Jim Smith

Developmental Biology Laboratory

The different cell types of the body are formed in the right place and at the right time in response to signals that are produced by special organiser regions of the embryo. These so-called morphogens act in a concentration-dependent manner to induce the formation of different cell types at different positions within developing tissues. One of the earliest interactions of this kind is mesoderm induction, which results in the formation of organs and cell types such as heart, muscle, kidney and bone.

We use frog, zebrafish and mouse embryos to study mesoderm-inducing factors and to ask how cells respond to them. One aim is to understand how the signals exert long-range effects in the embryo, and how cells distinguish between different morphogen concentrations to activate different genes. We go on to explore how these different genes then participate in the genetic regulatory networks that result in the formation of specific cell types. The principles we define in the early embryo inform additional work on events in later development, including the heart and vasculature, and on the differentiation of embryonic stem cells, where we hope that our work will help direct ES cells down particular developmental pathways.

Figure 1

Figure 1. Use of bimolecular fluorescence complementation reveals that signalling by nodal family members is strong near the margin of the zebrafish embryo (bottom of image) and weak near the animal pole (top). (Click to view larger image)

Selected publications

Langley AR, Smith JC, Stemple DL and Harvey SA (2014). New insights into the maternal to zygotic transition. Development 141, 3834-3841.

Vogt J, Dingwell KS, Herhaus L, Gourlay R, Macartney T, Campbell C, Smith JC and Sapkota G (2014). Protein Associated With Smad1 (PAWS1/FAM83G) is a substrate for type I bone morphogenetic protein receptors and modulates bone morphogenetic protein signalling. Open Biology 4, 130210.

Gentsch GE, Owens NDL, Piccinelli P, Faial T, Trotter MWB, Gilchrist MJ and Smith JC (2013). Cooperation of T-box transcription factors regulates neural and mesodermal fates in vertebrate embryos. Cell Reports 4, 1185-96.

Collart C, Allen GE, Bradshaw CR, Smith JC and Zegerman P (2013). Titration of four replication factors is essential for the Xenopus laevis midblastula transition. Science 341, 893-896.

Harvey SA, Sealy I, Kettleborough R, Feynes F, White R, Stemple D and Smith JC (2013). Identification of the zebrafish maternal and paternal transcriptomes. Development 140, 2703-2710.

Cannon JE, Place ES, Eve AM, Bradshaw CR, Sesay A, Morrell NW and Smith JC (2013). Global analysis of the haematopoietic and endothelial transcriptome during zebrafish development. Mechanisms of Development 130, 122-131.

Jim Smith

Jim Smith

+44 (0)20 379 61103

  • Qualifications and history
  • 1979 PhD Middlesex Hospital Medical School, London, UK
  • 1979 Postdoctoral Fellow Harvard Medical School, Boston MA, USA
  • 1981 Postdoctoral Fellow, Imperial Cancer Research Fund, London, UK
  • 1984 Group Leader, then Head of Division and Head of Group, MRC-NIMR, London, UK
  • 2000 Director, Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute
  • 2009 Director, Medical Research Council National Institute for Medical Research, London, UK
  • 2014 Deputy CEO and Chief of Strategy, Medical Research Council
  • 2015 Director of Research, Francis Crick Institute