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Department of Zoology



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)
  13. 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)
  14. Lawrence, P.A., and Casal J. Planar cell polarity: two genetic systems use one mechanism to read gradients. Development 145: dev168229. (2018).
  15. Casal J., Ibáñez-Jiménez B., and Lawrence, P.A.. Planar cell polarity: the prickle gene acts independently on both the Ds/Ft and the Stan/Fz systems. Development 145: dev168112 (2018).
  16. Lawrence, P.A., Casal J., de Celis, J.F., and Morata, G. A refutation to 'A new A-P compartment boundary and organizer in holometabolous insect wings.' Scientific Reports 9: 7049 (2019).
  17. Pietra S., Ng K., Lawrence, P.A., and Casal J. Planar cell polarity in the larval epidermis of Drosophila and the role of microtubules. Open Biology 10:200290 (2020).
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.; and Locke J. Principles of Development. 6th Edition. Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York (2019).


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

Contact Details

Room S14 or S11
01223 (7)69015 or (3)34481