LMCB - MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology

Yanlan Mao's picture

LMCB Group Leader, UCL Excellence Fellow, MRC Career Development Fellow

+44 (0)20 7679 7267
LMCB Room 1.04

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Twitter @YanlanMao

Tissue Mechanics

Research Synopsis

In the Mao lab we are interested in understanding how tissues achieve their correct size, shape and complex three-dimensional architecture, both during normal development, and during regenerative growth.

The genetic and biochemical control of tissue growth and regeneration has been extensively studied over the last century, but it is still unclear how the physical and mechanical properties of cells and tissues contribute to how organs are formed and sculpted. What is clear is that in order to change the three-dimensional architecture of any structure, there must be forces, external and/or internal, acting on the system.

We use an interdisciplinary approach, combining Drosophila genetics, live imaging, automated image analysis, experimental biophysics, engineering and computational modeling, to understand the importance of mechanical forces in controlling tissue growth and regeneration and how these forces in turn influence gene expression and signaling pathways.

Mao lab research image

Mao lab research image

Selected Publications

Tetley R, et al (2019). Tissue fluidity promotes epithelial wound healing. Nature Physics. doi.org/10.1038/s41567-019-0618-1
Duda M, et al (2019). Polarization of Myosin II Refines Tissue Material Properties to Buffer Mechanical Stress. Dev Cell,  Jan 28;48(2):245-260.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2018.12.020.
Tetley RJ & Mao Y (2018). The same but different: cell intercalation as a driver of tissue deformation and fluidity. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. Sep 24;373(1759). doi: 10.1098/rstb.2017.0328. Review.
Heller D, et al (2016). EpiTools: An Open-Source Image Analysis Toolkit for Quantifying Epithelial Growth Dynamics. Dev Cell, 36 (1), 103-116. doi:10.1016/j.devcel.2015.12.012
Sanchez-Gutierrez D, et al (2015). Fundamental physical cellular constraints drive self-organization of tissues. EMBO J, 35 (1), 77-88. doi:10.15252/embj.201592374
Mao Y & Baum B (2015). Tug of war-The influence of opposing physical forces on epithelial cell morphology. Dev Biol, 401 (1), 92-102. doi:10.1016/j.ydbio.2014.12.030
Mao Y, et al (2013). Differential proliferation rates generate patterns of mechanical tension that orient tissue growth. EMBO J, 32 (21), 2790-2803. doi:10.1038/emboj.2013.197
Mao Y, et al (2011). Planar polarization of the atypical myosin Dachs orients cell divisions in Drosophila. Genes & Dev, 25 (2), 131-136. doi:10.1101/gad.610511

About the lab


Medical Research Council
Wellcome Trust
UCL Excellence Fellowship
European Commission Horizon 2020
Lister Institute
EMBO Young Investigator Programme

Research Themes

Cytoskeleton and cell cortex, Polarity and cell shape, Signalling pathways, Cell-cell interactions, Physics of biological systems, Tissue growth and morphogenesis, Tissue repair and regeneration


Light microscopy, Electron microscopy, Computational modeling, Super-resolution microscopy


Melda Tozluoglu (Postdoctoral Fellow)
Robert Tetley (Postdoctoral Fellow)
Nargess Khalilgharibi (Research Associate)
Natalie Kirkland (PhD Student)
Ricardo Barrientos (PhD Student)
Filippos Ioannou (PhD Student)
Alejandra Guzman-Herrera (PhD student)


Buzz Baum (LMCB, UK)
Ewa Paluch (LMCB, UK)
Franck Pichaud (LMCB, UK)
Jason Mercer (LMCB, UK)
Jemima Burden (LMCB, UK)
Jose Munoz (UPC Barcelona, Spain)
Guillaume Charras (LCN, UCL, UK)
Luis Escudero (Seville University, Spain)
Andreas Hoppe (Kingston University, UK)
Konrad Basler (UZH, Switzerland)
Matthieu Piel (Institut Curie, France)