our Research


+44 (0)1865 613271


We are interested in understanding how the fly brain develops and functions, as a model for the human brain in health and in disease.

Lab Members

METhods & Technology development

Contact Us


Biochemistry Dept.,

University of Oxford,

South Parks Rd.,



Vacancies &
PhD Positions

Research Focus

We are interested in understanding how the fly brain develops and functions, as a model for the human brain in health and in disease. We are focusing on elucidating the role of post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression in neural stem cell (neuroblast) development and their differentiation into neurons, as well as in synaptic plasticity during memory and learning. These mechanisms include mRNA transport and localised translation, as well as mRNA stability and processing. 

Keywords:  mRNA, Neuronal development, Neural stem cells, Drosophila, live cell imaging,  synaptic plasticity, neuromuscular junction, brain, neurons, memory, learning, neuromuscular diseases. 

We use a wide range of methodologies in our research, from established methods to cutting edge technologies and purpose-built microscopes.

Movies & Images

  1. Titlow J, Robertson F, Järvelin A, Ish-Horowicz D, Smith C, Gratton E, Davis I. (2020) Syncrip/hnRNP Q is required for activity-induced Msp300/Nesprin-1 expression and new synapse formation. J Cell Biol. pdf
  2. Samuels TJ, Järvelin AI, Ish-Horowicz D, Davis I. (2020) Imp/IGF2BP levels modulate individual neural stem cell growth and division through myc mRNA stability. Elife. pdf
  3. Jonathan U Harrison, Richard M Parton, Ilan Davis, Ruth E Baker (2019). Testing models of mRNA localization reveals robustness regulated by reducing transport between cells
    Biophys J.
  4. Manuel Garcia-Moreno, Marko Noerenberg, Shuai Ni, Aino I. Järvelin, Esther González-Almela, Caroline E. Lenz, Marcel Bach-Pages, Victoria Cox, Rosario Avolio, Thomas Davis, Svenja Hester, Thibault J.M. Sohier, Bingnan Li, Gregory Heikel, Gracjan Michlewski, Miguel A. Sanz, Luis Carrasco, Emiliano P. Ricci, Vicent Pelechano, Ilan Davis, Bernd Fischer, Shabaz Mohammed, Alfredo Castello (2019) System-wide Profiling of RNA-Binding Proteins Uncovers Key Regulators of Virus Infection. Molecular Cell. pdf
  5. Mantas Zurauskas, Ian M. Dobbie, Richard M. Parton, Mick A. Phillips, Antonia Gohler, Ilan Davis, and Martin J. Booth (2019) IsoSense: frequency enhanced sensorless adaptive optics through structured illumination. Optica, Vol. 6, Issue 3, pp.370-379. pdf
  6. Yang L., Titlow J., Ennis D., Smith C., Mitchell J., Young F.L., Waddell S., Ish-Horowicz D., Davis I. (2017) Single molecule fluorescence in situ hybridisation for quantitating post-transcriptional regulation in Drosophila brains. Methods. pdf                 

                                                                                          Full list of publications on Orcid or Google Scholar

We welcome informal enquiries from prospective Post-Doc and PhD students

The research in our lab is generously funded by Wellcome, the Leverhulme Trust, the BBSRC and Marie Curie. 

Selected Recent Publications

Browse a selection of movies and still images taken using the advanced imaging techniques we use in the lab.

RNA - what is it and what does it do?

We are particularly interested in how RNA is involved in the development of the nervous system and memory & learning. But what is RNA? The DNA that is in every one of our cells contains vast amounts of information (genes) used as instructions to make proteins. When a cell needs to make a protein this part of the DNA is copied and the copy is called RNA. These are then sent to the cell machinery in order for a protein to be made. Of particular interest to us are RNAs located at the distant end of nerve cells that are used to enable quick growth of nerves and synapses a long way from the cell nucleus. In order to study these tiny molecules we use cutting-edge microscopy techniques.

Plain English

Fruit Flies

In the Davis lab we use fruit flies to study how the nervous system works on a microscopic level. These are the same fruit flies commonly seen in kitchens in the summertime. Perhaps surprisingly, fruit flies are very similar to humans in how they control the function of their cells, making them an excellent model system to use. The fly nervous system works in essentially the same way as it does in mammals, with the same types of nerves as well as a distinct brain with similar structures to those found in a human brain.

In the Davis lab we have a team of people from diverse scientific backgrounds who bring a wide range of skills to our research.

We wish to thank the generosity of the Drosophila research community and acknowledge the contribution of FlyBase and the various stock centres

Ilan Davis Lab

Biochemistry Department, University of Oxford