Imperial College London


Faculty of Natural SciencesDepartment of Life Sciences

Visiting Researcher



+44 (0)20 7594 5405m.ramel




6150Sir Alexander Fleming BuildingSouth Kensington Campus





Publication Type

18 results found

Moroz-Omori EV, Satyapertiwi D, Ramel MC, Hogset H, Sunyovszki I, Liu Z, Wojciechowski J, Zhang Y, Grigsby CL, Casimiro Brito L, Bugeon L, Dallman M, Stevens Met al., 2020, Photoswitchable gRNAs for spatiotemporally controlled CRISPR-Cas-based genomic regulation, ACS Central Science, Vol: 6, Pages: 695-703, ISSN: 2374-7943

The recently discovered CRISPR-Cas gene editing system and its derivatives have found numerous applications in fundamental biology research and pharmaceutical sciences. The need for precise external control over the gene editing and regulatory events has driven the development of inducible CRISPR-Cas systems. While most of the light-controllable CRISPR-Cas systems are based on protein engineering, we developed an alternative synthetic approach based on modification of crRNA/tracrRNA duplex (guide RNA or gRNA) with photocaging groups, preventing the gRNA from recognizing its genome target sequence until its deprotection is induced within seconds of illumination. This approach relies on a straightforward solid-phase synthesis of the photocaged gRNAs, with simpler purification and characterization processes in comparison to engineering a light-responsive protein. We have demonstrated the feasibility of photocaging of gRNAs and light-mediated DNA cleavage upon brief exposure to light in vitro. We have achieved light-mediated spatiotemporally resolved gene editing as well as gene activation in cells, whereas photocaged gRNAs showed virtually no detectable gene editing or activation in the absence of light irradiation. Finally, we have applied this system to spatiotemporally control gene editing in zebrafish embryos in vivo, enabling the use of this strategy for developmental biology and tissue engineering applications.

Journal article

Kumar S, Lockward N, Ramel M-C, Correia T, Ellis M, Alexandrov Y, Andrews N, Patel R, Bugeon L, Dallman M, Brandner S, Arridge S, Katan M, McGinty J, Frankel P, French PMWet al., 2016, Quantitative in vivo optical tomography of cancer progression & vasculature development in adult zebrafish, Oncotarget, Vol: 7, Pages: 43939-43948, ISSN: 1949-2553

We describe a novel approach to study tumour progression and vasculature development in vivo via global 3-D fluorescence imaging of live non-pigmented adult zebrafish utilising angularly multiplexed optical projection tomography with compressive sensing (CS-OPT). This “mesoscopic” imaging method bridges a gap between established ~μm resolution 3-D fluorescence microscopy techniques and ~mm-resolved whole body planar imaging and diffuse tomography. Implementing angular multiplexing with CS-OPT, we demonstrate the in vivo global imaging of an inducible fluorescently labelled genetic model of liver cancer in adult non-pigmented zebrafish that also present fluorescently labelled vasculature. In this disease model, addition of a chemical inducer (doxycycline) drives expression of eGFP tagged oncogenic K-RASV12 in the liver of immune competent animals. We show that our novel in vivo global imaging methodology enables non-invasive quantitative imaging of the development of tumour and vasculature throughout the progression of the disease, which we have validated against established methods of pathology including immunohistochemistry. We have also demonstrated its potential for longitudinal imaging through a study of vascular development in the same zebrafish from early embryo to adulthood. We believe that this instrument, together with its associated analysis and data management tools, constitute a new platform for in vivo cancer studies and drug discovery in zebrafish disease models.

Journal article

Andrews N, Ramel M-C, Kumar S, Alexandrov Y, Kelly DJ, Warren SC, Kerry L, Lockwood N, Frolov A, Frankel P, Bugeon L, McGinty J, Dallman MJ, French PMWet al., 2016, Visualising apoptosis in live zebrafish using fluorescence lifetime imaging with optical projection tomography to map FRET biosensor activity in space and time, Journal of Biophotonics, Vol: 9, Pages: 414-424, ISSN: 1864-0648

Fluorescence lifetime imaging (FLIM) combined with optical projection tomography (OPT) has the potential to map Förster resonant energy transfer (FRET) readouts in space and time in intact transparent or near transparent live organisms such as zebrafish larvae, thereby providing a means to visualise cell signalling processes in their physiological context. Here the first application of FLIM OPT to read out biological function in live transgenic zebrafish larvae using a genetically expressed FRET biosensor is reported. Apoptosis, or programmed cell death, is mapped in 3-D by imaging the activity of a FRET biosensor that is cleaved by Caspase 3, which is a key effector of apoptosis. Although apoptosis is a naturally occurring process during development, it can also be triggered in a variety of ways, including through gamma irradiation. FLIM OPT is shown here to enable apoptosis to be monitored over time, in live zebrafish larvae via changes in Caspase 3 activation following gamma irradiation at 24 hours post fertilisation. Significant apoptosis was observed at 3.5 hours post irradiation, predominantly in the head region.

Journal article

Andrews N, Ramel MC, Kumar S, Alexandrov Y, Kelly DJ, Warren SC, Kerry L, Lockwood N, Frolov A, Frankel P, Bugeon L, McGinty J, Dallman MJ, French PMWet al., 2016, Fluorescence lifetime optical projection tomography and FRET applied to visualizing apoptosis in live zebrafish larvae

We present the application of FLIM-OPT to read out biological function in live transgenic zebrafish larvae using a genetically expressed cleavable FRET biosensor for Caspase-3 as an indicator of gamma radiation induced apoptosis.

Conference paper

Correia T, Lockwood N, Kumar S, Yin J, Ramel M-C, Andrews N, Katan M, Bugeon L, Dallman MJ, McGinty J, Frankel P, French PMW, Arridge Set al., 2015, Accelerated optical projection tomography applied to in vivo imaging of zebrafish, PLOS One, Vol: 10, ISSN: 1932-6203

Optical projection tomography (OPT) provides a non-invasive 3-D imaging modality that can be applied to longitudinal studies of live disease models, including in zebrafish. Current limitations include the requirement of a minimum number of angular projections for reconstruction of reasonable OPT images using filtered back projection (FBP), which is typically several hundred, leading to acquisition times of several minutes. It is highly desirable to decrease the number of required angular projections to decrease both the total acquisition time and the light dose to the sample. This is particularly important to enable longitudinal studies, which involve measurements of the same fish at different time points. In this work, we demonstrate that the use of an iterative algorithm to reconstruct sparsely sampled OPT data sets can provide useful 3-D images with 50 or fewer projections, thereby significantly decreasing the minimum acquisition time and light dose while maintaining image quality. A transgenic zebrafish embryo with fluorescent labelling of the vasculature was imaged to acquire densely sampled (800 projections) and under-sampled data sets of transmitted and fluorescence projection images. The under-sampled OPT data sets were reconstructed using an iterative total variation-based image reconstruction algorithm and compared against FBP reconstructions of the densely sampled data sets. To illustrate the potential for quantitative analysis following rapid OPT data acquisition, a Hessian-based method was applied to automatically segment the reconstructed images to select the vasculature network. Results showed that 3-D images of the zebrafish embryo and its vasculature of sufficient visual quality for quantitative analysis can be reconstructed using the iterative algorithm from only 32 projections—achieving up to 28 times improvement in imaging speed and leading to total acquisition times of a few seconds.

Journal article

Kumar S, Lockwood N, Ramel MC, Correia T, Ellis M, Alexandrov Y, Andrews N, Patel R, Bugeon L, Dallman MJ, Brandner S, Arridge S, Katan M, McGinty J, Frankel P, French PMWet al., 2014, In vivo multiplexed OPT and FLIM OPT of an adult zebrafish cancer disease model

We report angular multiplexed OPT and FLIM OPT applied to in vivo imaging of cancer and FRET biosensors in adult zebrafish. Multiple-spectral 3-D datasets of entire adult zebrafish can be acquired in 3 minutes.

Conference paper

Ramel M-C, Hill CS, 2013, The ventral to dorsal BMP activity gradient in the early zebrafish embryo is determined by graded expression of BMP ligands., Dev Biol, Vol: 378, Pages: 170-182

In the early zebrafish embryo, a ventral to dorsal gradient of bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) activity is established, which is essential for the specification of cell fates along this axis. To visualise and mechanistically determine how this BMP activity gradient forms, we have used a transgenic zebrafish line that expresses monomeric red fluorescent protein (mRFP) under the control of well-characterised BMP responsive elements. We demonstrate that mRFP expression in this line faithfully reports BMP and GDF signalling at both early and late stages of development. Taking advantage of the unstable nature of mRFP transcripts, we use in situ hybridisation to reveal the dynamic spatio-temporal pattern of BMP activity and establish the timing and sequence of events that lead to the formation of the BMP activity gradient. We show that the BMP transcriptional activity gradient is established between 30% and 40% epiboly stages and that it is preceded by graded mRNA expression of the BMP ligands. Both Dharma and FGF signalling contribute to graded bmp transcription during these early stages and it is subsequently maintained through autocrine BMP signalling. We show that BMP2B protein is also expressed in a gradient as early as blastula stages, but do not find any evidence of diffusion of this BMP to generate the BMP transcriptional activity gradient. Thus, in contrast to diffusion/transport-based models of BMP gradient formation in Drosophila, our results indicate that the establishment of the BMP activity gradient in early zebrafish embryos is determined by graded expression of the BMP ligands.

Journal article

Sanvitale CE, Kerr G, Chaikuad A, Ramel M-C, Mohedas AH, Reichert S, Wang Y, Triffitt JT, Cuny GD, Yu PB, Hill CS, Bullock ANet al., 2013, A new class of small molecule inhibitor of BMP signaling., PLoS One, Vol: 8, Pages: e62721-e62721, ISSN: 1932-6203

Growth factor signaling pathways are tightly regulated by phosphorylation and include many important kinase targets of interest for drug discovery. Small molecule inhibitors of the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) receptor kinase ALK2 (ACVR1) are needed urgently to treat the progressively debilitating musculoskeletal disease fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP). Dorsomorphin analogues, first identified in zebrafish, remain the only BMP inhibitor chemotype reported to date. By screening an assay panel of 250 recombinant human kinases we identified a highly selective 2-aminopyridine-based inhibitor K02288 with in vitro activity against ALK2 at low nanomolar concentrations similar to the current lead compound LDN-193189. K02288 specifically inhibited the BMP-induced Smad pathway without affecting TGF-β signaling and induced dorsalization of zebrafish embryos. Comparison of the crystal structures of ALK2 with K02288 and LDN-193189 revealed additional contacts in the K02288 complex affording improved shape complementarity and identified the exposed phenol group for further optimization of pharmacokinetics. The discovery of a new chemical series provides an independent pharmacological tool to investigate BMP signaling and offers multiple opportunities for pre-clinical development.

Journal article

Ramel M-C, Hill CS, 2012, Spatial regulation of BMP activity., FEBS Lett, Vol: 586, Pages: 1929-1941

The bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signalling pathway is critical for embryonic development and tissue homeostasis, and impaired BMP signalling has been implicated in multiple diseases. Molecular tools have been developed to visualise BMP activity in vivo and these have allowed a better understanding of the intricate ways in which BMP activity is regulated spatially. In particular, generation and interpretation of BMP activity gradients during development result from the complex interplay between core BMP signalling components and specific regulators. In this essay we discuss the mechanisms by which spatial regulation of BMP activity is achieved and its functional consequences.

Journal article

Wu MY, Ramel M-C, Howell M, Hill CSet al., 2011, SNW1 is a critical regulator of spatial BMP activity, neural plate border formation, and neural crest specification in vertebrate embryos., PLoS Biology, Vol: 9, Pages: e1000593-e1000593, ISSN: 1544-9173

Bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) gradients provide positional information to direct cell fate specification, such as patterning of the vertebrate ectoderm into neural, neural crest, and epidermal tissues, with precise borders segregating these domains. However, little is known about how BMP activity is regulated spatially and temporally during vertebrate development to contribute to embryonic patterning, and more specifically to neural crest formation. Through a large-scale in vivo functional screen in Xenopus for neural crest fate, we identified an essential regulator of BMP activity, SNW1. SNW1 is a nuclear protein known to regulate gene expression. Using antisense morpholinos to deplete SNW1 protein in both Xenopus and zebrafish embryos, we demonstrate that dorsally expressed SNW1 is required for neural crest specification, and this is independent of mesoderm formation and gastrulation morphogenetic movements. By exploiting a combination of immunostaining for phosphorylated Smad1 in Xenopus embryos and a BMP-dependent reporter transgenic zebrafish line, we show that SNW1 regulates a specific domain of BMP activity in the dorsal ectoderm at the neural plate border at post-gastrula stages. We use double in situ hybridizations and immunofluorescence to show how this domain of BMP activity is spatially positioned relative to the neural crest domain and that of SNW1 expression. Further in vivo and in vitro assays using cell culture and tissue explants allow us to conclude that SNW1 acts upstream of the BMP receptors. Finally, we show that the requirement of SNW1 for neural crest specification is through its ability to regulate BMP activity, as we demonstrate that targeted overexpression of BMP to the neural plate border is sufficient to restore neural crest formation in Xenopus SNW1 morphants. We conclude that through its ability to regulate a specific domain of BMP activity in the vertebrate embryo, SNW1 is a critical regulator of neural plate border formation and th

Journal article

Baker KD, Ramel M-C, Lekven AC, 2010, A direct role for Wnt8 in ventrolateral mesoderm patterning., Dev Dyn, Vol: 239, Pages: 2828-2836

Vertebrate dorsoventral patterning requires both Wnt8 and BMP signaling. Because of their multiple interactions, discerning roles attributable specifically to Wnt8 independent of BMP has been a challenge. For example, Wnt8 represses the dorsal organizer that negatively regulates ventral BMP signals, thus Wnt8 loss-of-function phenotypes may reflect the combined effects of reduced Wnt8 and BMP signaling. We have taken a loss-of-function approach in the zebrafish to generate embryos lacking expression of both Wnt8 and the BMP antagonist Chordin. wnt8;chordin loss-of-function embryos show rescued BMP signaling, thereby allowing us to identify Wnt8-specific requirements. Our analysis shows that Wnt8 is uniquely required to repress prechordal plate specification but not notochord, and that Wnt8 signaling is not essential for specification of tailbud progenitors but is required for normal expansion of posterior mesoderm cell populations. Thus, Wnt8 and BMP signaling have independent roles during vertebrate ventrolateral mesoderm development that can be identified through loss-of-function analysis.

Journal article

Vereshchagina N, Ramel M-C, Bitoun E, Wilson Cet al., 2008, The protein phosphatase PP2A-B' subunit Widerborst is a negative regulator of cytoplasmic activated Akt and lipid metabolism in Drosophila., J Cell Sci, Vol: 121, Pages: 3383-3392, ISSN: 0021-9533

Inappropriate regulation of the PI3-kinase/PTEN/Akt kinase-signalling cassette, a key downstream target of insulin/insulin-like growth factor signalling (IIS), is associated with several major human diseases such as diabetes, obesity and cancer. In Drosophila, studies have recently revealed that different subcellular pools of activated, phosphorylated Akt can modulate different IIS-dependent processes. For example, a specific pool of activated Akt within the cytoplasm alters aspects of lipid metabolism, a process that is misregulated in both obesity and diabetes. However, it remains unclear how this pool is regulated. Here we show that the protein phosphatase PP2A-B' regulatory subunit Widerborst (Wdb), which coimmunoprecipitates with Akt in vivo, selectively modulates levels of activated Akt in the cytoplasm. It alters lipid droplet size and expression of the lipid storage perilipin-like protein LSD2 in the Drosophila ovary, but not in epithelial cells of the eye imaginal discs. We conclude that isoforms of PP2A-B' can act as subcellular-compartment-specific regulators of PI3-kinase/PTEN/Akt kinase signalling and IIS, potentially providing new targets for modulating individual subcellular pools of activated Akt in insulin-linked disease.

Journal article

Ramel M-C, Emery CM, Foulger R, Goberdhan DCI, van den Heuvel M, Wilson Cet al., 2007, Drosophila SnoN modulates growth and patterning by antagonizing TGF-beta signalling (vol 124, pg 304, 2007), MECHANISMS OF DEVELOPMENT, Vol: 124, Pages: 646-646, ISSN: 0925-4773

Journal article

Ramel M-C, Emery CS, Foulger R, Goberdhan DCI, van den Heuvel M, Wilson Cet al., 2007, Drosophila SnoN modulates growth and patterning by antagonizing TGF-beta signalling, MECHANISMS OF DEVELOPMENT, Vol: 124, Pages: 304-317, ISSN: 0925-4773

Journal article

Ramel M-C, Buckles GR, Baker KD, Lekven ACet al., 2005, WNT8 and BMP2B co-regulate non-axial mesoderm patterning during zebrafish gastrulation., Dev Biol, Vol: 287, Pages: 237-248, ISSN: 0012-1606

During vertebrate mesoderm formation, fates are established according to position in the dorsoventral (D/V) axis of the embryo. Initially, maternal signaling divides nascent mesoderm into axial (dorsal) and non-axial (ventral) domains. Although the subsequent subdivision of non-axial mesoderm into multiple D/V fate domains is known to involve zygotic Wnt8 and BMP signaling as well as the Vent/Vox/Ved family of transcriptional repressors, how levels of signaling activity are translated into differential regulation of fates is not well understood. To address this question, we have analyzed zebrafish embryos lacking Wnt8 and BMP2b. Zebrafish wnt8; swr (bmp2b) double mutants display a progressive loss of non-axial mesoderm and a concomitant expansion of axial mesoderm during gastrulation. Mesoderm induction and specification of the axial domain occur normally in wnt8; swr mutants, but dorsal mesoderm genes eventually come to be expressed throughout the mesoderm, suggesting that the establishment of non-axial mesoderm identity requires continual repression of dorsal mesoderm factors, including repressors of ventral genes. Loss-of-function for Vent, Vox, and Ved phenocopies the wnt8; swr mutant phenotype, consistent with Wnt8 and BMP2b maintaining non-axial mesoderm identity during gastrulation through the regulation of these three transcriptional repressors. We postulate that timely differentiation of the mesoderm requires the maintenance of non-axial mesoderm identity by Wnt8 and BMP2b at the onset of gastrulation followed by subdivision of the non-axial mesoderm into different functional domains during gastrulation.

Journal article

Ramel M-C, Buckles GR, Lekven AC, 2004, Conservation of structure and functional divergence of duplicated Wnt8s in pufferfish., Dev Dyn, Vol: 231, Pages: 441-448, ISSN: 1058-8388

The zebrafish wnt8 locus differs from its tetrapod counterparts in that it produces two functionally overlapping but distinct Wnt8 proteins. Studies of zebrafish wnt8 have suggested that the two major Wnt8 proteins produced are functionally similar yet may behave differently depending on the assay context. To determine whether the bicistronic wnt8 and its accompanying unique protein activities found in zebrafish are more widespread (and perhaps universal) among teleosts, we have extended our studies to the pufferfish Takifugu rubripes. We have found that Takifugu wnt8 is also bicistronic, indicating that the wnt8 duplication occurred before the divergence of these teleosts approximately 150 million years ago. Furthermore, overexpression assays in zebrafish embryos show that functional differences between the zebrafish Wnt8.1 and Wnt8.2 proteins are conserved in their Takifugu orthologs. Thus, despite the fact that Wnt8.1 and Wnt8.2 proteins are as similar to each other as each is to Xenopus Xwnt-8, Wnt8 family members can behave quite differently in the context of zebrafish embryos. This finding suggests that zebrafish (and possibly teleost in general) Wnt8 receptors are able to discriminate between highly related ligands.

Journal article

Ramel M-C, Lekven AC, 2004, Repression of the vertebrate organizer by Wnt8 is mediated by Vent and Vox., Development, Vol: 131, Pages: 3991-4000, ISSN: 0950-1991

Dorsoventral (DV) patterning of vertebrate embryos requires the concerted action of the Bone Morphogenetic Protein (BMP) and Wnt signaling pathways. In contrast to our understanding of the role of BMP in establishing ventral fates, our understanding of the role of Wnts in ventralizing embryos is less complete. Wnt8 is required for ventral patterning in both Xenopus and zebrafish; however, its mechanism of action remains unclear. We have used the zebrafish to address the requirement for Wnt8 in restricting the size of the dorsal organizer. Epistasis experiments suggest that Wnt8 achieves this restriction by regulating the early expression of the transcriptional repressors Vent and Vox. Our data show that vent and vox are direct transcriptional targets of Wnt8/beta-catenin. Additionally, we show that Wnt8 and Bmp2b co-regulate vent and vox in a dynamic fashion. Thus, whereas both Wnt8 and zygotic BMP are ventralizing agents that regulate common target genes, their temporally different modes of action are necessary to pattern the embryo harmoniously along its DV axis.

Journal article

Buckles GR, Thorpe CJ, Ramel M-C, Lekven ACet al., 2004, Combinatorial Wnt control of zebrafish midbrain-hindbrain boundary formation., Mech Dev, Vol: 121, Pages: 437-447, ISSN: 0925-4773

Wnt signaling is known to be required for the normal development of the vertebrate midbrain and hindbrain, but genetic loss of function analyses in the mouse and zebrafish yield differing results regarding the relative importance of specific Wnt loci. In the zebrafish, Wnt1 and Wnt10b functionally overlap in their control of gene expression in the ventral midbrain-hindbrain boundary (MHB), but they are not required for the formation of the MHB constriction. Whether other wnt loci are involved in zebrafish MHB development is unclear, although the expression of at least two wnts, wnt3a and wnt8b, is maintained in wnt1/wnt10b mutants. In order to address the role of wnt3a in zebrafish, we have isolated a full length cDNA and examined its expression and function via knockdown by morpholino antisense oligonucleotide (MO)-mediated knockdown. The expression pattern of wnt3a appears to be evolutionarily conserved between zebrafish and mouse, and MO knockdown shows that Wnt3a, while not uniquely required for MHB development, is required in the absence of Wnt1 and Wnt10b for the formation of the MHB constriction. In zebrafish embryos lacking Wnt3a, Wnt1 and Wnt10b, the expression of engrailed orthologs, pax2a and fgf8 is not maintained after mid-somitogenesis. In contrast to acerebellar and no isthmus mutants, in which midbrain and hindbrain cells acquire new fates but cell number is not significantly affected until late in embryogenesis, zebrafish embryos lacking Wnt3a, Wnt1 and Wnt10b undergo extensive apoptosis in the midbrain and cerebellum anlagen beginning in mid-somitogenesis, which results in the absence of a significant portion of the midbrain and cerebellum. Thus, the requirement for Wnt signaling in forming the MHB constriction is evolutionarily conserved in vertebrates and it is possible in zebrafish to dissect the relative impact of multiple Wnt loci in midbrain and hindbrain development.

Journal article

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