Imperial College London

Professor Irene Miguel-Aliaga

Faculty of MedicineDepartment of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction

Professor of Genetics and Physiology



+44 (0)20 3383 3907i.miguel-aliaga Website




232ICTEM buildingHammersmith Campus




Research links

Ongoing projects

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Sex differences in the intestine

We found that the intestine has its own sexual identity, which must be actively maintained in adults and subserves reproduction. In females, cell-intrinsic female identity makes intestinal stem cells divide more often, enabling reproductive resizing but increasing tumour susceptibility (Hudry 2016 Nature, Reiff 2015 eLife). In males, the adjacent testes masculinise the gut leading to gut secretion of citrate, which sustains sperm production (Hudry 2019 Cell). Hence, adjacent organs communicate with physiological consequences.

Intestinal remodelling during reproduction

In both flies and mice, the intestine is extensively remodelled during reproduction. Our work in flies showed that a reproductive hormone promotes adult intestinal stem cell proliferation and differentiation, increasing gut size, and adjusts lipid handling in enterocytes. Collectively, these changes are required to sustain reproductive output (Reiff 2015 eLife). Ongoing work in mice is characterising the striking remodelling of the female intestine during pregnancy and lactation.

Function of enteric neurons

Our ongoing characterisation of the different neuronal cell types that innervate the intestine has revealed their key roles in regulating food intake, fluid balance, renal function and mating-triggered intestinal adaptations (Cognigni 2011 Cell Metab, Talsma 2012 Proc Natl Acad USA). We are currently exploring how plastic enteric neurons are, and whether such plasticity may be adaptive (Ameku 2020 Curr Opin Neurobiol).

Intestinal nutrient sensing

The gut is known to sense nutrients via its neurons or enteroendocrine cells. However, we have revealed a nutrient-sensing role for a subset of enterocytes - gut epithelial cells known for their digestive/absorptive roles. A zinc sensor within them is required to sustain food intake and developmental growth (Redhai 2020 Nature). This is exciting because micronutrients are commonly regarded as passive “building blocks”, and had received little attention in the context of development or whole-body physiology.


Guest lectures

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Meeting Organiser
03/2021 Keystone Symposium “Metabolic Decisions in Development and Disease”, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA. Symposium co-organiser.
2020 - 2021 ASCB/EMBO Meeting Program Committee member.
2020 - present Insect Hormone Workshop. International Advisory Committee member.
08/2020 - 07/2026 EMBO Conference “Molecular and Developmental Biology of Drosophila”. Organising committee co-chair.
05/2020 “Gastronauts 2020: A Symposium for Gut-Brain Matters”, Nantes, France. Symposium co-organiser.
03/2020 EMBO Symposium “Inter-organ Communication in Development and Disease”, EMBL Heidelberg, Germany. Symposium co-organiser.
02/2020 1st LMS/Helmholtz Munich Symposium on Metabolism, London, UK.
2019 - present International Insect Hormone Meeting. Member of the International Organizing Committee.
07/2014 - 07/2020 EMBO Conference “Molecular and Developmental Biology of Drosophila”, Crete, Greece. Organising committee member.
09/2017 25th European Drosophila Research Conference, London, UK. Workshop co-organiser and chair.
10/2016 Brainy Tongue: The Sensory Logic of the Gastronomic Brain, San Sebastian, Spain. Workshop co-organiser.
09/2015 24th European Drosophila Research Conference, Heidelberg, Germany. Workshop co-organiser and chair.
10/2013 23rd European Drosophila Research Conference, Barcelona, Spain. Workshop co-organiser and chair.
09/2011 22nd European Drosophila Research Conference, Lisbon, Portugal. Workshop co-organiser and chair.
2016 - present LMS external seminar series coordinator.
2014 - 2015 LMS external seminar series organiser.
2010 - 2012 Department of Zoology Tea Talks organiser (University of Cambridge).

Conference speaker
08/2021 EMBO Workshop “Cell and Developmental Systems”, Arolla, Switzerland.
05/2021 2nd EMBO-FEBS Lecture Course (Summer School) “Molecular mechanisms of interorgan crosstalk in health and disease”, Spetses, Greece.
02/2021 2nd Crick-Beddington Developmental Biology Symposium, Crick Institute, London, UK.
11/2020 ERC conference “Gender Dimension in Research”, Brussels, Belgium.
10/2020 6th Biennial Symposium on Growth and Regeneration, Begur, Spain.
07/2020 Intestinal Stem Cell - Niche Interactions in Health and Disease Fusion Conference, Lisbon, Portugal.
04/2020 EMBO meeting “Gender and Cancer Susceptibility”. Les Diablerets, Switzerland.
10/2019 10th Meeting of the Latin American Society for Developmental Biology, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
09/2019 26th European Drosophila Research Conference, Lausanne, Switzerland. EMBO Keynote Lecture.
07/2019 8th International Symposium on Molecular Insect Science, Sitges, Spain.
07/2019 4th Insect Hormone Meeting, Kolymbari, Crete, Greece.
05/2019 Mechanisms of Insect Nutritional Homeostasis workshop, Bonn, Germany
01/2019 Keystone Symposia on Cellular Plasticity/ Developmental Signaling, Keystone, Colorado, USA.
09/2018 EU-LIBRA Workshop “Sex and Gender in Research and Experimental Design”, Babraham Institute, Cambridge, UK.
09/2018 “Developing Brains” Conference, Stockholm, Sweden.
08/2018 EMBO Workshop “Cell and Developmental Systems”, Arolla, Switzerland.
07/2018 Gordon Research Conference on Neural Development, Newport, USA.
07/2018 “1st International Helmholtz Conference on Engineering Biomedical and Metabolic Breakthroughs”, Venice, Italy.
05/2018 “Gastronauts: A Symposium on Gut-brain Matters”, Duke-NUS Singapore.
05/2018 6th UK Workshop on Developmental Cell Biology of Drosophila, The Burn, Scotland, UK.
03/2018 Annual Postdoc Symposium, Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford, UK. Keynote speaker.
02/2018 Keystone Symposium on Endoderm Development and Disease: Cross-Organ Comparison and Interplay, Taos, New Mexico.
12/2017 “Hot Topics in Biology” workshop. Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Goettingen, Germany.
10/2017 SEG- SEBC- SEBD Joint Congress, Gijon, Spain.
10/2017 MDC Careers Day, Berlin, Germany.
09/2017 Portuguese Drosophila Meeting, Tomar, Portugal. Keynote speaker.
06/2017 ISDB 18th International Congress of Developmental Biology, Singapore.
05/2017 EMBO Conference “Stem Cells in Cancer and Regenerative Medicine”, EMBL Heidelberg, Germany.
05/2017 4th Asia-Pacific Drosophila Research Conference, Osaka, Japan.
05/2017 EMBO | EMBL Symposium “Metabolism in time and space”, Heidelberg, Germany.
03/2017 58th Annual Drosophila Research Conference, San Diego, USA. Plenary talk.
11/2016 18th EMBL PhD Symposium “Life by Numbers: Towards Quantitative Biology”. EMBL Heidelberg, Germany.
10/2016 Cell Press/Fondation IPSEN Exciting Biologies meeting “Biology of Commitment”. Phoenix, Arizona, USA.
09/2016 German Drosophila Meeting. Cologne, Germany. Keynote speaker.
07/2016 Rank Prize Funds mini-symposium on Dietary Restriction and Ageing, Cumbria, UK.
07/2016 10th FENS Forum of Neuroscience, Copenhagen, Denmark. Symposium speaker.
06/2016 20th EMBO Conference Development of Drosophila, Crete, Greece.
05/2016 Shaping Life, Marseille, France.
05/2016 EMBO Workshop “Neural control of metabolism and eating behaviour”, Cascais, Portugal.
04/2016 Fondation des Treilles “Integrative Physiology” meeting, France.
07/2015 Society for Developmental Biology 74th Annual Meeting. Snowbird, Utah, USA.
04/2015 Enteric Nervous System 2015, Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
04/2015 British Societies of Developmental Biology and Cell Biology Meeting, Warwick, UK.
09/2014 5th ASM Conference on Beneficial Microbes, Washington, USA.
06/2014 Gordon Research Conference on Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology, Hong Kong, China (declined because of conflicting dates).
06/2014 19th EMBO Conference Development of Drosophila, Crete, Greece.
04/2014 “Visions in Cell Biology” Symposium, Max Planck Institute, Dresden, Germany.
06/2012 18th EMBO Conference “Development of Drosophila”, Crete, Greece. I was also invited to write the meeting report.
01/2012 Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory Annual Symposium, Singapore (declined because of maternity leave).
10/2011 25th Annual French Drosophila Conference, Lyon, France.
09/2011 1st Junior European Drosophila Investigator Meeting, Leysin, Switzerland.
06/2010 17th EMBO Conference “Development of Drosophila”, Crete, Greece. Talk highlighted in an EMBO reports article: EMBO reports 11, 724 - 726.
03/2009 21st Cambridge Neuroscience Meeting “New Approaches in Neuroscience”, UK.

02/2021 Instituto de Neurociencias, Alicante, Spain.
01/2021 Beatson Institute, Glasgow, UK. Distinguished seminar.
09/2020 DanStem, Copenhagen, Denmark.
09/2020 Stockholm University, Sweden. “Frontiers in Molecular Life Sciences” seminar.
09/2020 Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine (CSCRM), King’s College London.
02/2020 University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK.
01/2020 NIH/NIDDK, Bethesda, USA.
11/2019 University of Münster, Münster, Germany.
11/2019 Dundee School of Life Sciences, UK.
08/2019 The Biosciences Patricia Clarke Lecture 2019, UCL London, UK.
05/2019 Molecular and Cellular Biology Department, Harvard University, USA.
03/2019 Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden, Germany.
12/2018 MRC Harwell Institute, Harwell, UK.
09/2018 UCL Metabolism Club, London, UK.
05/2018 CIG Lausanne, Switzerland.
04/2018 Centre for Developmental Neurobiology, King’s College London, UK.
01/2018 Berlin Life Science Colloquium, Germany.
01/2018 Centre for Molecular Neurobiology, Hamburg, Germany.
11/2017 ESPCI-CNRS Paris, France.
07/2017 Helmholtz Center and Helmholtz Pioneer Campus, Munich, Germany.
04/2017 Linda Partridge’s lab retreat, Ringberg Castle, Germany.
04/2017 Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, USA.
03/2017 University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), USA.
02/2017 Gurdon Institute, University of Cambridge, UK.
12/2016 Institute of Metabolic Science, University of Cambridge, UK.
12/2016 Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, Berlin, Germany.
02/2016 Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology, Martinsried, Germany.
01/2016 Manchester University, UK.
12/2015 Oxford University, UK.
10/2015 Université Nice Sophia Antipolis, France.
02/2015 Umea University, Sweden.
10/2014 Skirball Institute, New York, USA.
02/2014 École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland.
01/2014 Randall Division of Cell & Molecular Biophysics, King’s College London, UK.
12/2013 Institut Curie, Paris, France.
11/2013 MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology, UCL, London.
03/2013 Institute of Molecular Life Sciences, University of Zurich, Switzerland.
02/2013 MRC Centre for Developmental Neurobiology, King’s College London.
02/2013 VIB and KU Leuven School of Medicine, Leuven, Belgium.
11/2012 Beatson Institute for Cancer Research, Glasgow, UK.
06/2012 Oxford University, UK.
02/2012 Trinity College Dublin, Ireland (declined because of maternity leave).
07/2011 Queen Mary University of London, UK.
06/2011 École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland.
05/2011 IRB Barcelona, Spain.
02/2011 Institut de Biologie du Développement de Marseille Luminy, France.
10/2010 Centre de Biologie du Développement, Toulouse, France.
10/2010 UCL, London, UK.
09/2010 University of Helsinki, Finland.
10/2009 Wolfson Centre for Age-Related Diseases, London, UK.