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Studying cell-cell interactions during collective cell migration during Drosophila tissue morphogenesis

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, January 07, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

To shape tissues and organs, cells undergo different behaviours, such as cell migration and shape change. Many morphogenetic processes rely on collective cell migration, where cells move coordinately as a group (Scarpa and Mayor, 2016). Here, cell-cell communication is crucial to coordinate movement. In addition, one cell’s behaviour will have an impact on surrounding cells as cell push and pull each other. How cells integrate the different signals and physical inputs from their environment is still mysterious. Gaining insights into collective cell migration not only furthers our understanding of basic cell biology as such but is also relevant to the mechanisms underlying wound healing and metastases formation, when tumour cells migrate to spread in the body.

One example of collective cell migration is the migration of the larval epithelial cells (LECs) during adult morphogenesis of the Drosophila abdomen (Bischoff, 2012). The aim of this studentship is to study LEC migration in vivo. You will investigate how LECs interact to establish the direction of migration and study the mechanisms by which LECs move. Furthermore, you will study how the physical forces created by neighbouring cells influences migration. To tackle these questions, you will use state-of-the-art in vivo 4D microscopy, quantitative image analysis tools, Drosophila genetics and various cell biological techniques. 4D microscopy will allow you to record cell migration in vivo in great detail. Image analysis of the 4D movies will then enable you to study the behaviour of the cytoskeletal network of migrating cells.

Research environment
The Bischoff lab in St Andrews has extensive expertise in in vivo 4D microscopy of Drosophila morphogenesis ( The University of St Andrews, Scotland’s first university, offers a collaborative and supportive research environment, which provides top-level training and excellent imaging facilities. In addition, a wide range of courses is available, which will equip you with valuable transferable skills.

Funding Notes

This funding opportunity is now only available to Chinese nationals who are applying through the Chinese Scholarship Council.

All other applicants who applied before the 2 December deadline are currently under consideration.


Scarpa and Mayor (2016), J Cell Biol 212, 143-155.
Bischoff (2012), Dev Biol 363, 179-90.

How good is research at University of St Andrews in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 50.45

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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