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Department of Pathology

Project: Cell death and lineage commitment in mammary gland


A mammary gland terminal end bud fluorescently stained with antibodies to the cell adhesion protein E-cadherin (green) and the marker of proliferation PCNA (red) with the nuclei of the cells in blue.Our research is focused on understanding two essential processes for mammary gland development: commitment of stem cells to the luminal and basal lineages and the execution of cell death and tissue remodelling during post-lactational regression (involution). We utilize a variety of genetic and molecular approaches coupled with an innovative 3-D co-culture model system. Our goals are to identify the signalling pathways and transcriptional regulators that control commitment of stem and progenitor cells to specific lineages and to determine the mechanisms of cell death during involution. We will use these insights to develop new therapeutics for breast cancer.

  • Research Associates:
    Sara Pensa, Timothy Sargeant, Bethan Lloyd-Lewis
  • Graduate Students:
    Hayley Frend, Teresa Ho, Henrike Resemann,  Matthew Wake,
    Maximillian Blanck, Robert Hume


Key publications: 
  1. Oliver, C.H., Khaled, W.T., Frend, H.T., Nichols, J. And Watson, C.J. (2012) The Stat6 regulated KRAB domain zinc finger protein Zfp157 regulates the balance of lineages in mammary gland and compensates for loss of Gata-3 (2012) Genes & Development. May 15;26(10):1086-97.
  2. Staniszewska AD, Pensa S, Caffarel MM, Anderson LH, Poli V, Watson CJ. (2012) Stat3 is required to maintain the full differentiation potential of mammary stem cells and the proliferative potential of mammary luminal progenitors. PLoS One 7(12):e52608.
  3. Hughes K, Wickenden JA, Allen JE, Watson CJ. (2012) Conditional deletion of Stat3 in mammary epithelium impairs the acute phase response and modulates immune cell numbers during post-lactational regression. J Pathol. May;227(1):106-17.
  4. Caffarel MM, Zaragoza R, Pensa S, Li J, Green AR, Watson CJ. (2012) Constitutive activation of JAK2 in mammary epithelium elevates Stat5 signalling, promotes alveologenesis and resistance to cell death, and contributes to tumourigenesis. Cell Death Differ. Mar;19(3): 511-22
  5. Kreuzaler, P.A., Staniszewska, A.D., Li, W., Omidvar, N., Kedjouar, B., Turkson, J., Poli, V., Flavell, R.A., Clarkson, R.W.E. and Watson, C.J. (2011) Stat3 controls lysosomal mediated cell death in vivo. Nature Cell Biology Mar;13(3):303-9.
Professor of Cell and Cancer Biology
Division of Cellular and Molecular Pathology
Professor Christine  Watson

Contact Details

Department of Pathology
University of Cambridge
Tennis Court Road
+44 (0)1223 333725
Not available for consultancy


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