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Daniel St Johnston

2017 St JohnstonDaniel St Johnston PhD FRS FMedSci, Wellcome Principal Research Fellow, Professor of Developmental Genetics in the Department of Genetics.

St Johnston Group website | Europe PMC | Pubmed 




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 super-resolution microscopy to visualise polarised transport in epithelial cells.


• 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. (in press)

• 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/

• Nieuwburg R, Nashchekin D, Jakobs M, Carter AP, Khuc Trong P, Goldstein RE, St Johnston D. (2017) Localised dynactin protects growing microtubules to deliver oskar mRNA to the posterior cortex of the Drosophila oocyte. Elife 6. pii: e27237. doi: 10.7554/eLife.27237.

• Bergstralh DT, Dawney NS, St Johnston D. (2017) Spindle orientation: a question of complex positioning. Development 144(7):1137-1145. doi:10.1242/dev.140764. 

• Trovisco V, Belaya K, Nashchekin D, Irion U, Sirinakis G, Butler R, Lee JJ, Gavis ER, St Johnston D. (2016) bicoid mRNA localises to the Drosophila oocyte anterior by random Dynein-mediated transport and anchoring. Elife 5. pii: e17537. doi: 10.7554/eLife.17537.

• Nashchekin D, Fernandes AR, St Johnston D.(2016) Patronin/Shot Cortical Foci Assemble the Noncentrosomal Microtubule Array that Specifies the Drosophila Anterior-Posterior Axis. Dev Cell 38(1):61-72. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2016.06.010.

• Bergstralh DT, Lovegrove HE, Kujawiak I, Dawney NS, Zhu J, Cooper S, Zhang R, St Johnston D. (2016) Pins is not required for spindle orientation in the Drosophila wing disc. Development 143(14):2573-81. doi: 10.1242/dev.135475.

St Johnston group (Nov18 to Feb19)

Video: Meet Daniel St Johnston


Edward Allgeyer • Madeleine Ball • Jia Chen • Hélène Doerflinger • Edo Dzafic • Weronika Fic • Bethan Godber • Xiao Li He • Florence Leroy • Bohdan Lewkow • Erinn Los • Dmitry Nashchekin • John Overton • Amandine Palandri • Andrew Plygawko • Jenny Richens • Judy Sayers • George Sirinakis • Iolo Squires • Mihoko Tame • Vivien Tsang • Helen Zenner