Daniel St Johnston PhD FRS FMedSci, Director, Professor of Developmental Genetics in the Department of Genetics.
Polarising epithelial cells and body axes
How do cells know ‘up’ from ‘down’? Normal cells in the body are not symmetrical spheres; most take up specialised shapes and perform different functions at opposite ‘ends’. Cell polarity is also essential in development, for example in determining the head-to-tail axis of many animals, for cell migration and for asymmetric stem-cell divisions to supply specialised daughter cells. Furthermore, loss of polarity is a hallmark of tumour cells and is thought to contribute to tissue invasion and metastasis.
We explore polarity in Drosophila and in mouse intestinal organoids. Much of our work focuses on epithelia, the sheets of polarised cells that make up most organs of the body to form barriers between compartments. We study the factors that mark different sides of the cell and how these organise the internal cell architecture. For example, we have determined how cells divide so that both daughters stay in the epithelial layer, and have found a mechanism that pulls cells born outside the monolayer back into place. Now we are using live super-resolution microscopy to visualise polarised transport in epithelial cells.
• Bergstralh DT et al. (2016) Pins is not required for spindle orientation in the Drosophila wing disc. Development  Jun 10. pii: dev.135475. [Epub]
• Bergstralh DT et al. (2015) Lateral adhesion drives reintegration of misplaced cells into epithelial monolayers. Nat Cell Biol 7(11): 1497–1503.
• Khuc Trong P et al. (2015) Cortical microtubule nucleation can organise the cytoskeleton of Drosophila oocytes to define the anteroposterior axis. Elife 4.10.7554/eLife.06088.
• St Johnston D (2015) The renaissance of developmental biology. PLoS Biol doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1002149.
• Lowe N et al. (2014) Analysis of the expression patterns, subcellular localisations and interaction partners of Drosophila proteins using a pigP protein trap library. Development 141(20): 3994-4005.
• Morais-de-Sá E et al. (2014) Slmb antagonises the aPKC/Par-6 complex to control oocyte and epithelial polarity. Development 141(15): 2984-92.
• Gardiol A, and St Johnston D. (2014) Staufen targets coracle mRNA to Drosophila neuromuscular junctions and regulates GluRIIA synaptic accumulation and bouton number. Dev Biol 15;392(2): 153-67.