skip to primary navigationskip to content
 

Professor Michael Akam FRS

Professor Michael Akam, FRS

Head of Department and Professor of Zoology

Room F16

Email for HoD business: hod@zoo.cam.ac.uk
Email for research: m.akam@zoo.cam.ac.uk

PA to Prof. Akam: Paula McPhee admin@zoo.cam.ac.uk (336601)

Office Phone: 01223 (3)36601 or (3)30114

Biography:

Michael Akam took his first degree in Zoology at Cambridge, where the influence of Sidney Brenner and Peter Lawrence kindled his interest in developmental genetics and pattern formation.  As a graduate student in Oxford he identified and mapped genes encoding the larval blood proteins of the fruit fly Drosophila. He moved to the Department of Biochemistry at Stanford in 1979, where he participated in the first isolation of the developmental control genes known as Hox genes.  Returning to the Genetics Department in Cambridge in 1982, he was able to show for the first time that Hox genes were expressed at specific positions along the body axis of animals. He has since worked on many aspects of the functional organisation of Hox genes in fruit flies and other species.

Over the last twenty years he has exploited our growing knowledge of developmental genetics to study the genetic basis for animal diversity, particularly among arthropods.  His current passion is for the embryos of centipedes, and the biology of segment formation.

In 1989, he moved as a founding member to the Wellcome/CRC Institute for Cancer and Developmental Biology in Cambridge.  In 1997 he became Director of the University Museum of Zoology, and in 2010, Professor of Zoology and Head of the Department of Zoology.  He has been a Fellow of Darwin College since 2006. 

Research Themes

Cell and Developmental Biology:
Evolutionary Genetics and Genomics:
All Principal Investigators:

The genetics of diversity in arthropods and related organisms

Research Group

Laboratory for Development and Evolution:
Group Leader.

Research Interests

I am interested in the evolution of developmental mechanisms ("Evo-Devo"), and how changes in development lead to changes in the form and function of organisms. Most of our work is with arthropods. We have a long standing interest in the role of the "Hox" family of developmental regulatory genes: How their regulation and expression leads to the range of different segment morphologies in Drosophila; how changes in the role of Hox genes may be related to the pattern of segment diversity in other insects, in basal hexapods, in crustaceans and in myriapods. We also use a range of species including beetles, centipedes and onychophorans to study the mechanisms that lead to axial patterning and segmentation in species that develop in ways very different from the well studied Drosophila. We use a range of genetic and embryological techniques including comparative genomics, molecular embryology, 4D live imaging, gene knockdown by RNAi and transgenesis. We have been members of the Marie Curie training networks Zoonet and most recently Evonet, consortia of laboratories across Europe studying the evolution of development and gene regulatory networks.  We are members of the Strigamia maritima genome consortium, which has recently sequenced and annotated the first myriapod genome (that of a centipede), now published at http://metazoa.ensembl.org/Strigamia_maritima)

Key Publications

  • Konopova, B. and Akam, M. (2014) The Hox genes Ultrabithorax and abdominal-A specify three different types of abdominal appendage in the springtail Orchesella cincta (Collembola).  EvoDevo 5: 2.  doi:10.1186/2041-9139-5-2
  • Brena, C. and Akam, M. (2013) An analysis of segmentation dynamics throughout embryogenesis in the centipede Strigamia maritimaBMC Biology 11:112.  DOI: 10.1186/1741-7007-11-112
  • Green, J. E. and Akam, M. (2013) Evolution of the pair-rule gene network: Insights from a centipede.  Dev. Biol. 382:235-245. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2013.06.017
  • Benton, M. A., Akam, M. and Pavlopoulos, A. (2013) Cell and tissue dynamics during Tribolium embryogenesis revealed by versatile fluorescence labeling approaches.  Development  140:3210-3220  doi:10.1242/dev.096271
  • Brena, C. and Akam, M. (2012) The embryonic development of the centipede Strigamia maritimaDev. Biol. 363:290-307.  doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2011.11.006
  • Pavlopoulos, A. and Akam, M. (2011). The Hox gene Ultrabithorax subtly regulates distinct sets of target genes at successive stages of haltere morphogenesis and differentiation. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA  108:2855-2860.
  • Eriksson, J., Tait, N. N., Budd, G. E., Janssen, R. and Akam, M. (2010) Head patterning and Hox gene expression in an onychophoran and its implications for the arthropod head problem. Dev. Genes Evol. 22, 117-122
  • Garcia-Solache, M., Jaeger, J. and Akam, M. (2010) A systematic analysis of the gap gene system in the moth midge Clogmia albipunctata. Dev. Biol. 344, 306-318
  • Pavlopoulos, A., Kontarakis, Z., Liubicich, D. M., Serano, J. M., Akam, M., Patel, N. H. and Averof, M. (2009) Probing the evolution of appendage specialisation by Hox gene  misexpression in an emerging model crustacean. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 106, 13897-13902.
  • Chipman, A. D. and Akam, M. (2008) The segmentation cascade in the centipede Strigamia maritima:   Involvement of the Notch pathway and pair-rule gene homologues. Dev. Biol. 319, 160-169.
  • Peel, A. D., Chipman, A. D. and Akam, M. (2005). Arthropod segmentation:  Beyond the Drosophila paradigm. Nature Rev. Genet. 6, 905-916

Other Publications

  • Janssens, H., Siggens, K., Cicin-Sain, D., Jiménez-Guri, E., Musy, M., Akam, M. and Jaeger, J. (2014) A quantitative atlas of Eve and Hb expression in Clogmia albipunctata (Dipetera,Psychodidae).  EvoDevo 5: 1. doi:10.1186/2041-9139-5-1   
  • Brena, C., Green, J., Akam, M. (2013) Early embryonic determination of the sexual dimorphism in segment number in geophilomorph centipedes.  EvoDevo 4:22.  DOI: 10.1186/2041-9139-4-22
  • Marron, A. O., Alston, M. J., Heavens, D., Akam, M., Caccamo, M., Holland, P. W. H. and Walker, G. (2013) A family of diatom-like silicon transporters in the siliceous loricate choanoflagellates. Proc. Royal Soc. B.280: 1471-2954.   doi:10/1098/rspb.2012.2543
  • Kainz, F., Ewen-Campen, B., Akam, M. and Extavour, C. G. (2011). Notch/Delta signalling is not required for segment generation in the basally branching insect Gryllus bimaculatus.   Development138: 5015-5026.  doi: 10.1242/dev.073395
  • Vedel, V., Apostolou, Z., Arthur, W., Akam, M. and Brena, C. (2010)  An early temperature sensitive period for the variation in segment number in the centipede Strigamia maritima.Evolution and Development12, 347-352.
  • Peel, A. D., Telford, M.J. and Akam, M. (2006) The evolution of hexapod engrailed-family genes:  Evidence for conservation and concerted evolution. Proc. Roy. Soc. Lond. B273, 1733-1742.
  • Brena, C., Chipman, A. D., Minelli, A. and Akam, M. (2006) The expression of trunk Hox genes in the centipede Strigamia maritima: Sense and antisense transcripts. Evol. Dev.8, 252-265.

See Google Scholar  for a complete list of Michael Akam's publications