Graduate Research & Training
UKRI MRC Human Genetics Unit

Deciphering cell cycle dynamics in development

Professor Andrew Jackson, Dr Linus Schumacher & Dr Jochen Kursawe

Immunofluorescence staining of a cryostat section across the distal forelimb of a mouse embryo 13.5 days after fertilization. Cell nuclei are stained in blue, cells undergoing DNA replication display green fluorescence (CldU incorporation), and red cells express the cell cycle inhibitor Cdkn1c. Cells at the center of developing bones express high Cdkn1c. Confocal image taken at 10X magnification.
Immunofluorescence staining of a cryostat section across the distal forelimb of a mouse embryo 13.5 days after fertilization. Cell nuclei are stained in blue, cells undergoing DNA replication display green fluorescence (CldU incorporation), and red cells express the cell cycle inhibitor Cdkn1c. Cells at the center of developing bones express high Cdkn1c. Confocal image taken at 10X magnification.

About the Project

Development is usually viewed through the prism of patterning. At its most fundamental level this focuses on gene expression changes leading to cell fate commitments. However, multicellular organisms develop from a single cell, so also require many cell divisions for growth and the generation of specialized cells. The way in which cell cycle dynamics and divisions are regulated in different tissues during development remains an understudied and important outstanding question. Additionally, the dramatic differences in sizes across mammals are likely to be regulated by cell proliferation, (given that genetics studies of the ‘smallest people in the world’ have identified mutations in fundamental components of the cell cycle as their cause). 

This PhD will apply quantitative cell biology approaches to establish how cell number is determined in different tissues. To do so, this project aims to generate a conceptual, experimental, and computational framework to map DNA replication and cell cycle in 4D during mouse embryonic development. Based on pulse-chase experiments using DNA dyes, tissue clearing, confocal, light-sheet microscopy and micro-computed tomography we will measure cell proliferation and growth in space and time during mouse organogenesis. The project will generate new tools to understand how temporal changes in cell division control tissue growth during development, contributing to the understanding of animal organization.

The successful candidate will be based in Andrew Jackson’s lab at the University of Edinburgh and benefit from the environment at the MRC Human Genetics Unit/Institute of Genetics and Cancer. The student will further be co-supervised by Jochen Kursawe and Linus Schumacher, who have extensive experience in 4D data analysis and building mathematical models of cells and tissues during development. The student will regularly visit the Centre for Regenerative Medicine (Schumacher Lab), and the University of St Andrews (Kursawe lab), enabling interdisciplinary training.

For further information and how to apply

Andrew Jackson Research Group