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Dr David Turner CBiol MRSB

NC3R Fellow : Martinez Arias Group

Department of Genetics
Downing Street
University of Cambridge


David received his BSc in Pharmacology from the University of Liverpool in 2006 and then undertook a PhD with Professor Michael White, also at Liverpool, studying the regulation of NF-kB signalling in live-cells. He was awarded his PhD in 2011 and began his postdoctoral work with Professor Alfonso Martinez Arias in the Department of Genetics at the University of Cambridge. His work in Cambridge is focused around using quantitative approaches to understand how mouse embryonic stem cells interact and signal to each other to specify and control decisions about their fates and organization in development and homeostasis. Towards the end of 2016, David was awarded an NC3Rs David Sainsbury Research Fellowship to study left-right asymmetry during mammalian development, using the in vitro Gastruloid model system.

Research Interests

David is interested in understanding, quantitatively, cell decision-making processes during early development. He uses mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) to study these processes in a model system where cells are faced with choices similar to those that exist in physiological environments in a simple, tractable, measurable system: the Gastruloid system. 

Gastruloids are aggregates of mESCs generated in non-adherent culture, which are able to effectively recapitulate many of the processes of early mammalian development such as symmetry-breaking, polarisation, gastrulation-like movements and the development of the three embryonic axes. Crucially, Gastruloids are easy to generate, can be experimentally manipulated with ease, and can be used to ask questions which are exceptionally difficult or impossible to address in the embryo. David is currently using the Gastruloids to probe the processes governing symmetry-breaking and pattern formation during mammalian embryogenesis, specifically those involved in left-right asymmetry. As only animal models exist to study left-right asymmetry, Gastruloids are able to greatly reduce and eventually replace the requirement of mouse embryos for this work.

Key Publications

Beccari L., Moris, N., Girgin, M. U., Turner D. A., Baillie-Johnson, P., Cossy, A-C, Lutolf, M. P., Duboule D., and Martinez Arias, A. Multi-axial self-organisation properties in ES cell-derived murine Gastruloids. Nature (2018)

Girgin M., Turner D. A., Baillie-Johnson P., Cossy A-C., Beccari L., Moris N., Lutolf M.P., Duboule D., and Martinez Arias A. Generating gastruloids from mouse embryonic stem cells. Protoc. Exch. (2018)

Turner, D. A., Girgin, M., Alonso-Crisostomo, L, Trivedi, V., Baillie-Johnson, P., Glodowski, C. R., Hayward, P.C., Collignon, J, Gustavsen, C., Serup, P., Steventon, B., Lutolf, M. P., and Martinez Arias, A., Anteroposterior polarity and elongation in the absence of extra-embryonic tissues and spatially localised signalling in gastruloids: mammalian embryonic organoids. Development (2017); 144 (21)

Turner, D. A., Glodowski CR, Alonso-Crisostomo L, Baillie-Johnson P, Hayward PC, Collignon J, Gustavsen, C, Serup P, Schr ̈oter C, and Martinez Arias A*. Interactions between Nodal and Wnt signalling Drive Robust Symmetry-Breaking and Axial Organisation in Gastruloids (Embryonic Organoids). Submitted to BioRxiv.

Turner, D. A., Baillie-Johnson, P. and Martinez Arias, A. Organoids and the genetically encoded self-assembly of embryonic stem cells. Bioessays (2016) 38 (2) 

Baillie-Johnson, P., van den Brink, S. C., Balayo, T., Turner, D. A. and Martinez Arias, A. Generation of Aggregates of Mouse Embryonic Stem Cells that Show Symmetry Breaking, Polarization and Emergent Collective Behaviour in vitro. Journal of Visualized Experimentation (2015); 105, e53252.

van den Brink, S. C., Baillie-Johnson, P., Balayo, T., Hadjantonakis, A.-K., Nowotschin, S., Turner, D. A. and Martinez Arias, A.Symmetry breaking, germ layer specification and axial organisation in aggregates of mouse embryonic stem cells. Development(2014) 141, 4231–4242

 Turner, D. A., Hayward, P. C., Baillie-Johnson, P., Rué, P., Broome, R., Faunes, F. and Martinez Arias, A. Wnt/β-catenin and FGF signalling direct the specification and maintenance of a neuromesodermal axial progenitor in ensembles of mouse embryonic stem cells. Development (2014) 141, 4243–4253.

Turner, D. A., Rué, P., Mackenzie, J. P., Davies, E. and Martinez Arias, A.*. Brachyury cooperates with Wnt/β-Catenin signalling to elicit Primitive Streak like behaviour in differentiating mouse ES cells. BMC Biology (2014) 12, 63

Turner, D. A., Trott, J., Hayward, P., Rué, P. and Martinez Arias, A. An interplay between extracellular signalling and the dynamics of the exit from pluripotency drives cell fate decisions in mouse ES cells. Biology Open (2014)3, 614–626.

Turner, D. A., Paszek, P., Woodcock, D. J., Nelson, D. E., Horton, C. A., Wang, Y., Spiller, D. G., Rand, D. A., White, M. R. H. and Harper, C. V.. Physiological levels of TNFalpha stimulation induce stochastic dynamics of NF-kappaB responses in single living cells. Journal of Cell Science (2010) 123, 2834–2843.

Jameson, D., Turner, D. A., Ankers, J., Kennedy, S., Ryan, S., Swainston, N., Griffiths, T., Spiller, D. G., Oliver, S. G., White, M. R. H., Kell, D. B., and Paton N. W. Information management for high content live cell imaging. BMC Bioinformatics (2009)10, 226.