoms: A Comparative Analysis. Mol. Biol. Evol. 25(3):507-16.

(7) Robbens, S., Rouzé, P., Cock, M., Spring, J., Worden, A.Z., Van de Peer, Y. (2008) The FTO gene, implicated in human obesity, is found only in vertebrates and marine algae. J. Mol. Evol. 66(1):80-4.

(6) Robbens, S., Petersen, J., Brinkmann, H., Rouzé, P., Van de Peer, Y. (2007) Unique regulation of the Calvin cycle in the ultrasmall green alga Ostreococcus. J. Mol. Evol. 64(5):601-4.

(5) Palenik, B., Grimwood, J., Aerts, A., Rouzé, P., Salamov, A., Putnam, N., Zhou, K., Jorgensen, R., Derelle, E., Rombauts, S., Otillar, R., Merchant, S., Podell, S., Gaasterland, T., Manuell, A., Napoli, C., Gendler, K., Vallon, O., Peyretaillade, E., Jancek, S., Piganeau, G., Heijde, M., Jabbari, K., Bowler, C., Werner, G., Robbens, S., Pazour, G., Dubchak, I., Ren, Q., Delwiche, C., Paulsen, I., De Boever, P., Schmutz, J., Rokhsar, D., Van de Peer, Y., Moreau, H., Grigoriev, I. (2007) The Tiny Eukaryote Ostreococcus Provides Genomic Insights Into The Paradox Of Plankton Speciation. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 104(18):7705-10.

(4) Robbens, S., Derelle, E., Ferraz, C., Wuyts, J., Moreau, H., Van de Peer, Y. (2007) The Complete Chloroplast and Mitochondrial DNA Sequence of Ostreococcus tauri: Organelle Genomes of the Smallest Eukaryote are Examples of Compaction. Mol. Biol. Evol. 24(4):956-68.

(3) * Derelle, E., * Ferraz, C., * Rombauts, S., * Rouzé, P., Worden, A.Z., Robbens, S., Partensky, F., Degroeve, S., Echeynie, S., Cooke, R., Saeys, Y., Wuyts, J., Panaud, O., Piegu, B., Ball, S., Ral, J.P., Bouget, F.-Y., Piganeau, G., De Baets, B., Picard, A., Delseny, M., Demaille, J., Van de Peer, Y., Moreau, H. (2006) Genome analysis of the smallest free-living eukaryote Ostreococcus tauri unveils many unique features. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 103(31):11647-52. *contributed equally

(2) Robbens, S., Khadaroo, B., Camasses, A., Derelle, E., Ferraz, C., Inzé, D., Van de Peer, Y., Moreau, H. (2005) Genome-wide analysis of core cell cycle genes in the unicellular green alga Ostreococcus tauri. Mol. Biol. Evol. 22(3):589-97.

(1) Khadaroo, B., Robbens, S., Ferraz, C., Derelle, E., Eychenie, S., Cooke, R., Peaucellier, G., Delseny, M., Demaille, J., Van de Peer, Y., Picard, A. (2004) The First Green Lineage cdc25 Dual-Specificity Phosphatase. Cell Cycle 3(4):513-8.

VIB / UGent
Bioinformatics & Evolutionary Genomics
Technologiepark 927
B-9052 Gent
+32 (0) 9 33 13807 (phone)
+32 (0) 9 33 13809 (fax)

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