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Professor David Stephens

Professor David Stephens

Professor David Stephens
B.Sc., Ph.D.(Lond.)

Professor of Cell Biology

Office Room C.49b
Biomedical Sciences Building,
University Walk, Clifton BS8 1TD
(See a map)

+44 (0) 117 331 2173


Lab website

My lab is undertaking a focussed research programme studying the organisation and function of the early secretory pathway in mammalian cells. My current research focuses on the function, regulation and organisation of the early secretory pathway. A particular focus of this work is to define how and why mammalian cells are organized in the way that they are; our work seeks to define how intracellular patterning underlies function, and more importantly dysfunction, in human disease. More recently, our interests have evolved to include the traffciking of proteins to and within cilia. In this context we have been working to understand the composition and function of the cytoplasmic dynein-2 motor and its relationship to the formation and function of primary cilia.

The core technical basis of our work is multidimensional live cell imaging and I have considerable experience in the application of wide-field and confocal techniques to the study of living cells. Our work is focussed on the generation and maintenance of the organisation of the pathway, how it is coordinated with cytoskeleton and motor protein function, and how these processes are regulated by protein phosphorylation. In particular, my lab is investigating the functional organisation of ER-to-Golgi transport with specific reference to the macromolecular coat protein complexes, COPI and COPII. Several of the projects in my lab are of direct clinical relevance and we are constantly developing our capabilities, recently including zebrafish genetics and electron microscopy (including immunogold labelling of ultrathin cryosections and tomography).

Our latest work develops our findings from cell biology assays into more physiological contexts including multicellular systems (e.g. cysts grown in 3D matrix) and zebrafish development. These systems form the core approach to our ongoing work which aims to develop our knowledge of COPII-dependent secretion with cell and tissue morphogenesis as well as provide stronger relevance to human disease.


David studied Biochemistry at Royal Holloway College, University of London and did his PhD at St. George’s Hospital Medical School (also University of London). This was followed by postdoctoral research first with Prof. George Banting in Bristol and then with Dr Rainer Pepperkok at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany. David’s time there as an EMBO Long term fellow learning advanced light microscopy while working on COPII-dependent secretion. Following award of a Medical Research Council Non-Clinical Career Development Fellowship in 2001, David started the lab in Bristol. In 2005, David secured a Medical Research Council Non-Clinical Senior Fellowship.

David is a recognized expert in cell imaging, including publishing high-profile reviews and editing a book on cell imaging and another more recently on methods for the analysis Golgi function. Our work has led to many internationally recognized research publications, invitations to speak at prestigious meetings (e.g. Japanese Biochemical Society, Gordon conferences and EMBO workshops), and to contribute high-profile review articles (e.g. in Science and Nature). David has also served on committees of the Royal Microscopical Society and British Society for Cell Biology. David is a member of BBSRC Council, an Editor for Journal of Cell Science, and an affiliate for BioRxiv. a new biology preprint server operated by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.

David tweets (mostly) about Science @David_S_Bristol

You can read more about our work on the lab website at

David also teaches on several undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in Biochemistry.


Cell Biology in Development and Disease

Advanced Cell Biology

The Dynamic Cell (MSc)


  • Cell Biology
  • membrane trafficking
  • microtubule cytoskeleton
  • microtubule motors
  • primary cilia
  • microscopy.



School of Biochemistry

School of Biochemistry staff

Selected publications

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Recent publications

View complete publications list in the University of Bristol publications system

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