Axel Behrens

Adult Stem Cell Laboratory

Every organ harbours adult stem cells which have the potential for long-term replication, together with the capacities of self-renewal and multi-lineage differentiation. These stem cells function in tissue homeostasis and contribute to regeneration in response to injury. In addition, many cancers are caused by transforming mutations occurring in tissue-specific progenitor cells. Our major focus is to elucidate the molecular mechanisms governing stem cell function. As well as studying tumour development using murine genetic models, we are now also applying our knowledge of stem cells and cellular differentiation mechanisms to diabetes.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Overview of stem cell function. Stem cells have the capacity to self-renew and to give rise to specialised cell types. The balance between proliferation and differentiation is crucial for the development and maintenance of a functional tissue. In most organs, stem cells are responsible for replacing differentiated cells that are lost during ageing, and stem cells also help repair damaged tissue. Oncogenic mutations in stem cells are a common cause of cancer. However, given an appropriate stimulus, differentiated cells may transdifferentiate into a distinct fate, or reprogram to a more stem-like tumour-initiating cell.

Selected publications

Khan, OM; Carvalho, J; Spencer-Dene, B; Mitter, R; Frith, D; Snijders, AP; Wood, SA and Behrens, A (2018)  The deubiquitinase USP9X regulates FBW7 stability and suppresses colorectal cancer. Journal of Clinical Investigation [Epub ahead of print] PubMed abstract

Ferreira, RMM; Sancho, R; Messal, HA; Nye, E; Spencer-Dene, B; Stone, RK; Stamp, G; Rosewell, I; Quaglia, A and Behrens, A (2017) Duct- and acinar-derived pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas show distinct tumor progression and marker expression.  Cell Reports 21, 966-978 PubMed abstract

Blaas, L; Pucci, F; Messal, HA; Andersson, AB; Ruiz, EJ; Gerling, M; Douagi, I; Spencer-Dene, B; Musch, A; Mitter, R; Bhaw, L; Stone, R; Bornhorst, D; Sesay, AK; Jonkers, J; Stamp, G; Malanchi, I; Toftgård, R and Behrens, A (2016) Lgr6 labels a rare population of mammary gland progenitor cells that are able to originate luminal mammary tumours.  Nature Cell Biology 18, 1346-1356 PubMed abstract

Chakraborty, A; Diefenbacher, ME; Mylona, A; Kassel, O and Behrens, A (2015) The E3 ubiquitin ligase Trim7 mediates c-Jun/AP-1 activation by Ras signalling.  Nature Communications 6, 6782 PubMed abstract

Axel Behrens
+44 (0)20 379 61194

  • Qualifications and history
  • 1998 PhD in Biology, Institute of Molecular Pathology, Austria
  • 1998 Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute of Molecular Pathology, Austria
  • 1999 Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute of Neuropathology, Switzerland
  • 2001 Established lab at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, UK (in 2002 the Imperial Cancer Research Fund became Cancer Research UK)
  • 2015 Group Leader, the Francis Crick Institute, London, UK