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Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience

Professor Christine Holt

It is with great pleasure that we congratulate Professor Emerita of Developmental Neuroscience, Christine Holt, who has been recognised in the King’s Birthday Honours 2024. Christine has received a CBE in recognition of her pioneering and innovative contributions to neuroscience.

Professor Holt is best known for her work in understanding the "basic mechanisms that govern how the vertebrate brain becomes wired up in the highly specific and complex way that it does. Today, her research interests lie in the mechanisms of axon guidance and synaptic specificity in the development of complex brain networks. Professor Holt is credited as the pioneer of the idea that proteins synthesize and degenerate at a local level in an axon's cone of growth. This process is required for accuracy in brain cell growth proper orientation. In addition to studying N-cadherin and integrins, she has also investigated the role of ephrins in axon growth and the formation of the optic chiasm. In addition, her studies have found that netrin-1, DCC, and laminin-1 are key players in axon guidance from the retina. For example, netrin-1 is both a chemoattractant and a chemorepellent for many classes of axons, and Professor Holt's 1997 study shows that the growth cone of spinal neurons is chemoattractive to netrin-1 yet chemorepulsive when cAMP is present. Currently, Professor Holt collaborates with the lab of Giovanni Armenise at Harvard University, focusing on the role of microRNAs and non-coding RNAs in axon regrowth and wiring, and as a possible link to cancer of the nervous system.

 In 2017, the Royal Society awarded Professor Holt the Ferrier Medal and Lecture "for pioneering understanding of the key molecular mechanisms involved in nerve growth, guidance and targeting which has revolutionised our knowledge of growing axon tip." In 2022 she received the Rosenstiel Award and in 2023 The Brain Prize.

Of her CBE, Professor Holt said: "I'm surprised and thrilled to receive this honour. It's a marvellous recognition of the research that has involved a whole team of talented, dedicated and inspiring colleagues over many years."