Centre for Integrative Physiology

Dr John Mason

I am interested in the molecular mechanisms that regulate embryonic development of the forebrain. We study these mechanisms using a wide range of techniques, including the generation and analysis of genetically modified mice.

John Mason


  • Hugh Robson Building
  • room 412
  • 15 George Square

Contact details



Edinburgh EH8 9XD

Personal profile

  • 2007 Reader in Developmental Neurobiology
  • 1996- 2007 Lecturer, then Senior Lecturer, Biomedical Sciences, University of Edinburgh
  • 1991-1996 Group leader at the Centre for Genome Research, Science & Engineering, University of Edinburgh
  • 1987-1991 Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, San Francisco. With Harold Varmus, Nobel laureate in Physiology or Medicine, 1989.
  • 1987 PhD, Molecular Biology, University of Cambridge.
  • 1983 BSc, Molecular Biology, University of Edinburgh.


Dr John Mason's research briefing

Understanding how the brain develops will give us important insights into how neurodevelopmental disorders arise, and, ultimately, how they may be treated. In collaboration with David Price and Thomas Theil, we have investigated the roles played by the transcription factors Pax6, Foxg1 and Gli3 in controlling embryonic development of the forebrain. Each of these factors is a high-level regulator of the complex transcriptional networks of gene expression that control neural development. Using next generation sequencing techniques and bioinformatic analysis (collaboration with Ian Simpson, School of Informatics) we are attempting to unravel these gene networks, to help us understand their function. We have recently shown that Pax6 controls the rate at which neural progenitor cells divide, through a pathway involving cdk6 and the tumour suppressor protein pRb.

I have recently started a collaboration with Sally Lowell at SCRM, investigating whether cerebral organoids made from ES cells can be used as tools to study forebrain development.

I also have a long standing interest in the role played by Wnt signalling during development of the CNS. We are exploring how Wnt influences neural differentiation of embryonic stem (ES) cells, in collaboration with Norshariza Nordin (Malaysia).

Mouse embryo ubiquitously expressing a tau-GFP transgene
Expression of GFP under the control of Sox1 shows the presence of neural precursor cells in the adult mouse dentate gyrus


  • Medical Research Council (MRC)
  • NC3Rs

Team members

  • Chandrika Rao (PhD student)
  • Nurfarhana Ferdaos (PhD student)
  • Jonothon Marshall (PhD student)
  • Anna Stevenson (PhD student)


  • David Price, Sally Lowell, Tom Pratt, Thomas Theil,  all University of Edinburgh
  • Norshariza Nordin, Universiti Putra Malaysia


Sharp, L., Pratt, T., MacKay, G.E., Keighren, M.A., Flockhart, J.H. Chandler, E.J., Price, D.J., Mason, J.O. and West, J.D. (2017) Comparison of two related lines of tauGFP transgenic mice designed for lineage tracing. BMC Developmental Biology 17:8

Huang, Y.T. Mason, J.O. and Price, D.J. (2017) Lateral cortical Cdca7 expression levels are regulated by Pax6 and influence the production of intermediate progenitors. BMC Neuroscience 18:47

Parish, E., Mason, J.O. and Price, D.J. (2016) Expression of Barhl2 and its relationship with Pax6 expression in the forebrain of the mouse embryo BMC Neuroscience 17:76

Mason JO, Price DJ. (2016) Building brains in a dish: Prospects for growing cerebral organoids from stem cells. Neuroscience. 334:105-118.

Dorà NJ, Crookshanks AJ, Leung KK, Simpson TI, Mason JO, Price DJ, West JD. (2016) Analysis of compound heterozygotes reveals that the mouse floxed Pax6tm1Ued allele produces abnormal eye phenotypes. Transgenic Res. [in press, DOI: 10.1007/s11248-016-9962-4]

Manuel, M., Mi, D., Mason, J.O. and Price, D.J. (2015) Regulation of cerebral cortical neurogenesis by the Pax6 transcription factor Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience 9:70.

James M. Clegg, Christopher D. Conway, Kathy M. Howe, David J. Price, John O. Mason, Jeremy E. Turnbull, M. Albert Basson, Thomas Pratt (2014) Heparan Sulfotransferases Hs6st1 and Hs2st Keep Erk in Check for Mouse Corpus Callosum Development. Jneurosci, 34(6): 2389-2401.

Mi, D., Y. T. Huang, D. A. Kleinjan, J. O. Mason and D. J. Price (2013). "Identification of Genomic Regions Regulating Pax6 Expression in Embryonic Forebrain Using YAC Reporter Transgenic Mouse Lines." Plos One 8(11).

Mi, D., Carr, C.B., Georgala, P.A., Huang Y-T., Manuel, M.N., Jeanes, E., Niisato, E., Sansom, S.N., Livesey, F.J., Theil, T., Hasenpusch-Theil, K., Simpson, T.I, Mason, J.O. and Price, D.J. (2013) Pax6 exerts regional control of cortical progenitor proliferation via direct repression of Cdk6 and hypophosphorylation of pRb Neuron 78: 269-284

Amaniti, E.M., Hasenpusch-Theil, K., Li, Z., Magnani, D., Kessaris, N., Mason, J.O. and Theil, T. (2013) Gli3 is required in Emx1+ progenitors for the development of the corpus callosum Developmental Biology 376: 113-124

Selvadurai, H. and Mason, J.O. (2012) Activation of Wnt/?-catenin signalling affects differentiation of cells arising from the cerebellar ventricular zone PLoS One 7(8): e42572 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0042572

Pratt, T., Davey, J.W., Nowakowski, T.J., Raasumaa, C., Rawlik, K.C., McBride, D., Clinton, M., Mason, J.O. and Price, D.J. (2012) The expression and activity of beta-catenin in the thalamus and its projections to the cerebral cortex. BMC Neuroscience 13:20

Conway, C.D., Price, D.J., Pratt, T. and Mason, J.O. (2011) Analysis of axon guidance defects in heparan sulphate sulphotransferase compound mutant mice Journal of Anatomy 219: 734-742

Selvadurai, H. and Mason, J.O. (2011) Wnt/?-catenin Signalling is Active in a Highly Dynamic Pattern During Development of the Mouse Cerebellum. PLoS One 6(8): e23012. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0023012

Fotaki, V., Price, D.J. and Mason, J.O. (2011) Wnt/β-catenin signalling is disrupted in the extratoes (Gli3Xt/Xt) mutant from early stages of forebrain development, concomitant with anterior neural plate patterning defects J. Comp. Neurol. 9: 1640-1657

Manuel, M.N., Martynoga, B.S., Molinek, M.D., Quinn, J.C., Kroemmer, C., Mason, J.O. and Price, D.J. (2011) The transcription factor Foxg1 regulates telencephalic progenitor proliferation cell autonomously, in part by controlling Pax6 expression levels Neural Development 6:9

Conway, C.D., Howe, K., Nettleton, N., Price, D.J., Mason, J.O. and Pratt, T. (2011) Heparan sulphate sugar modifications mediate the functions of Slits and other factors needed for mouse forebrain commissure development. J. Neuroscience 31: 1955-1970 Quinn, J.C., Molinek, M., Nowakowski, T.J., Mason, J.O. and Price, D.J. (2010) Novel lines of Pax6-/- embryonic stem cells exhibit reduced neurogenic capacity without loss of viability BMC Neuroscience 11:26

Manuel, M., Martynoga, B.S., Yu, T., West, J.D., Mason, J.O. and Price, D.J. (2010) The transcription factor Foxg1 regulates the competence of telencephalic cells to adopt subpallial fates in mice. Development 137: 487-97

Fotaki, V., Larralde, O., Zeng, S., McLaughlin, D., Nichols, J., Price, D.J., Theil, T. and Mason, J.O. (2010) Loss of Wnt8b has no overt effect on hippocampus development but leads to altered Wnt gene expression levels in dorsomedial telencephalon. Developmental Dynamics 239: 284-296

John Mason publication list (PDF)