Research Group of Dr David Stephens, University of Bristol

Research Group of Dr David Stephens, University of Bristol

David’s group currently includes Post Docs Pete Watson and Krysten Palmer and Research Assistant Anna Townley.

Dr David Stephens heads a team in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Bristol in England. The lab specializes in the analysis of membrane traffic in mammalian cells using advanced light microscopy techniques and in particular, the analysis of living cells.

The long term aims of David’s work center around a better understanding of the protein trafficking pathways in mammalian cells. Research into these areas is important because very many human diseases are caused by a failure or disruption of trafficking pathways. Current projects in the lab include the study of the dynamics of COPII-coated ER export sites in live cells, cargo sorting during ER-to-Golgi transport and the role of the microtubule cytoskeleton in the coordination of ER export.

David’s interest in membrane trafficking pathways began as an undergraduate at the Royal Holloway, University of London and has been the central theme of all his work to date. David gained valuable experience in the use of live cell imaging techniques whilst at EMBL in Heidelberg. These methods now play an important part in his current research.

His group is able to take advantage of the extensive microscopy equipment and services provided by the MRC Cell Imaging Facility at the University of Bristol. This unit includes four confocal microscopes as well as two Openlab cell imaging systems. Volocity is also used extensively to visualize and analyze image data in 3D and 4D. In particular, Volocity allows David to detect and track protein vesicles in time resolved 3D volumes quickly and easily, a necessity for someone who studies membrane trafficking.

David writes: “We use Volocity extensively in our work for 3D and 4D rendering of images - deconvolution of these stacks is becoming and increasingly routine part of our work. In addition, we exploit the classifier option within the software to quantify our data, notably in terms of vesicle movement. The Cell Imaging Facility provides an excellent resource for us, which is augmented by dedicated time-lapse systems within our lab. The availability of additional state-of-the art microscopy within the Medical School, including total internal reflection fluorescence, spinning disk confocal and electron microscopy, makes Bristol the ideal venue for our work. It is also a great city to live in and there is always a lot going on both in and out of the lab.”

The lab home page has lots of information about their research, movies and images, protocols, recent publications and even a layman’s guide to membrane trafficking! Their 2005 publication* in Nature Cell Biology (which includes the use of Volocity to select and track objects) was highlighted by the ‘Faculty of 1000’ as a Must Read paper. View the Application Note in our Application Library with more information about how Volocity contributes to research in the Stephens Lab.

*Watson, P., Forster, R., Palmer, K.J., Pepperkok, R, and Stephens, D.J. (2005) Coupling of ER exit to microtubules through direct interaction of COPII with dynactin. Nature Cell Biology, 7 (1) 48-55.

Two images taken from the 'Imaging Membrane Dynamics' movie on the Stephens Lab website. This interesting presentation takes the viewer on a step by step journey through selected cell imaging techniques.