Developmental Biology

What is developmental biology?

Developmental Biology addresses one of the most intriguing and fascinating questions in biology: how does a single cell, the fertilised egg, give rise to a complex multicellular organism.

Developmental Biology integrates genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, cell biology, anatomy, physiology and imaging.

Research group leader: Dr Chris Thompson

Principal investigators


  • Enrique Amaya - Signalling during development, wound healing and tissue regeneration
  • John Aplin - Embryo implantation and placental development
  • Hilary Ashe - Cell signalling and transcriptional regulation in Drosophila
  • Martin Baron - The role of Cell Adhesion molecules in Signal Transduction, the regulation of Stem cell fate and Cancer
  • Mike Dixon - Molecular genetics of craniofacial anomalies
  • Karel Dorey - Role of growth factor signalling during development and regeneration
  • David Garrod - Adhesion, signalling, differentiation and development of epithelial cells
  • Matthew Hardman - Factors which act as downstream mediators of the effects of hormones on wound healing.
  • Kathy Hentges - Cardiovascular Development and Genetics; B-cell Leukaemia
  • Shane Herbert - Molecular control of vascular development and angiogenesis
  • David Hughes - Cell Communication during Development
  • Sue Kimber - Early development and implantation of the mammalian embryo
  • Lindsay MacDougall - Signalling by Phosphoinositide Lipids (PIPs)
  • Kimberly Mace - Adult stem cell regulation during wound healing
  • Tom Millard - Epithelial dynamics and fusion during embryonic development and tissue repair
  • Caroline Milner - Regulatory mechanisms in tissue remodeling and inflammation
  • Nancy Papalopulu - Neurogenesis and neural stem cells in vertebrate embryos
  • Berenika Plusa - Regulation and plasticity in early mammalian development
  • Andreas Prokop - Molecular mechanisms underlying axonal growth and synapse formation
  • Matthew Ronshaugen - The role of non-coding RNAs in morphological evolution.
  • Tokiharu Takahashi - Evolutionary origin of vertebrate novelties
  • Chris Thompson - Signaling pathways that control cell fate choice and social behaviour


  • Nicoletta Bobola - Gene regulatory networks in cranial neural crest development and differentiation
  • Keith Brennan - Regulation of Cell Behaviour during Mammalian Development
  • Sam Griffiths-Jones - Functional RNA biology: computational biology of non-protein-coding RNAs
  • Chris Klingenberg - Genetics and development of morphological traits
  • Gino Poulin - Developmental epigenetics: From signalling to transcription
  • Charles Streuli - Integrins and apoptosis in epithelial biology and breast cancer
  • Cathy Tournier - Regulation of stress-induced cell death
Programmed cell death in a root cap.

Confocal image of embryonic epithelial cells that tightly adhere to each other.

Microtubules in a leaf cell.

Mouse blastula stage embryo. Histone GFP expression marks the nuclei (green). Cell membranes are shown in red.

Transmembrane domains of wild-type and mutant proteolipid protein (PLP)

Mouse cortical progenitor cell differentiated in culture showing a transcription factor localised to the cytoplasm (red).

Structure of the signal recognition particle

Recruitment of primitive myeloid cells to embryonic wounds in Xenopus.

Model for the biogenesis of the multiple spanning membrane protein P2X2

Cnidarians like this sea anemone lack apparent mesoderm and bilateral symmetry.

GFP-tagged cytokeratin expressed in a human tissue culture cell.

An RNA in situ detecting a miRNA encoding gene in a gastrulating Drosophila embryo.

Zebrafish embryo at 1 day post-fertilisation.

Mid-gestation mouse embryo.

A human tissue culture cell.

Growth cone of a cultured primary Drosophila neuron stained against actin (green) and tubulin (purple).

Two-dimensional gel analysis of a plant cell protein extract.

The distribution of RNAs in a Drosophila embryo.


Our publications

Soteriou D, Iskender B, Byron A, Humphries JD, Borg-Bartolo S, Haddock MC, Baxter MA, Knight D, Humphries MJ, Kimber SJ.
Comparative proteomic analysis of supportive and unsupportive extracellular matrix substrates for human embryonic stem cell maintenance.
J Biol Chem. 2013 Jun
PMID: 23658023 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Thomason HA, Cooper NH, Ansell DM, Chiu M, Merrit AJ, Hardman MJ, Garrod DR.
Direct evidence that PKCα positively regulates wound re-epithelialization: correlation with changes in desmosomal adhesiveness..
J Pathol. 2012 Jul;227(3):346-56. doi: 10.1002/path.4016. Epub 2012 May 8.
PMID: 22407785 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Campbell L, Williams H, Crompton RA, Cruickshank SM, Hardman MJ.
Nod2 deficiency impairs inflammatory and epithelial aspects of the cutaneous wound-healing response..
J Pathol. 2013 Jan;229(1):121-31. doi: 10.1002/path.4095.
PMID: 22951952 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Emmerson E, Rando G, Meda C, Campbell L, Maggi A, Hardman MJ.
Estrogen receptor-mediated signalling in female mice is locally activated in response to wounding..
Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2013 Aug 15;375(1-2):149-56. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2013.05.015. Epub 2013 May 29.
PMID: 23727624 [PubMed - in process]

Herbert SP, Cheung JY, Stainier DY.
Determination of endothelial stalk versus tip cell potential during angiogenesis by H2.0-like homeobox-1..
Curr Biol. 2012 Oct 9;22(19):1789-94. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.07.037. Epub 2012 Aug 23.
PMID: 22921365 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Alves-Silva J, Sánchez-Soriano N, Beaven R, Klein M, Parkin J, Millard TH, Bellen HJ, Venken KJ, Ballestrem C, Kammerer RA, Prokop A.
Spectraplakins promote microtubule-mediated axonal growth by functioning as structural microtubule-associated proteins and EB1-dependent +TIPs (tip interacting proteins)..
J Neurosci. 2012 Jul 4;32(27):9143-58. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0416-12.2012.
PMID: 22764224 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Pickering K, Alves-Silva J, Goberdhan D, Millard TH.
Par3/Bazooka and phosphoinositides regulate actin protrusion formation during Drosophila dorsal closure and wound healing..
Development. 2013 Feb;140(4):800-9. doi: 10.1242/dev.089557. Epub 2013 Jan 14.
PMID: 23318638 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Dunipace L, Saunders A, Ashe HL, Stathopoulos A.
Autoregulatory feedback controls sequential action of cis-regulatory modules at the brinker locus..
Dev Cell. 2013 Sep 16;26(5):536-43. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2013.08.010.
PMID: 24044892 [PubMed - in process]

Saunders A, Ashe HL.
Taking a pause to reflect on morphogenesis..
Cell. 2013 May 23;153(5):941-3. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2013.05.009.
PMID: 23706731 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Saunders A, Core LJ, Sutcliffe C, Lis JT, Ashe HL.
Extensive polymerase pausing during Drosophila axis patterning enables high-level and pliable transcription.
Genes Dev. 2013 May 15;27(10):1146-58. doi: 10.1101/gad.215459.113.
PMID: 23699410 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Sawala A, Sutcliffe C, Ashe HL.
Multistep molecular mechanism for bone morphogenetic protein extracellular transport in the Drosophila embryo.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Jul 10;109(28):11222-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1202781109. Epub 2012 Jun 25.
PMID: 22733779 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Collu G.M., Hidalgo-Sastre A., Oliveira S., Gildea C., Owens T.W., Bayston L., Dorey K. and Brennan K.
Dishevelled Limits Notch Signalling in Vertebrates through Inhibition of CSL Transcription Factors Development 139 (23) 4405-4415


Recent grants and awards

Karel Dorey,
Regulation of axonal branching in vivo £440,423 (June 2012 - May 2015)

Chris Thompson,
Wellcome Trust Biomedical Resouce Grant. REMI-seq: generation of a genome wide mutant resource for Dictyostelium functional genomics, £498,592 (Sept 2013- Sept 2016)

Nancy Papalopulu, Enrique Amaya, Karel Dorey, Tom Millard and Berenika Plusa
Wellcome Trust Equipment grant: Confocal system for the imaging of live embryos, £303,165 (Nov 2010- Nov-2015)

Nancy Papalopulu
Wellcome Trust SRF: Studying neurogenesis through developmental time, £2,072,598 (Oct 2010- Oct 2015)

Hilary Ashe
Welcome Trust: Dynamic regulation of the Dpp signalling-responsive transcriptional network in the Drosophila embryo, £839,872

Mike Dixon and Jill Dixon
MRC: Prevention of cleft palate: the critical role of p63 and IRF6 signalling £675,828 (2010- 2013)

Caroline Milner and Tony Day
ARUK: The role of inter-alpha inhibitor in arthritis: friend or foe? £185,377 (Dec 2010- Dec 2013)

Matthew Ronshaugen
BBSRC: Developmental control of microRNA arm choice £450,402 (Feb 2011-Feb 2014)

Chris Thompson
NERC: Genetic architecture and constraint in social evolution, £580, 085 (Sept 2011- Sept 2013)



August 2010

Laura Campbell (Hardman group) has recently shown that the beneficial effects of estrogen replacement on wound healing are mediated by estrogen receptor beta, rather than estrogen receptor alpha. This key advance in the field of wound healing has been highlighted in the Nature journal SciBX and Faculty of 1000 Medicine.