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The Gurdon Institute



David Fernandez-Antoran, PhD; CRUK-RadNet Group Leader, Member of the Department of Pathology.

David’s lab has opened. If you are interested in joining the team, please directly.

Europe PMC | PubMed 



Radiation biology and cell competition

Healthy adult epithelial tissues progressively accumulate clones of cells carrying mutations implicated in cancer and their expansion follows Darwinian evolution rules. Some mutations can increase cell fitness and promote the growth of clones at the expenses of the non-mutated normal adjacent cells, in a process of clonal competition.

Ionising radiation has long been studied as one of the most common environmental mutagenic agents that promotes tumour formation by damaging DNA and creating new oncogenic mutations. However, little is known about its effects on clonal evolution and tissue dynamics. We have recently shown that it can act as a selective pressure, affecting cell competition mechanisms and promoting selection of pre-existing oncogenic mutations, which might increase the risk of cancer development.

We use long-term human and mouse 3D primary epithelial cultures, in vivo cell lineage tracing, mathematical modelling, next generation sequencing methods and state-of-the-art confocal microscopy techniques to unravel the molecular responses and the cellular interactions that control normal and mutant cell behaviours after exposure to different doses of ionising radiation.

The final aim of our research is to understand the effects of ionising radiation in tumours and normal tissues and set the basis for designing external interventions that can modulate cell competition outcomes, eliminate oncogenic mutations from tissues and reduce the risk of cancer initiation and progression.

Selected publications:

  • Piedrafita et al (2020) A single-progenitor model as the unifying paradigm of epidermal and esophageal epithelial maintenance in mice. Nature Communications
  • Fernandez-Antoran et al (2019) Outcompeting p53-mutant cells in the normal esophagus by redox manipulation. Cell Stem Cell
  • Martincorena and Fowler et al (2018) Somatic mutant clones colonize the human esophagus with age. Science

To join...

David's lab is now open - if you are interested in joining the team, please directly.

Plain English

Mitochondria are the “power stations” inside our cells, playing an important role in health and disease. Mitochondria carry their own DNA, which is always inherited from the mother, while the DNA in each cell nucleus is derived equally from the mother and father. Disorders arising from mutant mitochondrial DNA are particularly complicated to understand because each cell contains many mitochondria, each with its own genome, and often normal and mutant mitochondrial genomes exist in a single cell.   

Inheritance of the mitochondrial genome in germline and body tissues is therefore different from conventional inherited disorders, but it is important to understand the process if we are to diagnose and cure mitochondrial diseases.

My lab has developed genetic tools to study mitochondrial inheritance in the fruit fly, which provides a good model for the human mitochondrial genome. I am studying transmission of mitochondrial mutations and how these contribute to disease, longevity and fertility.