Mechanisms of epithelial polarity in flies and mammals
Prof Daniel St Johnston
University of Cambridge
Most of our organs are composed of sheets of epithelial cells that function as barriers between compartments or between the inside and outside of the body. The formation of epithelial sheets depends on the coordinated polarisation of the cells, so that all have their apical surfaces facing the outside. This polarity is disrupted in cancer.
We will determine the mechanisms that polarise epithelial cells. There are at least two types of epithelia that polarise by different mechanisms and we will study an example of each type in the fruit fly. We will perform genetic screens to identify mutants in polarity factors and combine advanced imaging with genetic manipulations to analyse their functions. We will then use mouse intestinal organoids to test whether these polarity factors play conserved roles in mammals.