Department: Office of the Principal

Campus: Camden

Research Groups: Brain Health and Behaviour, Immune Regulation and Cancer, Musculoskeletal Biology, Safe and Sustainable Food

Research Centres: MicroCT, Imaging Suite

Imelda is a Reader in Comparative Medicine. Her research focuses on diseases affecting humans and animals to identify common treatments. Current research falls in two areas: developmental disorders and cancer. Current projects involve using zebrafish models to investigate the role of the microbiome in neuronal development, the role of the myoepithelia and tyrosine kinase receptors in canine mammary tumourigenesis andTasmanian Devil Facial Tumour disease.

We currently have a number of projects that are using a combination of naturally occurring disease models, alongside more traditional models and in vitro techniques to investigate the molecular mechanisms of disease. These include:

1) The role of the microbiome in neuronal development. The microbiome is known to impact upon the function of neurons both in the gut and the central nervous system. However we know little of how the microbiome impacts upon neuronal development. We use germ free zebrafish embryo and larval models to investigate how the absence of the whole or components of the microbiome impact upon neuronal development and neuronal network architecture and the impact of this on embryo/larval behaviour.

2) Canine mammary tumourigenesis. Canine mammary cancer has both similarities and differences to the human disease. We are investigating a key diiference between the two - myoepithelial cell proliferation plays a protective role in canine mammary cancer but does not fulfill this function in humans. We are investigating the mechanisms that control myoepithelial cell proliferation and function in the canine in order to identify how this might be provoked in humans. A key similarity between the canine and human disease is that expression of  the cKIT tyrosine kinase receptor correlates with poor outcomes. We are investigating the function of this receptor in canine mammary cells in vitro.

3) Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumour Disease Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumour Disease is a schwann cell derived cancer that is decimating the Tasmanian Devil population. We are collaborating with colleagues at the University of Tasmania (UTAS) and Southampton University UK to identify signalling pathways that are driving metastasis in this disease. We are interested in how genes that are known to be involved in cell migration in the embryo might also be involved in driving cell migration in this disease.

We are offering BSc and MSc projects in all of these areas so contact us for further information. Prospective MRes and PhD students are also encouraged to contact us for further information

Thompson IR, Mirczuk SM, Smith L, Lessey AJ, Simbi B, Sunters A, Baxter GF, Lipscomb VJ, McGonnell IM, Wheeler-Jones CP, Roberson M, Mukherjee A, McArdle CA, Fowkes RC. Molecular and pharmacological characterization of particulate guanylyl cyclases in GH3 somatolactotropes. Cell. Tiss. Res. (In press).


Bjerke L, Mackay A, Nandhabalan M, Burford A, Jury A, Popov S, Bax DA, Carvalho D, Taylor KR, Vinci M, Bajrami I, McGonnell IM, Lord CJ, Reis RM, Hargrave D, Ashworth A, Workman P, Jones C. (2013) Histone H3.3 Mutations Drive Pediatric Glioblastoma through Upregulation of MYCN. Cancer Discov. 2013 Mar 28.


Sharili AS, Allen S, Smith K, Price J, McGonnell IM. (2013) Snail2 promotes osteosarcoma cell motility through remodelling of the actin cytoskeleton and regulates tumor development. Cancer Lett. 333(2):170-9.


Staines KA, Pollard AS, McGonnell IM, Farquharson C, Pitsillides AA (2013). Cartilage to bone transitions in health and disease. J Endocrinol. 219(1):R1-R12.


El-Magd MA, Allen S, McGonnell I, Otto A, Patel K. (2013) Bmp4 regulates chick Ebf2 and Ebf3 gene expression in somite development. Dev Growth Differ. 55(8):710-22.


McGonnell IM, Grigoriadis AE, Lam EW, Price JS, Sunters A. (2012) A specific role for phosphoinositide 3-kinase and AKT in osteoblasts? Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 20;3:88


Thompson IR, Chand AN, King PJ, Ansorge O, Karavitaki N, Jones CA, Rahmutula D, Gardner DG, Zivkovic V, Wheeler-Jones CP, McGonnell IM, Korbonits M, Anderson RA, Wass JA, McNeilly AS, Fowkes RC. (2012). Expression of guanylyl cyclase-B (GC-B/NPR2) receptors in normal human fetal pituitaries and human pituitary adenomas implicates a role for C-type natriuretic peptide. Endocr Relat Cancer. 19(4):497-508.


Shaw TA, McGonnell IM, Driver CJ, Rusbridge C, Volk HA. (2012). Increase in cerebellar volume in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels with Chiari-like malformation and its role in the development of syringomyelia. PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e33660.


McGonnell IM, Graham A, Richardson J, Fish JL, Depew MJ, Dee CT, Holland PW, Takahashi T. (2011) Evolution of the Alx homeobox gene family: parallel retention and independent loss of the vertebrate Alx3 gene. Evol Dev.13:343-51.


Bohnsack, B.L., Gallina, D., Thompson, H., Kasprick., D., Lucarelli, M.J., Dootz, G., Nelson, C., McGonnell, I.M., Kahana, A., (2011) Development of extraocular muscles require early signals from periocular neural crest and the developing eye. Archives Ophthalmol. 129:1030-41.


Sharili AS, Allen S, Smith K, Hargreaves J, Price J, McGonnell I. (2011) Expression of Snail2 in long bone osteosarcomas correlates with tumour malignancy. Tumour Biol. 32:515-26.


Thompson, H., Griffiths, JS. Jeffery, G. and McGonnell, I.M.(2010) The retinal pigment epithelium of the eye regulates the development of scleral cartilage. Dev Biol 347:40-52.


Driver, C. J., Rusbridge, C., Cross H.R., McGonnell, I. M. and Volk, H.A (2010). Relationship of Brain Parenchyma within the Caudal Cranial Fossa and Ventricle Size to Syringomyelia. J Small Animal Practice (In press)

Schmidt C, McGonnell IM, Allen S, Patel K (2008). The role of Wnt signalling in the development of somites and neural crest. Adv Anat Embryol Cell Biol.195:1-64.

Bannister R, McGonnell IM, Graham A, Thorndyke MC, Beesley PW (2008). Coelomic expression of a novel bone morphogenetic protein in regenerating arms of the brittle star Amphiura filiformis. Dev Genes Evol. 218:33-8.

Schmidt, C.*, McGonnell, I.M*#., Allen, S., Otto, A. and Patel K (2007). Wnt6 induces neural crest through the noncanonical signaling pathway. Dev Dyn: 236:2502-11. *joint 1st author. # corresponding author.

Haworth, K. E., Healy, C., McGonnell, I.M., Binns, M. and Sharpe, PT (2007). Characterisation of the genomic loci of canine Fgf-8 locus and screen for genetic variants in 4 dogs with different face types. DNA Seq. 18: 209-19.

Mount, J. G., Muzylak M., Allen, S., Althnaian, T., McGonnell, I. M., Price, J.S. (2006) Evidence that the canonical Wnt signalling pathway regulates deer antler regeneration. Dev. Dyn 235:1390-9.

McGonnell, I.M. and Fowkes, R. (2006). Fishing for gene function – endocrine modelling in zebrafish. J. Endocrinol. 189: 425-39.

Graham, A, Begbie, J. and McGonnell, I.M (2004). The significance of the cranial neural crest. Dev. Dyn. 229: 5-13.

Vermeren, M., Maro, G.S., Bron, R., McGonnell, I.M., Charnay, P., Topilko, P. and Cohen, J. (2003). Integrity of developing spinal motor columns is regulated by neural crest derivatives at motor exit points. Neuron 37: 403-415.

McGonnell, I.M. and Graham, A. (2002) Trunk neural crest has skeletogenic potential. Curr. Biol. 12: 767-771.

Walshe, J., Maroon, H., McGonnell I.M., Dickson, C. and Mason, I. (2002) Establishment of hindbrain segmental identity requires signaling by Fgf3 and Fgf8. Curr. Biol. 12: 1117-1123.

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