Professor David Strutt

School of Biosciences

Professor of Developmental Genetics/Wellcome Trust Senior Fellow in Basic Biomedical Science

Wellcome Trust Senior Fellow in Basic Biomedical Science

David Strutt
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+44 114 222 2372

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Professor David Strutt
School of Biosciences
Firth Court
Western Bank
S10 2TN
  • 2005: Professor of Developmental Genetics
  • 2003-present: Wellcome Senior Fellow in Basic Biomedical Science, University of Sheffield
  • 1998-2003: Lister Institute-Jenner Research Fellow, University of Sheffield
  • 1997-1998: Lecturer, University of Sheffield
  • 1993-1997: Postdoctoral Fellow, European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Heidelberg
  • 1991-1993: Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Anatomy, University of Cambridge
  • 1988-1991: PhD, Department of Anatomy, University of Cambridge
  • 1985-1988: BA Natural Sciences, University of Cambridge
Research interests

We are interested in the genetic control of animal development and how cells interact to build complex tissues and organs. We focus on the particular problem of how cells coordinate their polarity within developing tissues, and as a model study the phenomenon of planar polarity in epithelia of the fruitfly Drosophila.

Understanding mechanisms of coordinated cell polarisation during animal development

Lay summary of research

We are interested in the process of morphogenesis, which is the process by which a body grows and develops to form complex tissues and organ systems. This involves the regulation and coordination of three processes: first, the multiplication of cells; second, the differentiation of the right types of cells in the right positions; third, the correct orientation of cells relative to each other. It is this final process in which we are primarily interested.

As the orientation of cells relative to each other is a fundamental conserved process in animal development, we are able to study it using model experimental systems, in particular the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster. Using this organism we can easily manipulate the function of genes, which has allowed the identification of a large number of genes that are involved in the coordination of cell orientation.

The aims of our research are to understand how these genes work together and how they are organised into hierarchies. By understanding how the genes act, we hope to be able to intervene to correct developmental diseases caused by dysfunction of the genes, and also gain insights into conditions such as cancer metastasis which involve coordinated changes in cell polarity.

Scientific summary of research

Morphogenesis – the formation of multidimensional structures from cells and groups of cells – is one of the fundamental processes underlying the development of complex multicellular organisms. A key property underlying many morphogenetic processes is the ability of cells to coordinate their polarity within a sheet of cells, a phenomenon referred to as "planar polarity" or "planar cell polarity [PCP]". Planar polarity enables the concerted cell movements and rearrangements necessary to shape tissues, and allows the production of arrays of polarised structures such as hairs and cilia.

Work in the Strutt lab seeks to understand molecular mechanisms of planar polarisation. Our approach is to study two conserved mechanisms, the "core" Frizzled-dependent planar polarity pathway and the Fat/Dachsous pathway. Our goal is to dissect the feedback and cell-cell communication mechanisms that mediate coordinated cellular symmetry breaking, and ask how this can be aligned with the axes of tissues.

We exploit the traditional strengths of molecular genetic analysis in Drosophila to precisely manipulate gene and protein function in vivo, taking advantage of the minimal genetic redundancy and the easy accessibility of developing tissues. In particular, this system allows us to perform in vivo cell biology, analysing protein dynamics and behaviour in the context of developing tissues.

To do this, we employ both conventional high resolution in vivo imaging techniques such as confocal microscopy, methodologies such as FRAP (fluorescence recovery after photobleaching) and also super-resolution microscopy. These in vivo studies of protein behaviour are combined with studies of the biochemical interactions of pathway components, targeted genetic screens to identify novel regulatory factors, and computational modelling.

Our long term goal is a fundamental understanding of how coordinated cell polarisation is achieved through the integrated spatiotemporal interactions of pathway components acting from the molecular (nanometer) to cellular (micrometre) to tissue (millimetre) scales.

Examples of planar polarised structures on the adult cuticle of the fruitfly Drosophila. Top: photomicrograph of an adult wing (left) with inset (right) showing the regular array of planar polarised hairs on the surface of the wing. Bottom: Scanning electron micrograph of an adult eye (left) with inset (right) showing a histologically stained microtome section through the eye revealing the regular planar polarised arrangements of the groups of cells within the eye that form each facet.

BIOSC Strutt research interests

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Journal articles

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Journal articles


Conference proceedings papers


  • Wellcome Trust Senior Fellowship in Basic Biomedical Science: ‘Planar polarity as a model for understanding self-organisation from molecular to tissue scales’
  • UKRI/Wellcome Trust – Building Collaboration at the Physics of Life Interface: Dr Alex Fletcher and Prof David Strutt (joint-PIs), Prof Ashley Cadby (co-I), ‘Understanding self-organised tissue patterning across scales’
Teaching activities

• BIS218 Advanced Developmental Biology Practical Sessions

Professional activities and memberships
  • Member of DBT/Wellcome Trust India Alliance Intermediate and Senior Fellowships Selection Committee (2021–)
  • Member of Wellcome Trust Cell and Developmental Biology Expert Review Group (2017–2020)
  • Member of Human Frontiers Science Program Grants Committee (2013–2017)
  • Visiting scientist Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP), University of California, Santa Barbara (2013, 2016, 2023)
  • Editorial boards of Current Biology and Development Member of the British Society for Developmental Biology and the Genetics Society