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Role of the centrosome and cilia in development

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

My research interest lies in the roles of centrioles and associated proteins, as parts of the centrosome and cilium, in early vertebrate development, using zebrafish embryos as a model system. I am addressing two particular questions: what is the role of the centrosome in zebrafish embryonic neurogenesis and how do centriolar proteins contribute to ciliogenesis in zebrafish embryos?

The centrosome is the microtubule organising centre of the cell and so has key roles in cell division, migration and polarity. It contains two centrioles, cylindrical microtubule-based structures around which a matrix of other proteins is constructed. These centrioles closely resemble the basal bodies of cilia, the hair-like, microtubule-based structures that protrude from the cell surface in many cell types.

Mutations in genes that encode components of the centrosome and cilium have been linked to a number of inherited, human developmental diseases: Bardet-Biedl, Alstrom, Joubert and oral-facial-digital syndromes - the ’ciliopathies’; a disease called primary microcephaly in which the size of the brain (but nothing else) is reduced; and dwarfism.

My research is aimed at finding and characterising zebrafish embryos depleted of other centriolar proteins that give similar phenotypes in order to work out the developmental pathways in which these proteins and organelles are involved. I am particularly interested in proteins that contribute to the generation of cilia in early zebrafish embryos and the control of cell division in the early embryonic brain. Recently we have both looked at ciliogenesis in zebrafish embryo and cell culture systems (Stowe et al., 2012) and the contribution of centrosomes to neurogenesis in the zebrafish retina (Novorol et al., 2013), as a model for the disease microcephaly.

I use a variety of cell and molecular biology techniques in my research, including (confocal) (immuno)fluorscence microscopy and time-lapse imaging. I work with zebrafish embryos and zebrafish cell lines.

Keywords, centrosome, cilia, centriole, neurogenesis, zebrafish, cell culture.


Novorol, C., Burkhardt, J., Wood, K., Iqbal, A., Roque, C., Coutts, N., Almeida, A.D., He, J., Wilkinson, C.J., and Harris, W.A. (2013) Microcephaly models in the developing zebrafish retinal neuroepithelium point to an underlying defect in metaphase progression. Open Biology 3(10):130065.

Stowe, T.R., Wilkinson, C.J., Iqbal, A. & Stearns, T. (2012) The centriolar satellite proteins Cep72 and Cep290 interact and are required for recruitment of BBS proteins to the cilium. Molecular Biology of the Cell. 23(17): 3322-35.

Wilkinson, C.J., Carl, M. and Harris, W.A. Cep70 and Cep131 contribute to ciliogenesis in embryonic zebrafish development. 2009. BMC Cell Biology 10(17).

How good is research at Royal Holloway, University of London in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 24.00

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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