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Department of Genetics


Epithelial Polarity in flies and mammals

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. 

Selected publications

  1. Zhao T, Graham O, Raposo A and St Johnston D (2012) Growing microtubules push the oocyte nucleus to polarize the Drosophila dorsal-ventral axis. Science , 336, 999-1003.
  2. St Johnston D (2012) Using mutants, knockdowns, and transgenesis to investigate gene function in Drosophila. WiRES Developmental Biology , doi: 10.1002/wdev.101.
  3. Rees J S, Lowe N, Armean I M, Roote J, Johnson G, Drummond E, Spriggs H, Ryder E, Russell S, St Johnston D and Lilley K S (2011) In vivo analysis of proteomes and interactomes using Parallel Affinity Capture (iPAC) coupled to mass spectrometry. Molecular Cell Proteomics , 10, M110 002386.
  4. St Johnston D and Sanson B (2011) Epithelial polarity and morphogenesis. Current Opinion in Cell Biology ,23, 540?546.
  5. Chang C W, Nashchekin D, Wheatley L, Irion U, Dahlgaard K, Montague T G, Hall J and St Johnston D (2011) Anterior-posterior axis specification in Drosophila oocytes: identification of novel bicoid and oskar mRNA localisation factors. Genetics ,188: 883-898

Page updated 30 Sep 2016


Contact details

Group Leader : Professor Daniel St.Johnston

Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute,
University of Cambridge,
Tennis Court Road,
Cambridge CB2 1QN,
United Kingdom


Tel: +44 1223 334113 [Lab]

Group members