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Research groups

Secondary Cells

Secondary Cells
Living secondary cells in the male Drosophila accessory gland express a GFP-tagged membrane marker and are stained with Lysotracker Red to identify acidic compartments. Giant intracellular compartments contain intraluminal projections and vesicles, some of which are ultimately secreted. This projection image was produced by 3D-SIM super resolution microscopy in the Micron Facility, Oxford.

Benjamin Kroeger

Postgraduate Student

I graduated from University College London in 2013 with an MSci Biological Sciences (First Class). During my degree I studied a diverse range of biological fields and spent a year studying abroad on exchange at the University of Sydney, Australia. In my final year I worked in Prof. Christiana Ruhrberg’s lab at UCL’s Department of Ophthalmology, researching the role of VEGF-A signalling in mouse boundary cap cell development.

I then moved to Oxford to begin my Wellcome Trust sponsored DPhil programme, carrying out two different lab projects in my first year. The first rotation project was in Prof. Roger Patient's lab at the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, where I used Xenopus laevis to study the function of a transcription co-factor, FOG (Friend of GATA), in the generation of haematopoietic stem cells during development. My second rotation project was in Prof. Clive Wilson's lab at the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics (DPAG), where I decided to stay for the rest of my DPhil.

My DPhil research uses Drosophila melanogaster to further understand the fundamental cell biological processes that underlie cell-to-cell communication, including organelle trafficking and molecular signalling. I have been studying these processes using a highly secretory epithelial cell type found in the male Drosophila accessory glands, known as secondary cells. Work in the lab has previously shown that secondary cells secrete nanovesicles called exosomes and dense core granule-packaged proteins into seminal fluid, which are then transferred to the female upon mating to modulate her behaviour. I have been researching novel genetic mechanisms that regulate both exosome biogenesis and dense core granule formation in secondary cells.

Similar secretory products play important roles in human health, and their misregulation has been implicated in diseases such as cancer, diabetes and neurodegenerative disorders. I am interested in using the results of basic science research to help prevent and treat human disease. I have been collaborating closely throughout my DPhil with Prof. Deborah Goberdhan’s group (also in DPAG), which study human cancer cells, to test whether the new mechanisms discovered in Drosophila cells are conserved with humans.

My DPhil research has involved high quality imaging techniques, and since joining the lab I have developed the application of super-resolution light microscopy, live-cell ex-vivo imaging, and electron microscopy to our system. I have a real appreciation for different techniques and the power of embracing new technologies in microscopy, molecular biology and genetics.