Christine E. Holt

University of Cambridge

Primary Section: 24, Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
Secondary Section: 22, Cellular and Developmental Biology
Membership Type:
International Member (elected 2020)


Christine Holt received her undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences (BSc Hons) from University of Sussex in 1977 and her PhD (Zoology) from King’s College, London University in 1982. She did postdoctoral training at Oxford University (Physiology Department) and the University of California San Diego (Biology Department). In 1992 she joined the faculty at UCSD and, in 1997, became a Lecturer at the University of Cambridge (Anatomy Department) and a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College. In 2003 she became the Professor of Developmental Neuroscience at Cambridge. She was a Pew Scholar and a McKnight Scholar in her early career and has been the recipient of numerous grant awards from the NIH, MRC, HFSP and Wellcome Trust and ERC Advanced Grant. She serves on several Scientific Advisory Boards, Editorial Boards and Selection Committees. She was awarded The Remedios Caro Almela Prize for Research in Developmental Neurobiology (2011), the Champalimaud Vision Award (2016) and the Royal Society Ferrier Medal (2017). She was elected Member of EMBO (2006), Fellow of the Medical Academy of Sciences (2007), Fellow of The Royal Society (2009), Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology (2011) and International Member of the National Academy of Sciences USA (2020).

Research Interests

Wiring the brain: RNA-based mechanisms of axon guidance and maintenance. Christine Holt investigates how nerve connections are formed and maintained in the vertebrate brain. Her research aims to understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms that underlie the guidance and survival of axons. Her studies focus on the visual system and have uncovered some of the molecular mechanisms involved in guiding axons from the retina to their targets in the midbrain. She has shown, for example, that the guidance molecule, ephrin-B, directs divergent axon growth at the optic chiasm and guides topographic mapping in the optic tectum, while Netrin-1 guides axons out of the eye. Her recent studies have focused on local translation and mRNA localization in axons after her group discovered that the growing tips of axons, the growth cones, rapidly synthesize new proteins in response to guidance cues and that inhibition of axonal protein synthesis blocks directional guidance. Her group showed that hundreds of mRNAs reside in growth cones and that specific subsets are translated in axon terminals in vivo in growing and mature CNS axons. Her group provided some of the first evidence that local protein synthesis is required for axon survival (via sustaining mitochondrial function) and axon branching, lending insight into underlying causes of neurodegenerative and neurodevelopmental disorders.

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