LMCB - Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology

Franck Pichaud's picture
LMCB Group Leader, UCL Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology
Academic Director of STP Imaging
+44 (0)20 7679 7817
LMCB Room 3.12
Twitter @PichaudLab
Cell biology of tissue architecture and physiology

Research synopsis

Our research aims to unravel one of the greatest mysteries in biology and medicine – how different cell types interact to generate functional organs during development.

Our focus is on epithelial tissues, the building blocks of most organs. These tissues perform critical functions such as selective exchange of gas, nutrients, and waste products, and provide structural support. They are masterfully shaped to suit each organ's unique needs, from stratified layers for protection, like the skin, to tubular networks for increased surface area, such as in the intestine.

Generating the intricate three-dimensional epithelial structures that support our organs requires cells to coordinate their movement and changes in their shape. Our research aims to uncover the mechanisms and molecular pathways behind this coordination. To study this, we use a multidisciplinary approach that combines genetic, molecular and optogenetic methods in vivo, mammalian cell cultures, mathematical modelling, and state-of-the-art imaging. Our favourite model system is the genetically amenable eye of Drosophila melanogaster, which allows us to perturb gene expression and protein function in individual cell types while studying the consequences in a developing living epithelium.

By understanding how cells work together to induce three-dimensional tissue organisation during organ development, we hope to gain insights into how abnormal epithelial tissues architecture might arise in development and homeostasis, causing diseases such as cancer, for example. The goal of our research is to contribute to our understanding of the pathways that promote epithelial tissue development and to help advancing our ability to diagnose, treat, and prevent epithelial diseases.  

Pichaud lab research imagePichaud lab research image

Selected publications

Pichaud F, et al (2019). Regulation of Cdc42 and its effectors in epithelial morphogenesis. Journal of Cell Science 132: jcs217869.
Zihni C, et al (2017). An apical MRCK-driven morphogenetic pathway controls epithelial polarity. Nature Cell Biology 19, 1049-1060.
Walther RF, et al (2016). Pak4 Is Required during Epithelial Polarity Remodeling through Regulating AJ Stability and Bazooka Retention at the ZA. CELL REPORTS, 15 (1), 45-53. doi:10.1016/j.celrep.2016.03.014



Medical Research Council

Research themes

Cytoskeleton and cell cortex
Basement membranes
Polarity and cell shape
Cell-cell interactions
Membrane trafficking


Light microscopy
Translational research
Super-resolution microscopy
Electron microscopy
Computational modelling


Rhian Walther (Investigator scientist, MRC)
Chantal Roubinet (Postdoctoral researcher, CRUK)
Courtney Lancaster (PhD student, Optical Biology, Wellcome)
Gautum Vasnani (PhD student)
Usman Mukhtar (MSci Cell Biology)
Deborah Matinuzzi (MSci Cell Biology)


Shila Banerjee (Carnegie Mellon University, USA)
Buzz Baum (MRC LMB, UK)
Angelika Mahart (Mathematics, UCL, UK)
Yanlan Mao (LMCB, UK)
Karl Matter (Institute of Ophthalmology, UCL, UK)
Roberto Mayor (UCL, CDB)
Chris Stefan (LMCB, UK)