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Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience



My research is to understand the role of cell-cell adhesions and actomyosin cytoskeleton based mechanical force in directing the apical membrane during de novo polarisation of epithelial tubes.

During development, most organs in the body arise from epithelial tubes. Whilst some tubes arise via the folding of an already polarised epithelial tissue, others arise via de novo polarisation in the centre of a previously unpolarised, solid tissue. De novo polarisation happens, for example, during mammalian epiblast formation when the inner-cell-mass (ICM) cells within embryos establish apical-basal polarity and form the amniotic cavity; as well as during teleost neural tube (NT) development when the neuroepithelium progenitor cells epithelialise and open a central lumen.

To understand the topic, I am carrying out a comparative study of the mouse epiblast and zebrafish neural tube development to explore the role of cell-cell adhesions in the processes. I am using genetic knock out approaches alongside a cutting-edge optogenetic approach to both image and manipulate the process of apicobasal polarisation and cell-cell adhesion formation at the single cell level within vertebrate embryonic tissues.

The research will identify whether the mechanisms driving de novo polarisation are conserved and will extend our knowledge of the unexplored role that cell-cell adhesions play during development of epithelial tubes. Moreover, a better understanding of polarisation during development will help us to understand how epithelium tissue is regenerated and how epithelium associated diseases (e.g. epithelial tumours) happen during which cell polarity is dysregulated.



Group leader: Clare Buckley
Collaborator: Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz


Key publications: 

Acharya BR, Nestor-Bergmann A*, Liang X*, Gupta S, Duszyc K, Gauquelin E, Gomez GA, Budnar S, Marcq P, Jensen OE, Bryant Z, Yap AS. A Mechanosensitive RhoA Pathway that Protects Epithelial against Acute Tensile Stress. Developmental Cell. 2018;47:439-452.e6 * Equal contribution

Liang X, Kiru S, Gomez GA, Yap AS. Regulated recruitment of SRGAP1 modulates RhoA signaling for contractility during epithelial junction maturation. Cytoskeleton. 2018;75:61

Liang X, Budnar S, Gupta S, Verma S, Han SP, Hill MM, Daly RJ, Parton RG, Hamilton NA, Gomez, GA, Yap AS. Tyrosine dephosphorylated cortactin downregulates contractility at the epithelial zonula adherens through SRGAP1. Nature Communications. 2017;8:790

Liang X, Zhang XH, Han BC, Lei W, Qi QR, Wang TS, Gu XW, Yang ZM. Progesterone and heparin-binding epidermal growth factor-like growth factor regulate the expression of tight junction protein Claudin-3 during early pregnancy. Fertility and Sterility. 2013;100:1410-8.

Priya R, Liang X, Teo LJ, Duszyc K, Yap AS, Gomez GA. ROCK1 but not ROCK2 contributes to RhoA signaling and NMIIA mediated contractility at the epithelial zonula adherens. Molecular Biology of the Cell. 2017;28:12-20.

Truffi M, Dubreuil V, Liang X, Vacaresse N, Nigon F, Han SP, Yap AS, Gomez GA, Sap J. RPTPα controls epithelial adherens junctions, linking E-cadherin engagement to c-Src-mediated phosphorylation of cortactin. Journal of Cell Science. 2014;127:2420-32.

Zhang XH, Liang X, Wang TS, Liang XH, Zuo RJ, Deng WB, Zhang ZR, Qin FN, Zhao ZA, Yang ZM. Heparin-binding epidermal growth factor-like growth factor (HB-EGF) induction on Snail expression during mouse decidualization. Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology. 2013;381:272-9.

Zhang XH, Liang X, Liang XH, Wang TS, Qi QR, Deng WB, Sha AG, Yang ZM. The mesenchymal-epithelial transition during in vitro decidualization. Reproductive Sciences. 2013;20:354-60.

Leverhulme Early Career Fellow
 Xuan  Liang

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+44 (0)1223 339558
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