Tissue Growth and Developmental Pattern Formation

Individuals of the same species differ in size, but their organs have reproducible proportions and patterns of cell types. This requires the coordination of tissue growth with the generation of diverse cell types during development.  We study how this coordination is achieved in the vertebrate neural tube, the embryonic precursor of the spinal cord and brain. In this organ, an elaborate pattern of multiple types of neuronal precursors forms along the dorsoventral axis at the same time as the tissue increases considerably in size. This fascinating process is orchestrated by signaling molecules, called morphogens, which are secreted from the opposite poles of the neural tube and form gradients of concentration in the tissue. While it is well established that morphogens instruct cells about their identity, many questions are still open. How do cells integrate signaling from opposing morphogen gradients? How do morphogens control tissue growth? How does tissue growth influence morphogen signaling and pattern?

To address these questions, we develop and use quantitative experimental approaches. We work in close collaborations with physicists to relate experiments to theoretical frameworks. We are particularly interested in imaging the dynamics of morphogen signaling and growth in living tissues. Our work incorporates a range of models, from mouse and chick embryos to mouse embryonic stem cells.

Open positions

We are looking for outstanding postdocs and students interested in working on vertebrate neural tube development in an interdisciplinary environment. Candidates with background in developmental, cell or molecular biology or at the interface between biophysics and biology are encouraged to apply. For further information about the research topics in the lab, click here. If you are interested in applying, please email me at anna.kicheva@remove-this.ist.ac.at with your CV, motivation letter and contact details of 2-3 referees. PhD student candidates can email me directly, but will be required to apply through the IST graduate school.

Anna Kicheva
Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria)
Am Campus 1
A – 3400 Klosterneuburg

+43 2243 9000 3076
E-mail: anna.kicheva@remove-this.ist.ac.at

Kicheva lab website


Agnieszka Rowinska
Phone: +43 (0)2243 9000-1148
E-mail:  agnieszka.rowinska@remove-this.ist.ac.at


  • Martina Greunz, Technician
  • Marcin Zagorski, Postdoc
  • Katarzyna Kuzmicz, PhD student
  • Laura Bocanegra, PhD student
  • Dominik Ritzer, Masters student
  • Maria Mikhaylova, Intern
  • Armaan Mehra, Intern

Selected Publications

  • Zagorski M, Brandenberg N, Tabata Y, Tkacik G, Lutolf MP, Bollenbach T, Briscoe J, Kicheva A (2017) Specification of spinal cord pattern by opposing morphogen gradients. Science 356 (6345): 1379-1383.
  • Kicheva A§, Briscoe J§. (2015) Developmental Pattern Formation in Phases. Trends Cell Biol 25(10):579-91.
  • Cohen M, Kicheva A, Ribeiro A, Blassberg R, Page K, Briscoe J. (2015) The roles of negative feedback and Gli regulation in the dynamics of Shh signaling. Nature Comm. 6, 6709 .
  • Kicheva A, Bollenbach T, Ribeiro A,Valle HP, Rovell-Badge R, Episkopou V, Briscoe J. (2014) Coordination of progenitor specification and growth in mouse and chick spinal cord. Science 345 (6204):1254927.
  • Kicheva A, Cohen M, Briscoe J. (2012) Developmental pattern formation: insights from physics and biology. Science 338, 210.
  • Wartlick O§, Mumcu P§, Kicheva A§, Bittig T§, Seum C, Jülicher F, González-Gaitán M. (2011) Dynamics of Dpp signaling and proliferation control. Science 331, 1154-1159.
  • Wartlick O§, Kicheva A§, González-Gaitán M. (2009) Morphogen Gradient Formation. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol 1:a001255
  • Bollenbach TM§, Pantazis P§, Kicheva AK§, Bökel C, González-Gaitán M, Jülicher F. (2008) Precision of the Dpp gradient. Development 135, 1137-1146.
  • Kicheva A§, Pantazis P§, Bollenbach T§, Kalaidzidis Y, Bittig T, Jülicher F & González-Gaitán M. (2007) Kinetics of morphogen gradient formation. Science 315, 521-5.

          §These authors contributed equally.


Since 2015 Assistant professor, IST Austria
2008-2015 Postdoc, National Institute for Medical Research (The Francis Crick Institute), UK
2003-2008 PhD, University of Geneva, Biochemistry Dept. and Max Planck Institute of Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden

Selected Distinctions

2015 ERC Starting Grant
2009 Marie-Curie Intra-European Fellowship
2008 FEBS Long Term Fellowship

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