How a complex angiogenic network is governed during vascular development


Angiogenesis is the formation of blood vessels from pre-exisitng vessels. It is essential for maintaining healthy physiological processes and for the revascularisation of tissues following an injury. Our research group focuses on investigating the molecular basis of angiogenesis and we have recently identified a novel interaction between three cell surface proteins expressed by endothelial cells involved in this process.

The goal of this studentship is to take a genetics approach to determine how endothelial alpha5-integrin, neuropilin-1, and neuropilin-2 proteins interact with one another to regulate angiogenesis at the molecular, cellular and organismal levels. We have generated conditionally knocked out mice deficient in their ability to express one or more of these proteins in endothelial cells. Working with these mice, or cells derived from these mice, the project would give the student experience in a wide range of cross-disciplinary techniques:

– Using the mouse retina as a model system to study angiogenesis in vivo.

– Working with endothelial cells in culture, learning how to study their angiogenic behaviour in vitro.

Techniques learned will include whole tissue imaging via confocal microscopy, Western blotting, adhesion and migration assays, immunocytochemistry, and biochemical assays to determine physical interactions between the three proteins.

The project offers students an opportunity to work in a dynamic environment, in a research institute with excellent facilities and resources for undertaking a wide variety of studies in the life-sciences. This opportunity is available for enthusiastic candidates with an interest in cell biology, molecular biology, developmental biology, and/or vascular biology.


1. Benwell, CJ, Taylor, JAGE, and Robinson SD. (2021). Endothelial NRP2 influences angiogenesis by regulating actin pattern development and alpha5-integrin-p-FAK complex recruitment to assembling adhesion sites. FASEB J, 35:e21679.

2. Alghamdi, AAA, Benwell, CJ, Atkinson, SJ, Lambert, J, Johnson, RT, and Robinson, SD. (2020). NRP2 as an emerging angiogenic player; promoting endothelial cell adhesion and migration by regulating the recycling of alpha5-integrin. Frontiers in cell and developmental biology, 8:395.