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Martinez Arias Group

Laboratory of the Structure and Function of Living Matter


Cell fate decisions, Signal transduction, Embryonic Stem cells, Self organisation, Physics of Biology, Imaging, Image analysis

Research interests

We envision biological systems as Living Matter because we are interested in looking at the way in which its fundamental components (genes and proteins) organize themselves in a manner that creates and processes information. A product of this organization is cells, which are the units from which tissues and organs emerge. We are interested in describing and understanding the molecular networks that emerge from the interactions between genes and proteins that enable cells to interact with each other, make decisions about their fates (phenotypes) and self organize in space and time.


Image above : Distributions of Nanog gene expression in mouse ES cells [top] and trajetories of cells in Waddington's landscape [bottom]
For details see : Martinez Arias and Brickman (2011) Gene expression heterogeneities in embryonic stem cell populations: origin and function. Curr.Op. in Cell Biology 23, 650-656

[Click on image for larger version]

Our main experimental system at the moment is mouse Embryonic Stem (ES) cells and use an interdisciplinary approach to these issues that combines classical genetics, quantitative cell biology, image analysis and modelling. 

The lab has three related lines of work:

  1. Stochastic and deterministic processes in cell fate decisions
  2. Cell and tissue dynamics during morphogenesis:
  3. Wnt/Notch signalling in development

For further details visit our website and follow us on Twitter: ™MartinezArias



Image above :   This image summarizes our interest to uncover the way in which the properties of the Gene Regulatory Networks that regulate cell fate transitions transform the activities of single cells into those of cell ensembles in populations. It highlights a FACS profile representing a population behaviour of ES cells derived from an embryo, the pluripotency network and an array of gene expression at the level of single cells

Recent publications

  1. Muñoz-Descalzo, S., Rue, P., Faunes, F., Hayward, P., Jakt, L.M., Balayo, C., Garcia Ojalvo, J. and Martinez Arias, A. (2013) A competitive protein interaction network buffers Oct4-mediated differentiation to promote pluripotency in embryonic stem cells. Mol. Sys. Biol. In press.
  2. Trott, J. and Martinez Arias, A. (2013) Single cell lineage analysis of the exit of pluripotency in mouse Embryonic Stem cells. Biology Open In press.
  3. Faunes, F., Hayward, P., Muñoz Descalzo, S., Chaterjee, S., Balayo, T., Trott, J., Ferrer-Vaquer, A., Hadjantonakis, AK.,Dasgupta, R. and Martinez Arias, A. (2013) A membrane associated ß-catenin/Oct4 complex is associated with ground state pluripotency in mouse Embryonic Stem Cells. Development 140, 1171-1183.
  4. Garcia Ojalvo, J. and Martinez Arias, A. (2012) Towards a statistical mechanics of cell fate decisions. Curr Op. in Genet. and Dev. 22, 1-8.
  5. Muñoz Descalzo, S., de Navascues, J. and Martinez Arias, A. (2012) Wnt/Noch signaling: an integrated mechanism regulating transitions between cell states. Bioessays 34, 110-118

>> Full list of publications on PubMed

Contact details

Group leader : Professor Alfonso Martinez Arias

Department of Genetics,
University of Cambridge,
Downing Street,
Cambridge CB2 3EH,
United Kingdom


Tel.: +44 (0)1223 766742

Group members

Group website & Alfonso's blog