Christine Holt is a neuroscientist recognised for her work on how neural connections are formed in the developing nervous system. She is known particularly for her studies on axon guidance and local protein synthesis, which have helped to elucidate axon navigation and maintenance. Holt was born and grew up in Wylam, Northumberland, UK. She graduated from
University of Sussex with a degree in Biological Sciences and was awarded a Ph.D. degree in Zoology from King’s College, London University in 1982. She was a postdoctoral fellow at Oxford University and the University of California San Diego where she joined the faculty in 1992. She moved to the University of Cambridge in 1997 where she became Professor of
Developmental Neuroscience and Fellow of Gonville and Caius College. She was a Pew Scholar and McKnight Scholar in her early career and the recipient of grants from NIH, MRC, HFSP, Wellcome Trust and ERC. She was awarded the Remedios Caro Almela Prize for Research in Developmental Neurobiology, the Champalimaud Vision Award and the Royal
Society Ferrier Medal. She is a member of EMBO, Fellow of the Medical Academy of Sciences, Fellow of the Royal Society and International Member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Research Interests

Christine Holt is interested in how axons in the developing brain navigate to their targets, how they make topographically appropriate connections, and how they are maintained into maturity. Her laboratory has focused primarily on the axons of retinal ganglion cells in the vertebrate visual system and employs molecular and live imaging strategies. These studies revealed
mechanisms underlying the guidance of axons out of the eye, through the optic chiasm and to topographic positions in the optic tectum. Her group discovered that axons require the rapid synthesis and degradation of proteins for guidance to extrinsic cues and that hundreds of mRNAs reside in the tips of growing axons. Translation of specific mRNAs close to sites of
signal reception (receptor activation) enables directional steering and distinct sets of proteins are synthesized in response to different cues. These studies also revealed that the axonal translatome comprises an evolving subset of enriched genes that match distinct phases in axon wiring (elongation, pruning, and synaptogenesis) and is surprisingly complex in adult axons
with strong links to neurodegenerative disease. Collectively their findings show that local mRNA-based mechanisms play a key role in regulating axonal responses that both establish and maintain neural circuitry.

Membership Type

International Member

Election Year


Primary Section

Section 24: Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

Secondary Section

Section 22: Cellular and Developmental Biology