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Soma-Germline communication and the role of cortical polarity in signalling regulation during Drosophila spermatogenesis

Medway School of Pharmacy

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Dr F Papagiannouli , Dr G Lall Applications accepted all year round

About the Project

Stem cells are critical for multi-cellular development, since they supply the cells that build up our bodies and replenish, as we age, worn out, damaged, and diseased tissues. Stem cell therapies use the power of stem cells to generate treatment for medical diseases by replacing lost or damaged cells. The fruit-fly Drosophila provides an excellent model system to study stem cell-related processes, as we can trace the fate of different cells types, manipulate genetically their function and study the effect within the wild type surrounding tissue. Due to the high degree of conservation to humans at the gene and cellular level, Drosophila has led groundbreaking discoveries in genetics, cell biology, human disease and cancer.

Research in Papagiannouli’s lab focuses on understanding how the communication between the germline and the squamous somatic cyst cells encapsulating them is established and maintained, in particular how the somatic cyst cells support the developmental decision of the germline in the Drosophila testis. FP previous work has shown that loss of function of the highly conserved cortical polarity components Dlg, Scrib or Lgl and of vesicle trafficking leads to upregulation of EGFR signaling in somatic cyst cells, leading to germ cell death and infertility. (1).

The aim of this project is to uncover the underlying mechanisms of cortical polarity in signaling regulation and cross-communication in the germline-cyst cell microenvironment. We will employ a highly innovative proximity biotinylation assay coupled to mass spectrometry, along with cutting-edge array-tomography with scanning electron microscopy (AT-SEM) to elucidate the basic principles of squamous epithelial cell function and cross-communication with the germline. Excellent training in state-of-art Drosophila genetics, histological and molecular approaches, innovative genomic and proteomic techniques and high-resolution microscopy (1, 2), will help you investigate key stem cell and germline organizing principles. Studying the relatively simple somatic cyst cells will provide insights on the underlying causes that drive human squamous epithelia to develop squamous cell carcinomas. The regulatory strategies uncovered here will unravel fundamental mechanisms of stem cell function beyond Drosophila and will aid the identification of new approaches in regenerative medicine and infertility.

You will be integrated in the lab of an enthusiastic investigator who will support you to develop the skills required for your career development. You will be part of a dynamic working environment at Medway School of Pharmacy and the Universities of Kent and Greenwich at Medway Campus, and will have access to shared facilities such as advanced microscopy and proteomic tools. You will also work alongside our world-renowned collaborators from Stanford University and the University of Lausanne with complementing expertise.

We look for an enthusiastic, talented and motivated student with the ability to work both independently and as part of a team that can quickly integrate into an interdisciplinary environment. The successful candidate should have knowledge on basic molecular and protein work, however experience in confocal microscopy, immunohistochemistry, genome wide and proteomic techniques or Drosophila genetics would be an advantage. Excellent writing and communications skills in English are necessary.

For more information about the lab and the project visit our webpage: or contact Dr.Papagiannouli directly ([Email Address Removed]).

Entry Requirements
Applicants should have or expect to obtain a first or upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate subject.

How to Apply
To apply please go to

You will need to apply through the online application form on the main University website. Please note that you will be expected to provide personal details, education and employment history and supporting documentation (curriculum vitae, transcript of results, two academic references). You are not required to submit a research proposal.

As an equal opportunities institution we welcome applicants from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and transgender status. All appointments are made on merit.

Funding Notes

Self-funded applicants and those who have access to international scholarship applications, please contact Dr. Fani Papagiannouli directly.


1. F. PAPAGIANNOULI, C. W. Berry, M. T. Fuller (2019), The Dlg-module and clathrin-mediated endocytosis regulate EGFR signaling and cyst cell-germline coordination in the Drosophila testis, Stem Cell Reports, May 14, 12: 1-17 (

2. F. PAPAGIANNOULI, L. Schardt, J. Grajcarek, N. Ha, I. Lohmann (2014), The Hox gene Abd-B controls stem cell niche function in the Drosophila testis, Developmental Cell 28(2):189-202
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