skip to primary navigationskip to content

Fengzhu Xiong

2019 Xiong as prospectus

Fengzhu Xiong PhD, Wellcome Sir Henry Dale Fellow, Wellcome-Beit Prize Fellow (2019), Member of the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience.

Europe PMC | Pubmed | Google Scholar

Xiong lab website



Tissue morphogenesis by mechanics and cell dynamics

What forces drive tissue morphogenesis? Embryos are made of soft materials consisting of cells with limited mechanical capacities, yet they develop in a robust and coordinated manner and produce large-scale deformations (morphogenesis).

We are interested in the ways in which developing tissues produce and respond to mechanical forces in order to achieve the correct shape and pattern. This knowledge is useful for understanding complex birth defects and engineering stem or reprogrammed cells into tissues, as well as interpreting the changes in diseased tissues such as tumours.

We use early avian embryos as a model system. The large size and accessibility of these embryos allow us to image cell and tissue dynamics, perform molecular genetic perturbations, and deploy novel mechanical tools such as soft gels and cantilevers to measure and apply forces. By integrating cell and tissue dynamics, we found that the paraxial mesoderm and axial tissues coordinate their elongation through mechanical feedback.

We are currently investigating if the identified forces are also important for the straightness (bilateral symmetry) of the tissues and the folding of the neural tube.

Selected preprints

  • Xiong F, Ma W, Benazeraf B, Mahadevan L, Pourquie O. Mechanical Coupling Coordinates the Co-elongation of Axial and Paraxial Tissues in Avian Embryos. bioRxiv 412866; DOI: 10.1101/412866.
  • Xiong F*, Tentner AR*, Hiscock TW, Huang P, Megason SG. (*Equal contribution.) Heterogeneity of Sonic Hedgehog Response Dynamics and Fate Specification in Single Neural Progenitors. bioRxiv 412858; DOI: 10.1101/412858.

Selected publications

  • Oginuma M, Harima Y, Tarazona OA, Diaz-Cuadros M, Michaut A, Ishitani T, Xiong F & Pourquié O (2020) Intracellular pH controls WNT downstream of glycolysis in amniote embryos. Nature

  • Mongera A, Michaut A, Guillot C, Xiong F and Pourquié O (2019). Mechanics of Anteroposterior Axis Formation in Vertebrates, Annual Review of Cell and Developmental Biology, 35:259-283.

  • Oginuma M, Moncuquet P, Xiong F, Karoly E, Chal J, Guevorkian K, Pourquie O (2017). A Gradient of Glycolytic Activity Coordinates FGF and Wnt Signaling during Elongation of the Body Axis in Amniote Embryos, Developmental Cell 40(4):342-353.

  • Xiong F, Obholzer ND, Noche RR, Megason SG (2015). Multibow: Digital Spectral Barcodes for Reliable Lineage Tracing, PLoS ONE 10(5): e0127822. 
  • Xiong F, Megason SG (2015). Abstracting the Principles of Development Using Imaging and Modeling, Integrative Biology 7:633-642.
  • Xiong F, Ma W, Hiscock TW, Mosaliganti KR, Tentner AR, Brakke KA, Rannou N, Gelas A, Souhait L, Swinburne IA, Obholzer ND, Megason SG (2014) Interplay of Cell Shape and Division Orientation Promotes Robust Morphogenesis of Developing Epithelia, Cell 159(2):415-427.
  • Xiong F, Tentner AR, Huang P, Gelas A, Mosaliganti KR, Souhait L, Rannou N, Swinburne IA, Obholzer ND, Cowgill PD, Schier AF, Megason SG (2013). Specified Neural Progenitors Sort to Form Sharp Domains After Noisy Shh Signaling, Cell 153(3):550-561.


Ziqi Dong • Daniele Kunz • Ye Liu • Susannah McLaren • Kathy Oswald