Alex Gould

Physiology and Metabolism Laboratory

All organisms regulate their growth according to internal genetic programmes and the availability of nutrients from the environment. As human and other animal embryos develop, they increase in size dramatically. We wish to identify the nutritional factors and genetic networks that promote growth during development and, equally importantly, those that shut it down in adulthood. This research also aims to shed light on the complex interactions between nutrition and the genes influencing growth, obesity and diabetes.

Our current work aims to understand how embryonic and fetal growth are altered by sub-optimal nutrition. Much of our research in this area uses the fruit fly Drosophila, a model organism that shares many genes with mammals. We recently found that restricting nutrient intake during Drosophila development reduces growth in certain organs, such as the brain, to a much lesser extent than in others. We have now identified several conserved genes regulating this selective brain sparing process and are currently examining whether they play a similar role in mammals.

The head of a fruit fly

The head of a fruit fly in cross section, showing the brain (blue), compound eyes (red) and adipose tissue (green).

Genes expressed during neural stem cell division

Genes expressed during neural stem cell division

Drosophila neural stem cell (NB) divides to generate multiple neurons/glia (progeny) during development. Some of the genes expressed during this process are indicated. Data from C. Maurange et al., 2008.

Selected publications

Bailey, AP; Koster, G: Guillermier, C; Hirst, EMA; MacRae, JI; Lechene, CP; Postle, AD and Gould, AP (2015) Antioxidant Role for Lipid Droplets in a Stem Cell Niche of Drosophila  Cell 163, 340-353

Steinhauser, ML; Bailey, AP; Senyo, SE; Guillermier, C; Perlstein, TS; Gould, AP; Lee, RT and Lechene, CP (2012) Multi-isotope imaging mass spectrometry quantifies stem cell division and metabolism.  Nature 481, 516-520 

Louise Y. Cheng, Andrew P. Bailey, Sally J. Leevers, Timothy J. Ragan, Paul C Driscoll and Alex P. Gould. (2011) Anaplastic lymphoma kinase spares organ growth during nutrient restriction in Drosophila.  Cell 146(3), 435-447 

Sousa-Nunes, R; Yee, LL and Gould, AP (2011) Fat cells reactivate quiescent neuroblasts via TOR and glial insulin relays in Drosophila.  Nature 471, 508-512 

Cédric Maurange, Louise Cheng and Alex P. Gould (2008) Temporal transcription factors and their targets schedule the end of neural proliferation in Drosophila.  Cell 133(5), 891-902 

Miguel-Aliaga, I; Thor, S and Gould, AP (2008) Postmitotic specification of Drosophila insulinergic neurons from pioneer neurons.  PLoS Biology  6, e58 

Gutierrez, E; Wiggins, D; Fielding, B and Gould, AP (2007) Specialized hepatocyte-like cells regulate Drosophila lipid metabolism.  Nature 445, 275-280