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Ilan Davis

Professor of Cell Biology

mRNA Localisation in Drosophila

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 elucidating the role of post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression in neural stem cell 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. 

Major research themes in the Davis Lab

Regulation of neural stem cell division and proliferation in the developing brain.
We have recently discovered that regulated mRNA stability and translation play major roles in regulating when neural stem cells stop dividing, amongst other key processes that govern how a brain develops.

The molecular basis of synaptic plasticity, underlying memory and learning.
We have recently discovered new mRNA binding proteins that function at the distal tips of axons to regulate synaptic growth in response to neuronal activation, processes important in memory and understanding RNA based neurodegenerative and neuromuscular diseases. 

Single molecule mRNA FISH Screen.
We have been systematically characterising the distribution of mRNAs in the tips of axons and in the mushroom bodies, equivalent to the mammalian hippocampus, where memory are formed. We have discovered many unexpected examples of post-transcriptional regulation in these structures.   

Microscopy technology and software development
Our lab's work in the brain and NMJ has been critically dependent on our development of fluorescence in situ hybridisation methods in large tissues and development of novel machine learning-based image analysis methods for characterising cell behaviour in tissues and organs such as the brain. We have also been developing novel visualisation tools to sort large scale single molecule FISH and protein distribution data with genome-wide bioinformatics data such as gene function and structure. As part of Micron ( we have built a number of super-resolution microscopes in collaboration with physicists and engineer and developed novel software for controlling microscopes in a biologist-friendly manner.