Contact Details

Tel:  01865 613265

PA: Jolanta Parkinson 

Tel: 01865 613218

Lab Manager: Darragh Ennis

Tel: 01865 613271

Fellowships  as principal investigator

2016-2020 Wellcome Trust Strategic Award. Development and application of advanced imaging methods for cellular Dynamics. £4,900,000.

2013-2018 Nanoscopy Oxford (NanO). MRC/BBSRC/EPSRC Next generation imaging. £2,000,000.

2012-2017 Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellowship. The mechanism of mRNA transport and localised translation during axis specification and synaptic plasticity. £3,200,000

2011-2016 Wellcome Trust Strategic Award. Advanced Imaging Infrastructure for studying Chromosome and RNA dynamics. £3,878,703.

2007-2012  Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellowship to study the molecular mechanism of mRNA transport and anchoring. £2,046,000

2002-2007  Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellowship to study the factors required for mRNA localisation in Drosophila. £1,490,000 (extended to 2008)

2000-2002  Lister Senior Research Fellowship: Nuclear trafficking during Drosophila development £248,000.  

1996-2000  Wellcome Trust Career Development Fellowship: mRNA localisation and nuclear cytoplasmic trafficking in Drosophila. £508,000

Prof. Ilan Davis

I am the lab head and Principal Investigator of the Davis lab. I am also a Wellcome Trust Senior Fellow, a Research Fellow of Jesus College and I hold the University of Oxford Chair of Cell Biology. I have been working in the Department of Biochemistry here in Oxford since 2007, where I am also the director of the Micron advanced imaging facility. To view my profile on ORCiD please click here

Key Research interests

I have always held a keen interest in the influence of RNA localisation and how this influences development. In the past my lab has focussed on how mRNA transport and localised translation impacted on Drosophila embryonic axis specification. In recent years we have expanded our interest to include the same basic molecular processes to the Drosophila nervous system, in particular the brain and neuromuscular junction.  

In order to achieve our scientific aims we use a wide range of scientific techniques, including advanced imaging techniques as well as an array of genetic and biochemistry-based methods. 

Keywords: mRNA localization, Drosophila nervous system development, translational regulation, Drosophila oogenesis, pattern formation, embryonic development, neuromuscular junction, live cell imaging, super-resolution microscopy, electron microscopy, RNA biochemistry, RNA bioinformatics. 

Career Progression

1986 BA/MA Natural Sciences - Genetics, King College, University of Cambridge
1990 DPhil ICRF, Zoology Department, New College, University of Oxford
1992 SERC Postdoc Fellow, UCSF, San Francisco
1994 Boyer Postdoc Fellow, UCSF, San Francisco
1996 Wellcome Trust Career Development Fellow, University of Edinburgh
2000 Lister Fellow, Wellcome Trust Centre Cell Biology, Edinburgh University
2002 Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow, University Chair of Cell Biology, Wellcome Trust Centre Cell Biology, Edinburgh
2007 Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow, University Chair of Cell Biology, Department of Biochemistry, Oxford University

Positions Held

EMBO member, elected 2010

Wellcome Trust Career Development Fellowship 1996-2000

Lister Senior Fellowship 2000-2002

Wellcome Trust Senior Fellowship 2002-2007, 2007-2012, 2012-2017

For a full list of publications, click here

Contact Us

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


Career Highlights

During my PhD, I was amongst the earliest pioneers of the study the mechanism of mRNA localisation [1] and during my postdoc, I was amongst the first to establish the use of GFP in living Drosophila tissue. My own lab developed new FISH methods to show that mRNA localisation was unrelated to the nuclear position of transcription [2]. We also established an in vivo assay for mRNA localisation and used it to show directly for the first time that the molecular motor, Dynein transports mRNA in the embryo [3]. During my first senior fellowship funding period (2002-2007), we applied such methods to elucidating the mechanism of grk (TGF-alpha) mRNA localisation in the oocyte [4] and mapped the signals responsible for grk mRNA localisation [5]. We have also shown that mRNA anchoring in the blastoderm embryo occurs through Dynien acting as static anchor [7]. During my second senior fellowship funding period (2007-2012), we showed that Dynein is also responsible for the movement of mRNAs from the nurse cells into the oocyte [8]. We have demonstrated that our unconventional model of static anchoring by Dynein is operating in the case of gurken mRNA anchoring in the oocyte [9]. We have also shown a new role for the Hippo-Wartz-Salvador pathway in somatic cells, influencing mRNA localisation in the germ line [10], a study that built on our earlier work showing a role for the ERM protein merlin in the same process [4]. Most recently, we have pioneered new imaging approaches to test the association of trans-acting factors with motor proteins [11] and developed novel image analysis approaches with wide application to the study of mRNA and chromosome dynamics [12]. In 2011 we published our work elucidating the polarity and dynamics of microtubules in the oocyte, a long standing contentious issue [13]. We also applied super resolution imaging to imaging actin at the immunological synapse in collaboration with Dan Davis [14]. 

[1] Davis and Ish-Horowicz, Cell, 1991. 
[2] Wilkie, Shermoen, O'Farrell, and Davis, Current Biology, 1999.
[3] Wilkie and Davis, Cell, 2001. 
[4] MacDougall, Clark, MacDougall and Davis, Dev Cell, 2003.
[5] VanDeBor, Hartswood, Jones, Finnegan and Davis, Dev Cell 2005.
[6] Delanoue and Davis, Cell 2005.
[7] Clark, Meignin and Davis, Development 2007. 
[8] Delanoue, Herpers, Soetaert, Davis* and Rabouille*, Dev Cell 2007. 
[9] Meignin, Alvarez, Davis* and Palacios*, Current Biology 2007. *joint corresp auths.
[10] Zimyanin, Belaya, Pecreaux, Gilchrist, Clark, Davis and St Johnston, Cell 2008. 
[11] Weil, Xanthakis, Parton, Dobbie, Rabouille, Gavis and Davis, Development 2010. 
[12] Oliveira, Hamilton, Pauli, Davis and Nasmyth, Nature Cell Biol 2010.
[13] Parton, R., Hamilton, R., Ball, G., Yang, L., Cullen, F., Liu, W., Ohkura, H., and Davis.    Journal of Cell Biology 2011. 194: 121-135. 
[14] Brown, Oddos, Dobbie, Alakoskela, Parton, Eissmann, Neil, Dunsby, French, Davis and  Davis. Plos Biology 2011.  9: e1001152. 

Recent Publications

Järvelin A, Noerenberg M, Davis I, and Castello A. (2016). The new (dis)order in RNA regulation. Cell Commun Signal: 14, 9 

Misra M, Edmund H, Ennis D, Schlueter MA, Marot JE, Tambasco J, Barlow I, Sigurbjornsdottir S, Mathew R, Vallés AM, Davis I, Leptin M, Gavis ER.  (2016)  A Genome-Wide Screen for Dendritically Localized RNAs Identifies Genes Required for Dendrite Morphogenesis.G3. Jun (3) 

Davidson A, Parton RM, Rabouille C, Weil TT, Davis I. (2016) Localized Translation of gurken/TGF-α mRNA during Axis Specification Is Controlled by Access to Orb/CPEB on Processing Bodies. Cell Rep. 14, 1-12.  pii: S2211-1247(16)30141-3. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2016.02.038 

York-Andersen AM, Parton RM, Bi CJ, Bromley CL, Davis I, Weil TT.(2015) A single and rapid calcium wave at egg activation in Drosophila. Biol Open. (2015) 4(4):553-560. pii: BIO201411296. doi: 10.1242/bio.201411296. 

Parton RM, Davidson A, Davis I, Weil TT. (2014) Subcellular localisation at a glance. J. Cell Sci. 127(Pt 10):2127-33 

Halstead JM, Lin YQ, Durraine L, Hamilton RS, Ball G, Neely GG, Bellen HJ, Davis I. (2014) Syncrip/hnRNP Q influences synaptic transmission and regulates BMP signaling at the Drosophila neuromuscular synapse. Biol Open. 3(9):839-49. 

McDermott SM, Yang L, Halstead JM, Hamilton RS, Meignin C, Davis I. (2014) Drosophila Syncrip modulates the expression of mRNAs encoding key synaptic proteins required for morphology at the neuromuscular junction. RNA. 2014 Oct;20(10):1593-606 

Selected prior publications

Zimyanin, V., Belaya, K., Pecreaux, J., Gilchrist, M., Clark, A., Davis, I. and St Johnston, D. (2008). In vivo imaging of oskar mRNA transport reveals the mechanism of posterior localisation. Cell 134, 843- 853. PMCID: PMC2585615

Delanoue, R. and Davis, I. (2005) Dynein anchors its mRNA cargo after apical transport in the Drosophila blastoderm embryo. Cell 122: 97-106.

Wilkie, G. and Davis, I. (2001) Drosophila wingless and pair-rule transcripts localise apically by Dynein mediated transport of RNA particles. Cell 105: 209- 219.

Davis, I. and Ish-Horowicz D. (1991) Apical Localisation of Pair-rule Transcripts Requires 3' Sequences and Limits Protein Diffusion in the Drosophila Blastoderm Embryo. Cell 67: 927- 940.