Center for Neurogeneration
David Lyons Group
Top: Camera lucida drawing of a zebrafish embryo. Bottom: Confocal image of an oligodendrocyte in a live zebrafish embryo at four days post fertilization.

Confocal image of the large Mauthner axon (green) ensheathed by myelin protein (red) at five days post fertilisation.

Electron micrograph of a transverse section through the ventral spinal cord at nine days post fertilisation. The large Mauthner axon and a subset of other axons are surrounded by myelin sheathes.

Professor David Lyons

Professor of Neurobiology
Wellcome Trust Senior Research FellowProf. David Lyons
Lister Institute Research Prize Fellow
Chancellor's Building
University of Edinburgh
49 Little France Crescent
EH16 4SB

Telephone: +44 (0) 131 242 7986
Fax: +44 (0) 131 242 7978


Lyons Lab Website


Biographical Profile

David Lyons received his B.Sc. (Neuroscience, 1999) and Ph.D. (Developmental Biology, 2003) from University College London. He then undertook postdoctoral work at Stanford University in the Department of Developmental Biology with Prof. William Talbot (2004-2009). In 2009, Dr. Lyons joined the Centre for Neuroregeneration through a BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship. Dr Lyons was awarded a Research Prize from the Lister Institute in 2012 and a Senior Research Fellowship from the Wellcome Trust in 2014.


Research Overview

We use zebrafish to dissect the molecular and cellular basis of nervous system development. Our current focus is on elucidating mechanisms that orchestrate the formation of myelinated axons. Myelinated axons are essential for normal nervous system development and function, and disruption of the myelin sheath and associated axons is associated with many human diseases including Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

Our lab uses zebrafish for two principle reasons: their amenability for live cell imaging and high-resolution cellular analyses, and their ability to be used to carry out large-scale genetic and chemical screens.

Zebrafish embryos are transparent and undergo rapid early development (myelin is formed from just two days after egg fertilization). These facts coupled with the relative simplicity of the early nervous system and the availability of transgenic lines that drive fluorescent reporters in a variety of cell types, make the zebrafish ideal for live in vivo imaging of entire developmental processes. We are currently using these approaches to study cell behaviour and cell-cell interactions during central nervous system myelination in vivo (see Publications below).

We are currently also embarking on a new forward genetic (gene discovery screen), using a transgenic reporter of myelination, to identify the molecular basis of central nervous system (CNS) myelination by oligodendrocytes in vivo, a process about which surprising little is known. In parallel we carrying out chemical compound based screens as an additional approach to identify the molecular basis of CNS myelination, and as part of collaborative drug discovery projects (see Collaborators below).


Group Members



  • Professor Catherina and Dr. Thomas Becker (CNR, University of Edinburgh)
  • Professor Peter Brophy (CNR, University of Edinburgh)
  • Professor Jonah Chan (University of California, San Francisco)
  • Professor Abdel El Manira (Karolinska Institutet, Sweden)
  • Professor Charles ffrench Constant (CRM, University of Edinburgh)
  • Professor Robin Franklin (Cambridge University)
  • Dr. Don Mahad (CCBS, University of Edinburgh)
  • Dr. Richard Poole (University College London)
  • Professor Mikael Simons (Max Planck Institute, Goettingen)
  • Professor William Talbot (Stanford University, USA)
  • Dr. Claire Wyart (ICM, Paris)
  • Biogen (Cambridge, MA, USA)



Our work is funded by the Wellcome Trust, the Lister Institute, the European Commission, the UK Multiple Sclerosis Society, Biogen, donation made through, and studentships from FCT and MRC.


Selected Publications

Intersectional Gene Expression in Zebrafish Using the Split KalTA4 System
Almeida R and Lyons DA.
Zebrafish (2015) doi:10.1089/zeb.2015.1086. (Front cover)

Adaptive Myelination from Fish to Man
Baraban M, Mensch S and Lyons DA.
Brain Research (2015) doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2015.10.026.

Actin Filament Turnover Drives Leading Edge Growth during Myelin Sheath Formation in the Central Nervous System
Nawaz S, Sánchez P, Schmitt S, Snaidero N, Mitkovski M, Velte C, Brückner BR, Alexopoulos I, Czopka T, Jung SY, Rhee JS, Janshoff A, Witke W, Schaap IAT, Lyons DA, and Simons M.
Developmental Cell (2015) 34(2):139-51

Synaptic Vesicle Release Regulates Myelin Sheath Number of Individual Oligodendrocytes In Vivo
Mensch S, Baraban M, Czopka T, Ausborn J, El Manira A, and Lyons DA
Nature Neuroscience (2015) 18(5): 628-630

Myelin Membrane Wrapping Of CNS Axons By PI(3,4,5)P3-Dependent Polarized Growth at the Inner Tongue
Snaidero N, Möbius W, Czopka T, Hekking LH, Mathisen C, Verkleij D, Goebbels S, Edgar J, Merkler D, Lyons DA, Nave KA, Simons M.
Cell (2014) 156(1-2):277-90.

On the Resemblance of Synapse Formation and CNS Myelination
Almeida RG and Lyons DA
Neuroscience (2014) 276C: 98-108.

Individual Oligodendrocytes Have Only A Few Hours in Which to Generate New Myelin Sheaths In Vivo
Czopka, T, ffrench-Constant C, and Lyons DA.
Developmental Cell (2013) 25(6):599-609.

Axonal Selection and Myelin Sheath Generation in the Central Nervous System
Lyons DA and Simons M.
Current Opinions in Cell Biology (2013) 25(4):512-9.

Individual Axons Regulate the Myelinating Potential of Single Oligodendrocytes In Vivo
Almeida RG, Czopka, T, ffrench-Constant C, and Lyons DA.
Development (2011) 138: 4443-4450

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