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Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience



Clare’s undergraduate degree was in Biological Sciences at Oxford in 2005. During her PhD she developed models of myelination in zebrafish with Robin Franklin and DanioLabs at Cambridge in 2009. She became obsessed with apicobasal polarity and epithelial tubes during her postdoc with Jon Clarke at KCL and hooked on optogenetics during a visiting scholarship to Orion Weiner’s laboratory at UCSF. She started her lab at Cambridge with a RS Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellowship and is now a WT/RS Sir Henry Dale Fellow. Her lab uses optogenetics and live confocal imaging to study cell polarity during organ development and disruption.


We are currently looking for PhD students and postdoctoral fellows to join our research team! Please email me if you are interested.

My group’s primary goal is to uncover how apical-basal polarity level sculpts the development of the CNS. We investigate how symmetry is broken at a single cell level during secondary neurulation, which occurs via de novo apical-basal polarisation within the centre of an initially solid tissue (How do epithelial tubes polarise?). We are also interested in how apical-basal polarity, signalling and morphogenesis interrelate during secondary neural tube opening and later cell differentiation (how do epithelial tubes open?). These questions have relevance both for understanding polarity-associated diseases and for directing organ bioengineering approaches.

We use high resolution imaging, CRISPR and optogenetics approaches in vivo, within the developing zebrafish neural tube. This enables us to image the behaviour of cells before, during and after a precise manipulation in polarity or signalling deep within the brain of a vertebrate organism. In addition, we use in vitro multicellular mouse embryonic stem cell (mESC) culture to compare the fundamental mechanisms of de novo polarisation in a non-neural epithelial context. We aim to understand how single cells respond to and affect their neighbours to build whole organs and to directly test what role apical-basal polarity dysregulation plays in the initiation of disease. Through this work, we hope to unravel parallel mechanisms of epithelial tube development and disease.

We are currently particularly interested in understanding the links between cell-cell adhesion, actomyosin contractility and cellular mechanics in relation to polarity initiation and morphogenesis of epithelial tubes. We are also interested in determining the effects of aberrant PI3K signalling on cellular behaviour and epithelial tube morphogenesis.


Twitter @LabBuckley


Lab Members

Xuan Liang (Leverhulme postdoctoral research fellow)

Sarah Williams (postdoctoral research assistant)

Helena Crellin (PhD student)

Millie Race (PhD student)



Key publications: 

Crellin HA, Buckley CE (2023): Using optogenetics to investigate the shared mechanisms of apical-basal polarity and mitosis. Cells Tissues Organs 

Liang X, Weberling A, Hii C-Y, Zernicka-Goetz M, Buckley CE (2022) E-cadherin mediated Apical Membrane Initiation Site localisation. EMBO J

Buckley, C.E., St Johnston, D. Apical–basal polarity and the control of epithelial form and functionNat Rev Mol Cell Biol (2022).

Symonds ACE1, Buckley CE1, Williams C, and Clarke JDW. Coordinated assembly and release of adhesions builds apical junctional belts during de novo polarisation of an epithelial tubeDevelopment 2020 147:dev191494 corresponding authors 1Equal contribution

Buckley C.E. (2019) Optogenetic Control of Subcellular Protein Location and Signaling in Vertebrate Embryos. In: Pelegri F. (eds) Vertebrate Embryogenesis. Methods in Molecular Biology, vol 1920. Humana Press, New York, NY

Buckley CE, Moore RE, Reade A, Goldberg AR, Weiner OD and Clarke JDW. Reversible Optogenetic Control of Subcellular Protein Localization in a Live Vertebrate Embryo. Dev Cell (2016) Jan 11:36(1): 117-26

Buckley CE and Clarke JDW. Establishing the plane of symmetry for lumen formation and bilateral brain formation in the zebrafish neural rod. Semin Cell Dev Biol. (2014) Jul;31: 100-5

Buckley CE, Ren X, Ward LC, Girdler GC, Araya C, Green MJ, Clark BS, Link BA and Clarke JDW. Mirror-symmetric microtubule assembly and cell interactions drive lumen formation in the zebrafish neural rod. EMBO J. (2013) Jan 9;32(1): 30-44

Buckley CE, Marguerie A, Roach AG, Goldsmith P, Fleming A, Alderton WK and Franklin RJM. Drug reprofiling using zebrafish identifies novel compounds with potential pro-myelination effects. Neuropharmacology (2010) Sep;59(3):149-59

Buckley CE, Marguerie A, Alderton WK and Franklin RJM. Temporal Dynamics of Myelination in the Zebrafish Spinal Cord. GLIA (2010) 58:802–812.

Buckley CE, Goldsmith P and Franklin RJM. Zebrafish Myelination: A Transparent Model for Remyelination? DMM (2008) 1: 221-228

Teaching and Supervisions


NST II N1 P4 & P6 lecturer and supervisor

MVST IB Neurobiology & Human or Animal Behaviour lecturer & demonstrator

MVST IA Functional Architecture of the Body lecturer

Academic Associate, Pembroke College

Sir Henry Dale Fellow
Picture of Dr Clare Buckley

Contact Details

+44 (0) 1223 3 33766