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Research groups

Epithelium of the male fly accessory gland

Clive Wilson

Professor of Cell and Developmental Genetics

The primary aims of our research are to employ the powerful genetics and cell biology of the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, both to generate novel disease models and to elucidate the biological functions of evolutionarily conserved subcellular processes and signalling cascades.

I graduated in Biochemistry from the University of Cambridge in 1983 and received my doctorate in 1986 from the University of Warwick. I first worked with fruit flies as a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Walter Gehring (Basel, 1987-1990), where I was involved in the development of the enhancer trap system and used this methodology to screen fro transcriptional targets of Hox genes. I then worked in the lab of Hermann Steller (Cambridge, USA, 1990-1993), studying the role of a putative neurotrophic receptor gene in flies, as well as initiating a genetic analysis of the genomic region in which this gene resided. When I returned to the UK as a Lecturer at the University of Kent, I developed this work further and in collaboration with Deborah Goberdhan, another group leader in the Department, we identified mutations in several key developmental genes that had not previously been analysed in flies, including the MAP kinase, JNK, which we demonstrated to play roles in stress response and cell movement, and PTEN, a key antagonist of the insulin signaling cascade and tumour suppressor gene in humans. I moved to Oxford as a Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences in 2001, where our work on growth regulation and insulin signaling expanded and we developed numerous translational collaborations to link this work to cancer biology. I am also a Tutorial Fellow in Medicine at St. Hugh's College.

Current studies are particularly focused on the development of a novel model for prostate and prostate cancer in flies, work which is not only revealing surprising new aspects of reproductive biology, but also providing us with new systems to study fundamental cellular processes such as extracellular vesicle secretion and endolysosomal trafficking in vivo at remarkably high resolution. My group is also continuing to dissect signalling by insulin-like molecules and the nutrient sensor mTORC1, and the physiological functions of these pathways. Insulin signalling is now thought to be of central importance in a number of major human diseases including diabetes, cancer and several neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease, and is also known to modulate the ageing process. Importantly, the research team has very close collaborations with groups both inside the Department (Goberdhan) and at the John Radcliffe and Churchill hospitals (eg., Hamdy, Harris), which allow new findings to be rapidly translated into prostate and other cancer models.