Mission and objectives

The Joint Research Unit on Biology of Reproduction, Environment, Epigenetics and Development (BREED) studies the effects of the environment in the broad sense on reproduction, development during embryonic and fetal life and the health of offspring. It brings together basic science researchers, agronomists, medical and veterinary clinicians to perform agronomic and biomedical research. The scientific objective is to understand and master the mechanisms of epigenetic programming during the prenatal life leading to the birth of a healthy, fertile and robust individual, able to adapt to changes in his environment.



The aims of our research are to improve the fertility and efficiency of reproductive bio-technologies in humans and animals, to study the physiological and molecular mechanisms that determine the offspring phenotypes (health, growth, fertility, etc.) and the search for predictive and non-invasive biomarkers of these phenotypes, some of which could complement genetic selection strategies in animals. Research work involves several animal models (rabbits, ruminants, rodents, horses) and multiple and complementary imaging approaches, which start from the nanometric scale to the whole animal. In vitro models are also being developed as alternatives to animal testing (primary cell cultures, organoids, embryoids). All of our expertise and tools are complemented by clinical studies conducted by medical and veterinary practitioners.

To carry out these objectives, the unit is organized into 5 research teams:

  • Embryo and Pluripotency: Epigenetics and Environment (EPEE)
  • Gonadal differentiation and its disturbances (DGP)
  • Placenta - Environment and Programming of Phenotypes (PEPPPS)
  • Epigenetic Mechanisms: Construction - Prediction of Phenotypes (MECP2)
  • Human Reproduction and Animal Models (RHuMA)

Collaborations and Expertise

The unit is home to 3 staff members from the ALLICE livestock cooperatives union and hosts a joint laboratory (LabCom SeQuaMol) funded by the National Agency for Research (ANR). There are many collaborations, including:

  • within INRAE : with research units from the Physiology and Breeding systems, Animal Genetics, Human Nutrition, Microbiology and Food Chain, Applied Mathematics and Computing departments.
  • in France : with research units from INSERM, ANSES, CNRS, INRS, Pasteur, MNHN, ChimieParisTech, CEA institutes as well as technical institutes (IFCE, IDELE) and with hospitals (AP-HP, FOCH and Toulouse hospitals).
  • in Europe: with Germany (EMBL, U. Halle), Austria (U. Graz), Belgium (U. Liège), Denmark (U. Copenhagen), Spain (SERIDA), Holland (RIVM), Ireland (UCD, Teagasc), UK (Southampton, Swansea), Sweden (Göteborg), Switzerland (EMPA, ETH Zürich, U. Lausanne).
  • in the rest of the world: with Australia (Melbourne), Brazil (Manaus, Pelotas), Japan (NARO, Tokyo), Thailand (Chulalongkorn), USA (USDA, UC Davis, Florida, Toledo).

The unit is expert in embryonic development in mammals, for the study of mother-fetus exchanges (endometrium, placenta), the effects of maternal nutrition and maternal exposure to nanoparticles. Our skills in epigenetics, both in model and domestic mammals, are internationally recognized, as well as our experience in genome editing (rabbit, small ruminants). Imaging is performed at an expert level in the MIMA2 labeled platform ( (


Five teacher-researchers from the National Veterinary School of Alfort work within the unit, as well as 2 teacher-researchers and 7 teacher-researchers - hospital practitioners from the University of Versailles-Saint-Quentin. Basic science researchers are also involved in numerous training programs at Masters 1 & 2 and engineering school levels (160h per year).

See also

Modification date: 09 February 2024 | Publication date: 20 January 2010 | By: Laurent M.