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Department of Genetics



Daniel is Professor of Developmental Genetics at the University of Cambridge. He performs his research at the Gurdon Institute, founded to promote research in developmental biology and cancer biology. His laboratory group continues to use Drosophila as a model organism in which to study development.

Daniel is a biologist best known for his key studies on Drosophila fruit flies, which have increased our understanding of how the body axes are correctly established during development. Through his work, Daniel provided the most detailed description ever made of how axis formation arises.

He also pioneered the study of the mechanisms by which messenger RNAs — single strands of nucleic acid used in the construction of proteins — are localised within cells. More recently, his work has focused on cell polarity, evolutionary conserved methods that establish differences between the two ends of a cell. Polarity research is of great importance since cancerous cells often lose their polarity.

Research Interests

Cell polarity is essential for most cell functions and for several key developmental processes, such as cell migration, axis formation and asymmetric stem cell divisions, whereas a loss of polarity is a critical step in the formation of tumours. We are analysing how cells become polarised and how this polarity controls the organisation of the cytoskeleton and intracellular trafficking. Part of the group studies the Drosophila oocyte, since its polarity defines the anterior-posterior axis of the future embryo. The rest of the group  focus on epithelial polarity, where we are comparing secretory (the follicle cells) and absorptive epithelia (the adult midgut) in Drosophila with a typical mammalian epithelium  (mouse intestinal organoids). Much of our work depends on advanced imaging, ranging from live imaging of mRNA transport and protein secretion to super-resolution imaging of polarity factors using custom-built microscopes with adaptive optics. 

Research Group Links

St Johnston Group

St Johnston Lab


Key publications: 

• Lovegrove H, Bergstralh DT, St Johnston D. (2019) The role of integrins in Drosophila egg chamber morphogenesis. Development Nov 29. pii: dev.182774. DOI: 10.1242/dev.182774.

• Erdmann RS, Wood Baguley S, Richens JH, Wissner RF, Xi Z, Allgeyer ES, Zhong S, Thompson AD, Lowe N, Butler R, Bewersdorf J, Rothman JE, St Johnston D, Schepartz A, Toomre D. (2019) Labeling strategies matter for super-resolution microscopy: a comparison between HaloTags and SNAP-tags. Cell Chem. Biol. 26, 1-9.

• Fic W, Faria C, St Johnston D. (2019) IMP regulates Kuzbanian to control the timing of Notch signalling in Drosophila follicle cells. Development 146(2). pii: dev168963. doi: 10.1242/dev.168963.

• Chen J, Sayadian AC, Lowe N, Lovegrove HE, St Johnston D. (2018) An alternative mode of epithelial polarity in the Drosophila midgut. PLoS Biol 16(10):e3000041. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3000041.

• St Johnston D. (2018) Establishing and transducing cell polarity: common themes and variations. Curr Opin Cell Biol 51:33-41. doi: 10.1016/

Full Publication List


Google Scholar

Daniel's Google Scholar


Daniel's ORCID

Professor of Developmental Genetics
Group Leader, Gurdon Institute
Professor Daniel  St Johnston
Areas of Interest: 
mRNA Localisation and the origin of polarity in Drosophila
Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute,
University of Cambridge,
Tennis Court Road,
Cambridge CB2 1QN,
United Kingdom
Office phone: 
+44 1223 334113
Takes PhD students