Head of Laboratory

Professor Brian Key


Otto Hirschfeld Building, 6th Floor


Dr Arnaud Gaudin
Julie Conway


Greg James
Ellie Liping



How does the vertebrate brain, the most complex tissue in the universe, develop from a simple sheet of cells into an organ with the unique ability of posing this question? We have set ourselves the task of understanding the secrets underlying the development of the brain. Our ability to manipulate and control these molecular and cellular processes will contribute to therapeutic approaches in health and disease of the brain, particularly in neurodevelopmental syndromes such as neural tube defects and Autism.

The field of developmental biology draws on technical and analytical skills from all major branches of biology and the molecular and biomedical sciences. Consequently developmental biologists become highly competent experimental and theoretical scientists. Reverse molecular genetic approaches are used in combination with modern cell and gene imaging methods to understand multi-gene interactions in vivo and in real-time. Zebrafish and Xenopus animal models are used to examine the formation of the earliest axon pathways in the embryonic brain while the mouse olfactory system is investigated to query the more complex process of axon targeting during development and regeneration.

Recent Publications

  1. Lah, G. and KEY, B. (2012) Novel roles of the chemorepellent axon guidance molecule RGMa in cell migration and adhesion. Mol. Cell. Biol. 32: 968-980. (IF = 6.2)
  2. Gaudin, A.C., Hofmeister, W. and KEY, B. (2012) Chemoattractant axon guidance cues regulate de novo axon trajectories in the embryonic forebrain of zebrafish. Dev. Biol. 367: 126-139 (IF = 4.09)
  3. Hofmeister, W., Devine, C.A., Rothnagel, J.A. and KEY, B. (2012) Frizzled-3a and slit2 genetically interact to modulate midline axon crossing in the telencephalon. Mech. Dev. 129: 109-124 (IF = 2.9)
  4. Beverdam, A., Claxton, C., Zhang, X., James, G., Harvey, K.F. and KEY, B. (2012) Yap controls stem/progenitor cell proliferation in the mouse postnatal epidermis. J. Invest. Dermat. in press (IF=6.2)
  5. Windus, LCE, Chehrehasa, F., Lineburg, KE, Claxton, C, Mackay-Sim, A, KEY, B. and St John, JA (2011) Stimulation of olfactory ensheathing cell motility enhances olfactory axon growth. Cell Mol. Life Sci., 68: 3233-47(IF = 7.05)

Student projects


1. We are seeking students to investigate the development of the earliest axon pathways in the brain in real time using transgenic fish with fluorescent reporters.
2. In addition we need students to investigate the role of Autism susceptibility genes in development of behaviours in zebrafish and the role of neurodevelopmental genes in neural tube defects in Xenopus.


In addition to the topics of the Honours projects we require students to investigate the development of axon connections in the most plastic region of the nervous system, the olfactory system.

Research support

NHMRC (2011-2013) KEY Neurodevelopmental role of susceptibility genes for Autism spectrum disorders: from gene to behaviour $466,000

NHMRC (2012-2014) HUNT, KEY, HART and COLLIN The role of potassium channels in photoreceptor function $349,338