Institute for Cell and Molecular Biosciences

Staff Profile

Dr Josana Rodriguez Sanchez

IRES Fellow



2014 to date    Research fellow. ICaMB, Newcastle University, Newcastle UK
Characterization of the cytoskeleton in the generation of cellular asymmetries

2006 - 2014    Post-doctoral research fellow. Wellcome Trust/CR-UK Gurdon Institute, Cambridge UK
Identification of genes and genetic interactions involved in cell polarity and asymmetric cell division by high-throughput RNAi genetic screens
2005 - 2006    Post-doctoral researcher. Cajal Institute of Neuroscience, Madrid Spain
Characterization of SFRP1 function in cytoskeleton dynamics of retinal ganglion cell axons


2001 - 2005     PhD in Molecular Biology. Universidad Autonoma de Madrid(UAM), Spain. Magna Cum Laude
Dissertation title: Implication of SFRP1 in cell differentiation and axon guidance of retinal ganglion cells
Supervisor: Prof. Paola Bovolenta (Intituto Ramon y Cajal - CSIC, Madrid Spain) & Prof. Christine Holt (Cambridge University, UK)

2000     MSc in Molecular Biology. Severo Ochoa Molecular Biology Centre (CSIC-UAM), Spain 
Characterization of DNA polymerase lambda in DNA double strand break repair

1999     Undergraduate research scholar. Severo Ochoa Molecular Biology Centre (CSIC-UAM), Spain
Study the role of MAL protein in cellular transport by lipid rafts

1995 - 2000     BSc in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Universidad Autonoma de Madrid (UAM) Spain


2014 - 2019    Independent Researcher Establishment Scheme (IRES) Fellowship (Newcastle University)

2009 - 2012    Herschel Smith Postdoctoral Fellowship (University of Cambridge)
                      Wolfson College non-stipendiary Fellowship (University of Cambridge)

2006 - 2009     Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) Long-term Fellowship

2001 - 2005     Glaxo Wellcome Doctoral Scholarship
                       EMBO Short-term Fellowship. Research travel grant
                       Development Travelling Research Award (The Company of Biologists)



Most animal cells are polarized, they show structural asymmetries essential to their function. By breaking symmetry cells are able to generate diversity, migrate, and organise themselves into more complex structures such as tissues and organs. Dysregulation of polarity leads to developmental disorders, including cancer. Tumour progression is correlated with disruption of epithelial polarity and randomized orientation of the cell division plane caused by misplacement of the mitotic spindle. In addition, recent experiments show that disruption of asymmetric stem cell division could be a hallmark of cancer. These observations show the importance of cell polarity for the correct development of an organism and the tight regulation required between cell polarity mechanisms and the cytoskeleton. A crucial step in the polarization of animal cells is the localization of conserved polarity effectors to discrete membrane domains on the cell surface. Our aim is to understand (1) how these molecular asymmetries are achieved and (2) how these asymmetries regulate cell polarization processes. As a step towards this goal, we have generated a comprehensive polarity genetic network. Currently we are exploiting this network to specifically find regulators of cell polarity induction in the asymmetric first cell division of the nematode C. elegans; a well-established model where key polarity mechanisms have been found. Ultimately, we want to extend our findings to other cell types and organisms. Our hope it that by understanding the fundamental biological principles of cell polarity we can aid the design of therapeutics for developmental disorders, such as cancer, neurodegenerative disorders and ageing.


Ra'Eesah Shaikh, Camilla Ascanelli, Jack Martin

Informal enquiries from students and Post-docs eager to join our research are always welcome. Please feel free to email me (


  • Rodriguez J, Peglion F, Martin J, Hubatsch L, Reich J, Hirani N, Gascon Gubieda A, Roffey J, Fernandes AR, St Johnston D, Ahringer J, Goehring NW. aPKC cycles between functionally distinct PAR protein assemblies to drive cell polarity. Developmental Cell 2017, 42(4), 400-415.e9.
  • Rodriguez J, Fievet B, Naganathan S, Lee C, Zeiser E, Ishidate T, Shirayama M, Grill S, Ahringer J. Systematic Genetic Interaction Screening Uncovers Cell Polarity Regulators and Functional Redundancy. Nat Cell Biol 2012, 15(1), 103-12.
  • Ruiz JM, Rodríguez J, Bovolenta P. Growth and differentiation of the retina and the optic tectum in the medaka fish requires olSfrp5. Dev Neurobiol 2009, 69(10), 617-32.
  • Bovolenta P, Rodríguez J, Esteve P. Frizzled/Ryk mediated signalling in axon guidance. Development 2006, 33(22), 4399-408.
  • Sánchez-Camacho C, Rodríguez J, Ruiz JM, Trousse F, Bovolenta P. Morphogens as growth cone signalling molecules. Brain Res Brain Res Rev 2005, 49(2), 242-52.
  • Rodríguez J, Esteve P, Weinl C, Ruiz JM, Fermin Y, Trousse F, Dwivedy A, Holt C, Bovolenta P. SFRP1 regulates the growth of retinal ganglion cell axons through the Fz2 receptor. Nat Neurosci 2005, 8(10), 1301-9.
  • Garcia-Hoyos M, Cantalapiedra D, Arroyo C, Esteve P, Rodríguez J, Riveiro R, Trujillo MJ, Ramos C, Bovolenta P, Ayuso C. Evaluation of SFRP1 as a candidate for human retinal dystrophies. Mol Vis 2004, 10, 426-31.
  • Esteve P, Trousse F, Rodríguez J, Bovolenta P. SFRP1 modulates retina cell differentiation through a beta-catenin-independent mechanism. J Cell Sci 2003, 116(12), 2471-81.
  • Garcia-Diaz M, Bebenek K, Sabariegos R, Dominguez O, Rodríguez J, Kirchhoff T, Garcia-Palomero E, Picher AJ, Juarez R, Ruiz JF, Kunkel TA, Blanco L. DNA polymerase lambda, a novel DNA repair enzyme in human cells. J Biol Chem 2002, 277(15).
  • Esteve P, Trousse F, Rodríguez J, Bovolenta P. Sfrp1 demarcates the anterior neural plate and promotes eye development in the chick embryo. Int. J. Dev. Biol 2001, 45(S1), S65-S66.