Department of Biochemistry University of Oxford Department of Biochemistry
University of Oxford
South Parks Road
Oxford OX1 3QU

Tel: +44 (0)1865 613200
Fax: +44 (0)1865 613201
Image showing the global movement of lipids in a model planar membrane
Matthieu Chavent, Sansom lab
Anaphase bridges in fission yeast cells
Whitby lab
Lactose permease represented using bending cylinders in Bendix software
Caroline Dahl, Sansom lab
Epithelial cells in C. elegans showing a seam cell that failed to undergo cytokinesis
Serena Ding, Woollard lab
Collage of Drosophila third instar larva optic lobe
Lu Yang, Davis lab
First year Biochemistry students at a practical class
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Ilan Davis
mRNA Localisation in Drosophila

Co-workers: Richard Parton, Darragh Ennis, Aino Järvelin, Tamsin Samuels,
Jonathan Harrison, Ana Palanca, Mary Thompson, Fran Robertson, Jeff Lee,
Josh Titlow, Martin Hailstone

Lab website with further details

Our Research

We are interested in understanding how the fly brain develops and functions, as a model for the human brain in health and in disease. We are focusing on elucidating the role of post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression in neural stem cell (neuroblast) development and their differentiation into neurons, as well as in synaptic plasticity during memory and learning. These mechanisms include mRNA transport and localised translation, as well as mRNA stability and processing.

Keywords:  mRNA, Neuronal development, Neural stem cells, Drosophila, live cell imaging,  synaptic plasticity, neuromuscular junction, brain, neurons, memory, learning, neuromuscular diseases.



Plain English

How the brain develops and functions is one of the most important and fundamental questions in biology and medicine. The brain forms from a limited neural stem cells that gives rise to a huge number and diversity of neurons. Once neurons connect up to each other via synapses to form a functional brain, memory and learning occur by modifying these connections through a process known as synaptic plasticity.

Our lab is using flies as a highly tractable model system to understand the molecular basis of these processes. We are investigating how gene expression regulates neural stem cell biology and synaptic plasticity. More specifically, we are focusing on how  messenger RNAs, which contain copies of the genetic information stored in DNA, are regulated by their localisation and stability, processes known to be important in neurodegenerative diseases.


  1. Titlow JS, Yang L, Parton RM, Palanca A, Davis I. (2017) Super-resolution single molecule FISH at the Drosophila neuromuscular junction. In press, MiMB.
  2. Yang C-P, Samuels TJ, Huang Y, Yang L, Ish-Horowicz D, Davis I, Lee T. (2017). Imp/Syp Temporal Gradients Govern Decommissioning Of Drosophila Neural Stem Cells. Development. 144(19):3454-3464
  3. Yang L, Samuels TJ, Arava Y, Robertson F, Järvelin AI, Yang C-P, Lee T, Ish-Horowicz D, Davis I. (2017) Regulating prospero mRNA Stability Determines When Neural Stem Cells Stop Dividing. bioRxiv pre-print.
  4. Yang L, Titlow J, Ennis D, Smith C, Mitchell J, Young FL, Waddell S, Ish-Horowicz D, Davis I.(2017) Single molecule fluorescence in situ hybridisation for quantitating post-transcriptional regulation in Drosophila brains. Methods. 126:166-176
  5. Pratt M, Titlow S, Davis I., Barker AR, Dawe HR, Raff JW, Roque H. (2016). Drosophila sensory cilia lacking MKS-proteins exhibit striking defects in development but only subtle defects in adults. J Cell Sci doi: 10.1242/jcs.194621
  6. Järvelin A, Noerenberg M, Davis I, and Castello A. (2016). The new (dis)order in RNA regulation. Cell Commun Signal: 14, 9
  7. Davidson A, Parton RM, Rabouille C, Weil TT, Davis I. (2016) Localized Translation of gurken/TGF-α mRNA during Axis Specification Is Controlled by Access to Orb/CPEB on Processing Bodies. Cell Rep. 14, 1-12. pii: S2211-1247(16)30141-3. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2016.02.038
  8. Halstead JM, Lin YQ, Durraine L, Hamilton RS, Ball G, Neely GG, Bellen HJ, Davis I. (2014) Syncrip/hnRNP Q influences synaptic transmission and regulates BMP signaling at the Drosophila neuromuscular synapse. Biol Open. 3:839-49.
  9. McDermott SM, Yang L, Halstead JM, Hamilton RS, Meignin C, Davis I. (2014) Drosophila Syncrip modulates the expression of mRNAs encoding key synaptic proteins required for morphology at the neuromuscular junction. RNA. 20:1593-606.
More Publications...

Research Images

Figure 1: A Drosophila Neuromuscular junction. The model system we use to study synapse growth involves the fly’s neurons (green) and their synapses with muscles, whose nuclei are shown in white. After neuronal activity the neurons grow new synaptic connections with the muscle known as ‘boutons’.
(Photo by J. Titlow)

Figure 2: A Drosophila larval brain, with DNA stained dark blue, dividing cells (magenta) and Neural stem cells (cyan). We use this system to study which proteins and RNAs are located in different brain compartments in the developing brain.
(photo by T. Samuels)













Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Positions: Enquiries with CV welcome