Skip to main content

Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

Dr Helen Dawe

Dr Helen Dawe

Honorary Senior Lecturer



I am a molecular cell biologist with interests in cell polarity, cell morphogenesis and the cytoskeleton. My research focuses on how eukaryotic flagella/cilia are built, and how this goes wrong in human inherited disease. I am particularly interested in the early stages of ciliogenesis: centrosome migration and docking at the cell surface, and how these go awry in Meckel-Gruber and Joubert syndromes. I am a member of the Cell Biology research group.


1999-2003 PhD Molecular Cell Biology, MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology, University of London
1995-1999 BSc (Hons) Biochemistry with Industrial Experience, University of Manchester


2009-2021 Lecturer in Cell Biology, University of Exeter
2008-2009 University Research Lecturer, University of Oxford
2006-2009 Beit Memorial Fellow, University of Oxford, and Fellow of Brasenose College Oxford
2003-2006 Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Oxford

Research group links

Back to top


Research interests

Eukaryotic cilia and flagella are remarkably conserved, both at the structural and functional levels, from evolutionarily ancient unicellular eukaryotes to man and are adapted to carry out diverse roles. Almost every cell in the human body can form a cilium or flagellum, either motile or non-motile. Motile cilia move fluids past epithelial cell layers in multicellular organisms; however, non-motile primary cilia are the most common type of cilia in the body. The roles of primary cilia were unclear but the recent identification of many inherited disorders involving aberrant ciliary function, termed “ciliopathies”, has changed this and primary cilia are now known as sensory organelles, acting both as chemo- or mechanosensors and transducers of signals that regulate key developmental signalling pathways. My lab focuses on the severe ciliopathy Meckel Gruber syndrome. We use a combination of patient-derived cell lines, post-genomic technologies, classical cell biology and genetics to give insight into the molecular cell biology of the disease. We are currently studying the roles that two proteins, TMEM67 and TMEM216, play in organisation of the actin and microtubule cytoskeletons during cell migration.

Research projects

Current research falls into the following overlapping projects:

  • the mechanism of centrosome migration to the apical membrane during ciliogenesis of primary cilia
  • the molecular cell biology of Meckel-Gruber and Joubert syndromes
  • the role of MKS proteins in non-ciliated cells
  • the role of cilia in setting up the left-right axis in invertebrates

Research networks

Dr Colin Johnson (Leeds Institute for Molecular Medicine)
Dr John Sayer (University of Newcastle)
Prof. Keith Gull (University of Oxford)
Dr Sue Vaughan (Oxford Brookes University)
Dr Lorna Harries (Exeter Medical School)

Research grants

  • 2011 MRC
    New Investigator Award "The Role of Meckel-Gruber Syndrome Proteins in Cell Migration"

Back to top

External Engagement and Impact

Editorial responsibilities

Reviewer for Journal of Cell Science, Journal of Cell Biology, Human Molecular Genetics

Invited lectures

2011 Marie Curie Regenerative medicine symposium, Bath

2008 1st EMBO Conference on Centrosomes and Spindle Pole Bodies

2007  FASEB Summer Research Conference “The Biology of Cilia and Flagella”

Given invited seminars at 14 UK universities & research institutes

Back to top


Year 2
BIO2088 Advanced Cell Biology

Year 3
BIO3077 Frontiers in Molecular Cell Biology



Information not currently available

Back to top

Supervision / Group

Research Fellows

  • Amy Barker

Postgraduate researchers


  • David Pitcher
  • Helen Thompson DPhil student, University of Oxford

Back to top

Edit Profile