Cell Biology Research Group

Group Leader: Dr Ewan Morrison, Senior Lecturer 

Roles for microtubule-associated proteins in cancer cells

The main research interests of the group are microtubule biology, with a particular interest in the role and regulation of microtubule plus-end binding proteins; Parkinson’s disease, with a focus on the role played by the protein Parkin in mitophagy and the potential role of immediate early gene functions in response to neuronal stress; and cancer, in close collaboration with colleagues in the Section.

Microtubules are dynamic biological polymers essential for eukaryotic life, playing indispensable roles in cell division and intracellular transport. Throughout my time in Leeds my research has been focused on the cell biology of microtubules (MTs) and microtubule-associated proteins (MAPs), a topic with wide applicability across medical research that has allowed me to pursue studies in areas as divergent as neurobiology and cancer research. At present, in collaboration with colleagues in Leeds, this research is examining the role played by a divergent member of the tubulin family in brain development, the potential roles of MAPs originally identified in studies of neurodevelopmental syndromes in cancer, and work on the biology of primary cilia, a MT-based organelle with a key role to play in cell signalling.   

More recently, through a collaboration with Dr Phil Robinson (http://www.leeds.ac.uk/secretariat/obituaries/2012/robinson_philip_alan.html), I have developed an interest in the biology of Parkinson’s disease, particularly in relation to mitochondrial dynamics, the cellular response to mitochondrial dysfunction (mitophagy) and the potential role of signalling pathways linked to cell stress.  I have also maintained a strong interest in cell imaging technologies while in Leeds; I played a major role in the development and use of confocal, live cell and high-content/high-throughput (HC/HT) imaging techniques in research in the School of Medicine. This has led to an interest in high-throughput screening strategies using both reverse genetics approaches and small molecule libraries, technology that is now being applied to my original research interests in the form of pilot HC/HT imaging screens aimed at defining factors involved in the regulation of MT growth.


Dr Katherine Roper, post-doctoral researcher.
Mr Tom Ryan, PhD student


Bruning-Richardson, A., Bond, J., Alsiary, R., Richardson, J., Cairns, D. A., McCormac, L., Hutson, R., Burns, P., Wilkinson, N., Hall, G. D., Morrison, E. E., and Bell, S. M. (2012). NuMA expression in epithelial ovarian cancer. PLoS One, 7(6) e38945.
Brüning-Richardson A., Bond J., Richardson J., Alsiary R., Cairns D. A., McCormack L., Hutson R., Burns P., Wilkinson N., Hall G., Morrison E. E. and Bell S. M. (2011) ASPM and microcephalin expression in ovarian ascites correlates with tumour grade and survival. British Journal of Cancer 104, 1602-1610.

Bruning-Richardson, A., Langford, K. J., Ruane, P., Lee, T., Askham, J. M. and Morrison, E. E. (2011). EB1 is required for spindle symmetry in mammalian mitosis. PLoS One 6, e28884.

Morrison, E.
, Thompson, J., Williamson, S. J. M., Cheetham, M. E. and Robinson, P. A. (2011). A simple cell based assay to measure Parkin activity. Journal of Neurochemistry 116, 342-349.

Abdollahi, M. R., Morrison, E., Sirey, T., Molnar, Z., Hayward, B., Carr, I. M., Springell, K., Woods, C. J., Ahmed, M., Hattingh, L., Corry, P., Pilz, D., Stoodley, N., Taylor, G., Bonthron, D. T. and Sheridan, E. (2009). Mutation of the variant alpha tubulin TUBA8 results in polymicrogyria with optic nerve hypoplasia. American Journal of Human Genetics 85(5), 737-744.


2008-2012. Co-applicant. EPSRC grant. 4 years. “Probing the extraordinary bioactivity of macrocyclic natural products.”

2011-2014. Co-applicant, Yorkshire Cancer Research project grant. 3 yrs “siRNA screen to identify modifiers of MCPH1 induced premature chromosome condensation.”

2011-2014. Co-applicant, Wellcome Trust project grant. 3 yrs. “Investigation of the variant tubulin alpha 8 in muscle and brain.”

2011-2012. Co-applicant, Yorkshire Cancer Research Pump Priming Grant. 12 months. “Parkin, mitophagy and carcinogenesis.”

2012-2014. Principal Investigator, Parkinson’s UK project grant. 27 months. “Identification of small molecule inhibitors and activators of Parkin mitochondrial activity.”

2012-2013. Co-applicant, Yorkshire Cancer Research Pump Priming Grant. 12 months. “Identification and characterisation of potential ovarian cancer stem cells.”

2010-2013. Co-supervisor of a University of Leeds graduate student; Emma and Leslie Read Studentship to Julie Richardson. “Identification and characterisation of ovarian cancer stem cells.” £30 000.

2012-2015. Lead supervisor. White Rose Research Studentship (Tom Ryan) “Pathological signalling in Parkinson’s Disease”. Part of the White Rose Network “ A multi-disciplinary approach to understanding the causes of Parkinson’s Disease and identifying therapeutic targets”.

2012-2016. Co-supervisor of a University of Leeds graduate student (Basma Sorur Alenezy) funded by the Saudi Arabian government; “Identification of novel potential therapeutic agents for breast cancer.”

2012-2016. Co-supervisor of a University of Leeds graduate student (Aeshah Awaji) funded by the Saudi Arabian government; “Whole genome siRNA screen to identify therapeutic targets in breast and ovarian cancer”

2013-2016. Co-supervisor of a University of Leeds graduate student (Ekram Shoaib) funded by the Saudi Arabian government.

2013-2016. Co-supervisor of a University of Leeds graduate student (Camilla Coulson-Gilmer) funded by CRUK.


Competitive fully funded PhD scholarships are available within the Faculty Graduate School.

Self-funded students are always welcomed to apply for postgraduate study. International students must meet the entry requirements for English. Bench fees are required.   

Please email e.e.morrison@leeds.ac.uk for informal enquiries.