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Dr Clare Buckley

Dr Clare  Buckley

Sir Henry Dale Fellow

Clare Buckley is accepting applications for PhD students.

Office Phone: +44 (0) 1223 3 33766


Clare received her undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Oxford. Her PhD in Neuroscience was from the laboratory of Robin Franklin at the University of Cambridge in collaboration with a small biotechnology company, Summit Plc. (previously DanioLabs). Clare carried out her postdoctoral work in the laboratory of Jon Clarke at King’s College London, during which time she held a short-term EMBO fellowship at Orion Weiner’s laboratory at the University of California, San Francisco to develop the Phytochrome system for use in zebrafish. She started her lab at the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge with a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellowship and is now a Sir Henry Dale Fellow.

Research Interests


My lab uses optogenetic and live confocal imaging within the zebrafish neural tube to test the role of cell polarity in building epithelial integrity during organ development and in breaking it during disease.

In combination with high resolution in vivo imaging, we use a new optogenetic approach to directly manipulate the polarity, signalling and division of single cells within the developing zebrafish brain. Along with CRISPR-mediated functional knock down experiments, this allows us to explore how cell polarity and division are linked during development such that cells can divide without disrupting the strict organization of the tissue. We are also testing the role of polarity dysregulation in tissue disruption by optogenetically manipulating polarity-linked signalling pathways (such as the PI3K pathway) in the already established zebrafish neural tube epithelium.

We hope to unravel parallel mechanisms of epithelial development and disease in vivo.


Lab Members

Xuan Liang

Sarah Williams


Past lab members

Buffy Eldridge-Thomas (Wellcome Trust PhD rotation student)

Adelaide Yue (Part II student)

Oscar Peña


Jared Toettcher, Princeton University



NST II N1 lecturer and supervisor

MVST IB Neurobiology & Human or Animal Behaviour demonstrator

Academic Associate, Pembroke College


Key Publications

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

Plain English

Our lab uses light to modify the inner workings of cells in the developing zebrafish brain. We do this to investigate how individual cells are able to form the correct shape and orientation during early organ development.

Most organs in the body (including the brain) arise from tube-like structures, made from specialised cells called epithelial cells. The orientation of epithelial cells is critical for normal organ development and function. If you were to cut a slice across a simple tube, it would look like a rosette, with all the cells aligned and pointing inwards towards the space (lumen) at the centre of the tube. To achieve this strict organisation, epithelial cells send particular components to their inner and outer ends. Therefore, epithelial cells are ‘polarised’. Since epithelial tubes are so common, the way they become polarised is a fundamental process during the body’s development. However, it is still not clear exactly how this polarity arises in the centre of a mass of cells. There is also some evidence to suggest that defects in cell polarity are linked to diseases such as cancer but so far it is not clear when cell polarity defects are a cause and when a consequence of tissue disruption.

We are developing ways in which individual components within brain cells can be accurately and reversibly moved using light. This allows us to test the role of these components in building organs during development and breaking them during disease.


Above: Mosaically labelled neuroepithelial cells in the developing zebrafish neural tube