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Professor Claudio Stern

Prof Claudio Stern

Claudio Stern is J Z Young Professor and was Head of the Research Department of Cell and Developmental Biology from 2001-2011. 

Prof Stern has been elected Fellow of the Royal Society, Academy of Medical Sciences, Academia Europaea, Institute of Biology and of the Latin-American Academy of Sciences and member of EMBO. In 2006 he was awarded the prestigious Waddington Medal from the British Society for Developmental Biology. He was also president of the International Society for Developmental Biology 2009-2013.

Contact Prof Stern
Office: 020 7679 7053 (Int: 37053)
Lab: 020 3108 4044/4045 (Int: 54044/54045)

Research Lab Website Publications

The research in our laboratory focuses on the processes that establish cell diversity and pattern in the early embryo. We ask the questions: how do cells in the embryo know what fates to adopt, at the right positions and at the right time? What mechanisms ensure that the correct proportions of cells are allocated to different organs?

Currently, the projects in the lab fall into four major headings:

1. How do higher vertebrate embryos establish their polarity, and what mechanisms coordinate cell movements with gene expression?

2. What mechanisms are responsible for inducing the early nervous system?

3. How is the early nervous system subdivided into forebrain, midbrain, hindbrain and spinal cord?

4. Embryonic stem cells - where are they in the embryo, and can we harness them to understand developmental pathways?

We are particularly interested in discovering mechanisms that represent general principles in development, and therefore follow
a multi-disciplinary approach. We choose (or if necessary, develop) techniques that will help us best to answer the questions being asked, rather than being wedded to any particular set of techniques. We do not define our questions based on specific genes, but rather based on the biological event we are trying to understand – we first define the biological process and then try to establish which genes are important for that process. Finally, although much of our research uses chick embryos (because they are easy and cheap to obtain at precise stages of development, because it is easy to manipulate cells, and because a lot is already known about how they develop), we are also not wedded to this as an experimental system. Current projects use chick, quail, frog and mouse embryos, and we are also collaborating with other labs using yeast, flies and fish.

Our current research is supported by grants from the Medical Research Council, BBSRC, National Institutes of Health (NIMH, USA), the European Union (Network of Excellence “Cells into Organs”) and Eisai Pharmaceuticals.


1972-1975: BSc (Hons.) Biology, University of Sussex
1975-1978: DPhil in Developmental Biology, University of Sussex
1978-1984: Post-doctoral research with Professor Ruth Bellairs, University College London
1984-1985: University Demonstrator, Anatomy Department, Cambridge University
1985-1994: University Lecturer and Student of Christ Church, Oxford
1994-2001: Professor and Chairman, Department of Genetics and Development, Columbia University, New York, USA
2001-Present: J Z Young Professor of Anatomy, University College London (Head of Department of Cell and Developmental Biology 2001-2011).

Selected publications
A full list of Prof Stern's publications is available here

  • Jaffe, L.F. and Stern, C.D. (1979) Strong electrical currents leave the primitive streak of chick embryos. Science 206, 569-571.
  • Keynes, R.J. and Stern, C.D. (1984) Segmentation in the vertebrate nervous system. Nature 310, 786-789.
  • Stern, C.D. and Keynes, R.J. (1987) Interactions between somite cells: the formation and maintenance of segment boundaries in the chick embryo. Development 99, 261-272.
  • Primmett, D.R.N.; Norris, W.E.; Carlson, G.J.; Keynes, R.J. and Stern, C.D. (1989) Periodic segmental anomalies induced by heat-shock in the chick embryo are associated with the cell cycle. Development 105, 119-130.
  • Stern, C.D. and Canning, D.R. (1990) Origin of cells giving rise to mesoderm and endoderm in chick embryo. Nature 343, 273-275.
  • Davies, J.A.; Cook, G.M.W.; Stern, C.D. and Keynes, R.J. (1990) Isolation from chick somites of a glycoprotein fraction that causes collapse of dorsal root ganglion growth cones. Neuron 2, 11-20.
  • Selleck, M.A.J. and Stern, C.D. (1991) Fate mapping and cell lineage analysis of Hensen's node in the chick embryo. Development 112, 615-626.
  • Figdor, M.C. and Stern, C.D. (1993) Segmental organization of embryonic diencephalon. Nature 363, 630-634.
  • Izpisúa-Belmonte, J.C., De Robertis, E.M., Storey, K.G. and Stern, C.D. (1993) The homeobox gene goosecoid and the origin of organizer cells in the early chick blastoderm. Cell 74, 645-659.
  • Levin, M., Johnson, R.L., Stern, C.D., Kuehn, M. and Tabin, C. (1995) A molecular pathway determining left-right asymmetry in chick embryogenesis. Cell 82, 803-814.
  • Joubin, K.I. and Stern, C.D. (1999). Molecular interactions continuously define the organizer during the cell movements of gastrulation. Cell 98, 559-571.
  • Streit, A., Berliner, A.J., Papanayotou, C., Sirulnik, A. and Stern, C.D. (2000) Initiation of neural induction by FGF signalling before gastrulation. Nature 406, 74-78.
  • Bertocchini, F. and Stern, C.D. (2002). The hypoblast of the chick embryo positions the primitive streak by antagonizing Nodal signalling. Dev. Cell 3, 735–744.
  • Sheng, G., Dos Reis, M. and Stern, C.D. (2003). Churchill, a zinc finger transcriptional activator, regulates the transition between gastrulation and neurulation. Cell 115, 603-613.
  • Bertocchini, F., Skromne, I., Wolpert, L. and Stern, C.D. (2004). Determination of embryonic polarity in a regulative system: evidence for endogenous inhibitors of primitive streak formation in the chick embryo. Development 131, 3381-3390.
  • Voiculescu, O., Bertocchini, F., Keller, R. and Stern, C.D. (2007). The amniote primitive streak is defined by epithelial cell intercalation before gastrulation. Nature 449, 1049-1052.
  • Papanayotou, C., Mey, A., Birot, A.-M., Saka, Y., Boast, S., Smith, J.C., Samarut, J. and Stern, C.D. (2008). A mechanism regulating the onset of Sox2 expression in the embryonic neural plate. PLoS Biology, 6, e2.
  • Carmona-Fontaine, C., Matthews, H.K., Kuriyama, S., Moreno, M., Dunn, G.A., Parsons, M., Stern, C.D. and Mayor, R. (2008). Contact inhibition of locomotion in vivo controls neural crest directional migration. Nature 456, 957-961
  • Bertocchini, F. and Stern, C.D. (2012). GATA2 provides an early anterior bias and uncovers a global positioning system for polarity in the chick embryo. Development 139, 4232-4238
  • Papanayotou, C.*, De Almeida, I.*, Liao, P.*, Lu, S.-Q., Kougioumtzidou, E., Zhu, L., Shaw, A., Sheng, G., Streit, A., Yu, D.J., Soong, T.W. and Stern, C.D. (2013). Calfacilitin is a calcium channel modulator essential for initiation of neural plate development. Nature Commun. 2013;4:1837. *: equal contributions
  • Dias, A.*, De Almeida, I.*, Belmonte, J., Glazier, J.A. and Stern, C.D. (2014). Somites without a clock. Science 343: 791-795. [doi: 10.1126/science.1247575]*: equal contributions

  • Voiculescu, O., Bodenstein, L., Lau, I.-J. and Stern, C.D. (2014). Local cell interactions and self-amplifying individual cell ingression drive amniote gastrulation. eLife (forthcoming)


  • Stern, C.D. and Holland, P.W.H. (eds.) (1993). Essential Developmental Biology: A Practical Approach. IRL Press at Oxford University Press, Oxford. 333pp. ISBN: 0-19-9634238 (hardback), 0-19-963422 (paperback). Japanese translation: ISBN: 89592-123-9
  • Stern, C.D. (ed.) (2004). Gastrulation: from cells to embryo. Cold Spring Harbor Press. ISBN: 0-87969-707-5. 731pp.

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