Barry Thompson

Epithelial Biology Laboratory

The laboratory uses both Drosophila and mice as model organisms to explore how cells construct epithelial tissues during development and how epithelial tumours can arise. We focus on the question of how cell polarity organises the behaviour of cells within an epithelium.

We take three main approaches:

  • Genetic analysis of gene functions in vivo.
  • Live-imaging of epithelial tissue development.
  • Computational modelling of cell polarity and cell behaviour.

We aim to combine these approaches to identify molecular mechanisms responsible for organising cell polarity and cell behaviour during tissue growth and morphogenesis in epithelia. Our recent work has examined two different types of cell polarity in epithelia, apico-basal polarity and planar polarity.


Figure: Leg from the fruit fly Drosophila Melanogaster. (Click to view larger image)

In apical-basal polarity, we focus on the role of apical determinants such as Crumbs, Bazooka, Cdc42, Par6 and aPKC and basolateral determinants such as Lgl, Dlg and Scrib. These molecules control the polarisation of all other proteins and organelles in epithelial cells. Disruption of epithelial polarity is a feature of advanced adenocarcinomas, suggesting that apical-basal polarity determinants may have an important role in human cancer. 

In planar polarity, we focus on the role of the Dachsous-Fat system, which is responsible for orienting tissue growth to elongate tissues in both Drosophila and mice. We have characterised how this system becomes planar polarised and how it can influence tissue mechanics to orient cell divisions and tissue growth.

Both the apical-basal and planar polarity systems are able to influence signalling through the Hippo pathway, which acts via Yki/YAP/TAZ to control cell proliferation. We are interested in understanding the physiological roles of Hippo signalling as a sensor of epithelial cell polarity and mechanical forces in both Drosophila and mice.

Selected publications

Ray RP, Matamoro-Vidal A, Ribeiro PS, Tapon N, Houle D, Salazar-Cuidad I, Thompson BJ.  Patterned anchorage to the apical extracellular matrix defines tissue shape in the developing appendages of Drosophila.  Developmental Cell. 2015; 34(3):310-22.

Fletcher GC, Elbediwy A, Khanal I, Ribeiro PS, Tapon N, Thompson BJ.  The Spectrin cytoskeleton regulates the Hippo signalling pathway.  EMBO Journal. 2015; 34(7)940-54. 

Rodrigues-Campos M, Thompson BJ.  The ubiquitin ligase FbxL7 regulates the Dachsous-Fat-Dachs system in Drosophila.  Development. 2014; 141(21):4098-103.

Lucas EP, Khanal I, Gaspar P, Fletcher GC, Polesello C, Tapon N, Thompson BJ. The Hippo pathway polarises the actin cytoskeleton during collective migration of Drosophila border cells. Journal of Cell Biology. 2013 Jun 3.

Sidor CM, Brain R, Thompson BJ. Mask proteins are cofactors of Yorkie/YAP in the Hippo pathway. Current Biology. 2013;23(3):223-8

Fletcher GC, Lucas EP, Brain R, Tournier A, Thompson BJ. Positive feedback and mutual antagonism combine to polarize Crumbs in the Drosophila follicle cell epithelium. Current Biology 2012;22(12):1116-22

Thompson BJ. Cell polarity: models and mechanisms from yeast, worms and flies. Development. 140, 13-21 (2013) doi:10.1242/dev.083634

Mao Y, Tournier AL, Bates PA, Gale JE, Tapon N, Thompson BJ. Planar polarization of the atypical myosin Dachs orients cell divisions in Drosophila. Genes & Development. 2011;25(2):131-6

Genevet A, Wehr MC, Brain R, Thompson BJ, Tapon N. Kibra is a regulator of the Salvador/Warts/Hippo signaling network. Developmental Cell. 2010;18(2):300-8

Thompson BJ and Cohen SM. The Hippo pathway regulates the bantam microRNA to control cell proliferation and apoptosis in Drosophila. Cell. 2006;126(4):767-74.

Barry Thompson
+44 (0)20 379 61337

  • Qualifications and history
  • 2004 PhD, Cambridge University, UK
  • 2004 Postdoctoral Fellow, European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Germany
  • 2006 Visiting Scientist, Research Institute of Molecular Pathology, Austria
  • 2007 Established lab at the London Research Institute, Cancer Research UK
  • 2015 Group Leader, the Francis Crick Institute, London, UK