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Dr Matthias Landgraf

Dr Matthias Landgraf

University Lecturer

Matthias Landgraf is accepting applications for PhD students.

Rooms B22/B12/B24
Office Phone: 01223 (7)69348 or (3)36681 or (3)36635


I studied Genetics at University College London, then joined Michael Bate’s group as an MRC and Sir Halley Stewart Trust funded PhD student at the Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, from 1992 to 1996. After an interlude of national service in Berlin, I returned to the Department initially as a research associate, starting my independent research group as a Royal Society Research fellow in 2002. Since 2010 I have held an unestablished and since 2013 an established lectureship position.

Research Interests

We are interested in understanding how neural networks are specified and assembled. We focus on the locomotor network of the Drosophila embryo and larva. This model system allows us to work with identified connecting nerve cells to which we can return time and again. Using state of the art genetics and imaging we are investigating several interlinked questions:

Specification of network components: Neuroblasts and the lineages that these generate are the fundamental developmental modules of the nervous system. We would like to understand if there is a developmental logic by which neural progenitors produce distinct network elements.

Connectivity: At the output level, the motor system has a straightforward organizational logic in that motoneurons position their dendrites so that these form a neural ‘myotopic’ map of the body wall musculature. In collaboration with the group of Albert Cardona, HHMI Janelia Farm Research Campus, we are establishing the neuronal network upstream of this myotopic map of motoneuron dendrites. We studying mechanisms that underlie the formation of ordered connectivity in the developing locomotor network, for example by targeting presynaptic axons terminals and postsynaptic dendrites to specific regions of the nervous system. In collaboration with Jan Felix Evers, Centre for Organismal Studies, Heidelberg, we have developed genetic tools that allow us to study synapse formation between identified nerve cells in the central nervous system.

Adjustment of connections and structural homeostasis: Nervous systems manifest considerable levels of variability. How can networks reliably generate specific outputs in the face or naturally occurring variability? We discovered that nerve cells adjust the size of their dendritic arbors so as to regulate the number of input synapses they receive. We are studying mechanisms, including structural homeostasis of dendrites, which networks use to adjust as they assemble and mature.

Oxidative stress and synaptic growth: High levels of reactive oxygen species are a hallmark of many neurodegenerative conditions, leading to damage of cell membranes and cytoskeletal elements, and, eventually cell death. However, at low levels, the same molecules can act as important messengers. In collaboration with Sean Sweeney, University of York, we are investigating how reactive oxygen species regulate central and peripheral synapse development and function during normal development and under conditions of oxidative stress. 


  • Neuroanatomy
  • Fluorescence Light microscopy
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Drosophila genetics
  • Imaging technologies

Key Publications

Couton L, Mauss AS, Yunusov T, Diegelmann S, Evers JF, Landgraf M (2015). Development of connectivity in a motoneuronal network in Drosophila larvae. Curr Biol 25: 568–576. (see also Dispatch by Sternberg JR, Wyart C. Neuronal wiring: linking dendrite placement to synapse formation. Curr Biol 25: R190–1, 2015.)

Diao F, Ironfield H, Luan H, Diao F, Shropshire WC, Ewer J, Marr E, Potter CJ, Landgraf M, White BH (2015). Plug-and-Play Genetic Access to Drosophila Cell Types using Exchangeable Exon Cassettes. Cell Rep 10: 1410–1421.

Zwart MF, Randlett O, Evers JF, Landgraf M (2013). Dendritic growth gated by a steroid hormone receptor underlies increases in activity in the developing Drosophila locomotor system. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1311711110.

Mauss, A., Tripodi, M., Evers, J.F. and Landgraf, M. (2009).  Midline signalling systems direct the formation of a neural map by dendritic targeting in the Drosophila motor system. PLoS Biol 7, e1000200.

Tripodi, M., Evers, J.F., Mauss, A., Bate, M. and Landgraf, M. (2008).  Structural homeostasis: compensatory adjustments of dendritic arbor geometry in response to variations of synaptic input. PLoS Biol 10, E260.

Diegelmann, S., Bate, M. and Landgraf, M. (2008).  Gateway cloning vectors for the LexA-based binary expression system in Drosophila. Fly 2, 236-239.

Ou, Y., Chwalla, B., Landgraf, M*. and van Meyel, D.J*. (2008) [*joint senior authors].  Identification of genes influencing dendrite morphogenesis in developing peripheral sensory and central motor neurons.  Neural Development 3, 16.

Landgraf, M., Jeffrey, V, Fujioka, M., Jaynes, J.B. and Bate, M. (2003) Embryonic Origins of a Motor System: Motor Dendrites Form a Myotopic Map in Drosophila. PLoS  Biol 1, E41.

Zlatic, M., Landgraf, M. and Bate, M. (2003) Genetic specification of axonal arbors: atonal regulates robo3 to position terminal branches in the Drosophila nervous system. Neuron. 37:41-51.

Landgraf, M., Sanchez-Soriano, N., Technau, G.M., Urban, J. and Prokop, A. (2003) Charting the Drosophila neuropile: a strategy for the standardised characterisation of genetically amenable neurites. Dev Biol. 260:207-25.

Landgraf, M., Baylies, M. and Bate, M. (1999) Muscle founder cells regulate defasciculation and targeting of motor axons in the Drosophila embryo. Curr.Biol. 9:589-592.

Landgraf, M., Roy, S., Prokop, A., VijayRaghavan, K. and Bate, M. (1999) even-skipped determines the dorsal growth of motor axons in Drosophila. Neuron 22:43-52.

Landgraf, M., Bossing, T., Technau, G.M. and Bate, M. (1997) The origin, location and projections of the embryonic abdominal motorneurons in Drosophila. J. Neurosci. 17:9642-9655.

Other Publications

Heckscher ES, Zarin AA, Faumont S, Clark MQ, Manning L, Fushiki A, Schneider-Mizell CM, Fetter RD, Truman JW, Zwart MF, Landgraf M, Cardona A, Lockery SR, Doe CQ (2015). Even-Skipped(+) Interneurons Are Core Components of a Sensorimotor Circuit that Maintains Left-Right Symmetric Muscle Contraction Amplitude. Neuron. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2015.09.009.

Bujdoso R, Landgraf M, Jackson WS, Thackray AM (2015). Prion-induced neurotoxicity: Possible role for cell cycle activity and DNA damage response. World J Virol 4: 188–197.

Lowe N, Rees JS, Roote J, Ryder E, Armean IM, Johnson G, Drummond E, Spriggs H, Drummond J, Magbanua JP, Naylor H, Sanson B, Bastock R, Huelsmann S, Trovisco V, Landgraf M, Knowles-Barley S, Armstrong JD, White-Cooper H, Hansen C, Phillips RG, UK Drosophila Protein Trap Screening Consortium, Lilley KS, Russell S, St Johnston D (2014). Analysis of the expression patterns, subcellular localisations and interaction partners of Drosophila proteins using a pigP protein trap library. Development 141: 3994–4005.

Lu CS, Zhai B, Mauss A, Landgraf M, Gygi S, Van Vactor D (2014). MicroRNA-8 promotes robust motor axon targeting by coordinate regulation of cell adhesion molecules during synapse development. Philos Trans R Soc Lond, B, Biol Sci 369.

Singh AP, Das RN, Rao G, Aggarwal A, Diegelmann S, Evers JF, Karandikar H, Landgraf M, Rodrigues V, VijayRaghavan K (2013). Sensory neuron-derived eph regulates glomerular arbors and modulatory function of a central serotonergic neuron. PLoS Genet 9: e1003452.

Thackray AM, Muhammad F, Zhang C, Di Y, Jahn TR, Landgraf M, Crowther DC, Evers JF, Bujdoso R (2012). Ovine PrP transgenic Drosophila show reduced locomotor activity and decreased survival. Biochem J 444: 487–495.

Nicolaï, L.J., Ramaekers, A., Raemaekers, T., Drozdzecki, A., Mauss, A.S., Yan, J., Landgraf, M., Annaert, W., Hassan, B.A., (2010). Genetically encoded dendritic marker sheds light on neuronal connectivity in Drosophila. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 107, 20553-20558.

Roy, B., Singh, A.P., Shetty, C., Chaudhary, V., North, A., Landgraf, M., Vijayraghavan, K., Rodrigues, V.  (2007).  Metamorphosis of an identified serotonergic neuron in the Drosophila olfactory system. Neural Development 2, 20.

Fujioka, M., Lear B.C., Landgraf, M., Yusibova, G.L., Zhou, J., Riley, K.M., Patel, N.H.,and Jaynes, J.B. (2003) Even-skipped, acting as a repressor, regulates axonal projections in Drosophila. Development 130:5385-5400.

Ruiz-Gómez, M., Coutts, N., Suster, M.L., Landgraf, M. and BateM. (2002) myoblasts incompetent encodes a zinc finger transcription factor required to specify fusion competent myoblasts in Drosophila. Development 129:133-141.

San Martin, B., Ruiz-Gomez, M., Landgraf, M., and Bate, M. (2001) A distinct set of founders and fusion-competent myoblasts make visceral muscles in the Drosophila embryo. Development 128:3331-3338.

Hartmann, C., Landgraf, M., Bate, M. and Jäckle, H. (1997) The Krüppel target gene knockout participates in the proper innervation of a specific set of Drosophila larval muscles. EMBO J. 16:5299-5309.

Prokop, A., Landgraf, M., Rushton, E., Broadie, K. and Bate, M. (1996) Presynaptic development at the Drosophila neuromuscular junction:assembly and localisation of presynaptic active zones. Neuron 17:617-626.