Tony Harris

Professor, Associate Chair Undergraduate
Department of Cell and Systems Biology
University of Toronto

Contact--Please click here.

PhD Mentor: Chi-Hung Siu, Toronto
Postdoctoral Mentor: Mark Peifer, UNC-Chapel Hill

Studying the molecular bases of cell and tissue development

Our lab studies how animal tissues are built. We use confocal microscopy, Drosophila genetics, molecular biology, targeted proteomics, and mathematical simulations to determine the molecular bases of how epithelial cells are first formed and then re-shaped during development. Epithelia are sheets of adherent cells that form our skin and coat our organs. Proper epithelial structure is critical for guiding embryo development and directing adult functions (e.g. nutrient uptake in the gut), and its loss is associated with cancer progression.

We are particularly interested in the cross-talk between different molecular circuits and machinery responsible for epithelial development (polarity, adhesion, cytoskeletal and membrane trafficking complexes). The focus is on two molecular networks: (1) Par protein circuits involving Par-1, Bazooka (Par-3), Par-6 and aPKC, and (2) Arf small G protein regulatory circuits involving the Arf-GEF Steppke. We are investigating the signals upstream of these circuits, the interplay among the core members of the circuits, and the downstream effects of the circuits on cytoskeletal networks and adherens junctions for initial cell formation and polarization, and for subsequent embryo morphogenesis. 

Overall, our work aims to define core molecular mechanisms of cellular and epithelial morphogenesis in animals.

Please see a full listing at PubMed or Google Scholar.

A few selected papers from the lab (trainees underlined):

West, J.J., Zulueta-Coarasa, T., Maier, J.A., Lee, D.M., Bruce, A.E.E., Fernandez-Gonzalez, R. and Harris, T.J.C. (2017) An actomyosin-Arf-GEF negative feedback loop for tissue elongation under stress. Current Biology. 27:2260-2270.

Jiang, T., McKinley, R.F.A., McGill, M.A., Angers, S., and Harris, T.J.C. (2015) A Par-1-Par-3-centrosome cell polarity pathway and its tuning for isotropic adhesion. Current Biology. 25(20): 2701-2708.

Lee, D.M. and Harris, T.J.C. (2013) An Arf-GEF regulates antagonism between endocytosis and the cytoskeleton for Drosophila blastoderm development. Current Biology. 23(21):2110-20.

David, D.J.V., Wang, Q., Feng, J.J. and Harris, T.J.C. (2013) Bazooka inhibits aPKC to limit antagonism of actomyosin networks during amnioserosa apical constriction. Development. 140:4719-4729.

David, D.J.V., Tishkina, A. and Harris, T.J.C. (2010) The PAR complex regulates pulsed actomyosin contractions during amnioserosa apical constriction in Drosophila. Development. 137:1635-1643.

McGill, M.A.*, McKinley, R.F.A.* and Harris, T.J.C. (2009) Independent cadherin-catenin and Bazooka clusters interact to assemble adherens junctions. Journal of Cell Biology. 185:787-96. (*contributed equally)

Pope, K.L. and Harris, T.J.C. (2008) Control of cell flattening and associated junctional remodelling during squamous epithelial morphogenesis in Drosophila. Development. 135: 2227-2238

Tony Harris Lab December 2017

Always looking for talented and motivated trainees excited about cell biology.

Research Technician:

2006-  Cao Guo (CQ) Yu, PhD

Research Associate:
2012-  Tao Jiang, PhD           
Doctoral Students:
2012-  Yixie Zhang              
2013-  Junior West
2016-  Medha Sharma

Masters Students:
2016-  Ree Zheng
2017-  Tirthankar Ray

Our lab is located in the middle of downtown Toronto, a city known for its multi-culturalism, vibrancy and livability (listen to Metro Morning).

The University of Toronto is a major research hub (see statistics) with all major research institutes within short walking distance.