Above: Example of images used to study mRNA and protein localisation in vivo in the larval Drosophila neuromuscular junction. The neuron (cyan) grows new circular sections known as boutons in response to neuronal activity. Using this fixed in situ method we can also see translation of our mRNA of interest as bright spots in the nuclei.

Left: The effect that chemical stimulation of the neuron has on synaptic plasticity and growth. We can see new 'ghost boutons' that have grown in response to this stimulation indicated by the white arrows. 

Ana Palanca

I have been a member of the Davis lab since 2014, when I joined after completing my PhD in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the University of Cantabria in Spain. I specialise in imaging techniques, particularly fluorescence, electron and super-resolution microscopy.

Current Project

In my current project I am working alongside several other Davis Lab members on a screen of novel RNA and protein localisation targets in the Drosophila larval nervous system. My tissue of interest is the neuromuscular junction (NMJ). This is a good model to study as the larval NMJ is continuously forming and stabilising new synapses in order to maintain synaptic efficacy as the postsynaptic muscle cells grow in size. In order to investigate this plasticity we use an activation assay where we use chemical stimulation to generate new neural growth in the synapse in the form of 'ghost boutons'. 

Microscopy Movies

The Neuromuscular Junction

An excellent model for studying synaptic plasticity
Contact Details

Tel: 01865 613271


Contact Us

Biochemistry Dept.
University of  Oxford,
South Parks Rd.,
Oxford, ​OX1 3QU


Previous Work

Before working in Oxford I gained a PhD in Biomedicine from the University of Cantabria. This work was based on neural response to genotoxic stress  induced by ionising radiation and proteasome inhibition at the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the University of Cantabria.


Joshua S Titlow LY, Richard M. Parton, Ana Palanca, Ilan Davis. 2017 Super-resolution single molecule FISH at the Drosophila neuromuscular junction. In press, MiMB. 

Casafont I*, Palanca A*, Lafarga V, Mata-Garrido J, Berciano MT., Lafarga M. 2015. Dynamic Behavior of the RNA Polymerase II and the Ubiquitin Proteasome System During the Neuronal DNA Damage Response to Ionizing Radiation. Mol Neurobiol. 

Romero AM, Palanca A, Ruiz-Soto M, Llorca J, Marín MP, Renau-Piqueras J, Berciano MT, Lafarga M. 2015. Chronic Alcohol Exposure Decreases 53BP1 Protein Levels Leading to a Defective DNA Repair in Cultured Primary Cortical Neurons. Neurotoxicity Research. 29, Issue 1, pp 69-79.

Palanca A, Casafont I, Berciano MT y Lafarga M. 2014. Reactive nucleolar and Cajal body responses to proteasome inhibition in sensory ganglion neurons.  BBA Mol Basis Dis. 1842(6):848-59.

García-Macia M.*, Sierra M.*, Palanca A., Vega-Naredo I., de Gonzalo-Calvo D., Rodríguez-González S., Oliván M., Coto-Montes AM. 2014. Autophagy during beef aging.  Autophagy.10(1):137-43.

Tapia O *, Lafarga V.*, Bengoechea R, Palanca A, Lafarga M y Berciano MT. 2014. The SMN Tudor SIM-like domain is key to SmD1 and coilin interactions and to Cajal body biogenesis.  J. Cell Sci.;127(Pt 5):939-46.

Palanca A, Casafont I, Berciano MT y Lafarga M. 2013. Proteasome inhibition induces DNA damage and reorganizes nuclear architecture and protein synthesis machinery in sensory ganglion neurons. Cell Mol Life Sci 71(10):1961-75.

Tapia O, Bengoechea R,  Palanca A, Arteaga R, Val-Bernal JF, Tizzano EF, Berciano MT, Lafarga M.2012. Reorganization of Cajal bodies and nucleolar targeting of coilin in motor neurons of type I spinal muscular atrophy.  Histochem Cell Biol. 137:657-67.
Casafont I*, Palanca A*, Lafarga V, Berciano MT. Lafarga M. 2011. Effect of ionizing radiation in sensory ganglion neurons: organization and dynamics of nuclear compartments of DNA damage/repair and their relationship with transcription and cell cycle.  Acta Neuropathol.122:481-93 

In a jupiter transgenic Drosophila embryo generated by the "protein-trap" technique, Jupiter:GFP fusion protein localises to the microtubule network through the cell cycle at the different stages of development

Whole embryo imaged with Zeiss Z1 lightsheet . Ana Palanca & Eva Wegel (Micron)

Right: Ultra structural view of a bouton

3rd instar larvae TEM micrograph

The bouton is limited by the pre and post-synaptic membranes. The active zones (white arrows) are the sites of the neurotransmitter release. Vesicles and mitochondria (M) can be seen in the neuroplasm. The sub synaptic reticulum of muscle membranes (SSR) houses postsynaptic cytomatrix components analogous to the junctional folds of invertebrate NMJs.