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Dr Peter A. Lawrence FRS

Dr Peter A. Lawrence, FRS

MRC Emeritus Scientist

Peter Lawrence is accepting applications for PhD students.

Room S14
Office Phone: 01223 (7)69015

Research Interests

José Casal and I try to understand animal design and pattern formation. An important and rather neglected aspect of development of both animals and plants is vectorial  — how do cells know which way to move, how to polarise cell divisions, how to orient cell extensions such as axons, hairs or bristles? We are using Drosophila and studying what must be at least part of this vectorial information and is known as planar cell polarity (PCP). We have found that PCP depends on (at least) two genetic systems (the Dachsous/Fat system and the Starry night (Flamingo)/Frizzled system and are now trying to understand these systems better, both at the cellular and the molecular level. Our approaches include genetic mosaics, genetic engineering as well as observations (confocal microscopy) and experiments on the epidermal cells of living larvae. We are collaborating with David Strutt of the University of Sheffield and his colleagues.

Key Publications

  1. Day, S.J. and Lawrence, P.A. Measuring dimensions: the regulation of shape and size. Development 127, 2977-2987 (2000).
  2. Casal, J., Struhl, G and Lawrence, P.A. Developmental compartments and planar polarity in Drosophila. Current Biology 12, 1189-1198 (2002).
  3. Lawrence, P.A. Casal, J. and Struhl, G. Cell interactions and planar polarity in the abdominal epidermis of Drosophila. Development 131, 4651-4664 (2004).
  4. Casal, J., Lawrence, P.A. and Struhl, G. Two separate molecular systems, Dachsous/Fat and Starry night/Frizzled, act independently to confer planar cell polarity. Development 133, 4561-4572 (2006).
  5. Lawrence, P.A., Struhl, G. Casal, J. (2007) Planar cell polarity: one or two pathways? Nature Reviews Genetics 8, 555-563.
  6. Brittle, A. L., Repiso, A., Casal, J., Lawrence, P. A., and Strutt, D. Four-Jointed modulates growth and planar polarity by reducing the affinity of Dachsous for Fat. Curr. Biol., 20, 803–810. (2010).
  7. Repiso, A., Saavedra, P., Casal, J., and Lawrence, P. A. Planar cell polarity: the orientation of larval denticles in Drosophila appears to depend on gradients of Dachsous and Fat. Development, 137, 3411–3415. (2010).
  8. Struhl G., Casal J.,and Lawrence P.A. Dissecting the molecular bridges that mediate the function of Frizzled in planar cell polarity. Development 139: 3665-3674 (2012).
  9. Fabre C.C.G., Hedwig B., Conduit G., Lawrence P.A., Goodwin S., and Casal J. Substrate-borne vibratory communication during courtship in Drosophila melanogaster. Curr. Biol. 22: 2180-2185 (2012).
  10. Lawrence P.A., and Casal J. The mechanisms of planar cell polarity, growth and the Hippo pathway: Some known unknowns. Dev. Biol. 377: 1-8. (2013).
  11. Saavedra P., Vincent J.P., Palacios I., Lawrence P.A., and Casal J. Plasticity of both planar cell polarity and cell identity during the development of Drosophila. eLife 3: e01569. (2014).
  12. Rovira M., Saavedra P., Casal J. and Lawrence P.A. Regions within a single epidermal cell of Drosophila can be planar polarised independently. eLife 4: e06303. (2015)

Other Publications

  1. Lawrence P.A. (1992) The Making of a Fly: The Genetics of Animal Design. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford, 229 pp. ISBN: 0-632-30048-8
  2. Wolpert L.,Tickle C., Martinez-Arias A., Lawrence P.A., Lumsden A., Robertson E., Meyerowitz E., and Smith J. Principles of Development. Fifth edition. Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York (2015).


Search PubMedGoogle Scholar for more publications by Peter Lawrence, or check his personal site ( for an up-to-date list.


PhD Project

Animal tissues and organs are formed by different types of cells that are arranged in stereotyped patterns. Although we know much about the mechanisms by which cells acquire different fates, we know very little about how cells interact to arrange themselves to form these patterns. We are suggesting a project that investigates cell affinity, an important but neglected aspect of cell behaviour that is especially relevant to understanding development. We would like to host a PhD student to work on a project that is related to but not overlapping too closely with our own main project on planar cell polarity.  Anyone interested should please read a bit about us (, a review on affinity (R. A. Foty, and M. S. Steinberg. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Developmental Biology 2013 2: 631-645) and also the paper we have written specifically on cell affinity (P.A. Lawrence, J. Casal, G. Struhl. Development 1999 126: 2441-2449). Our experiments suggest a good way into this area using both genetics and genetic mosaics. We can provide research costs and a student salary (including university fees and maintenance) from our Wellcome Trust grant.  
Please contact us If you are interested in joining our group to do a PhD with us. More information in the Department of Zoology web site (
Candidates must apply using the University online form (
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