Tony Harris

Associate Professor
Canada Research Chair in Cell Polarity and Animal Development
PDF, UNC-Chapel Hill; PhD, Toronto; BSc, Western
Cell & Systems Biology
Research Areas: 
Cell & Developmental Biology
Graduate Programs: 
Cell & Systems Biology, Developmental Biology
Office phone: 
Lab phone: 
RW 529
RW 529/531

tony [dot] harris (at)utoronto [dot] ca


Dept of Cell & Systems Biology
University of Toronto
25 Harbord Street
Toronto, Ontario
Canada M5S 3G5


We study how animal tissues are built.  We use confocal and time-lapse microscopy together with Drosophila genetics and molecular approaches to study how epithelial cells are formed and re-shaped during development. Epithelia are sheets of adherent cells that form boundaries between our body compartments. Proper epithelial structure is critical for guiding embryo development and directing adult functions (e.g. nutrient uptake in the gut), and its loss is associated with cancer. We are focusing on the molecular machinery responsible for forming epithelial cells (polarity, adhesion, cytoskeletal and membrane trafficking complexes). We are identifying the proteins making up this machinery and determining how they function together to establish, maintain and remodel epithelial structure in the Drosophila embryo. By combining cutting edge microscopy with Drosophila genetics, we can literally see how proteins form circuitries to control epithelial structure and morphogenesis (see these movies, or these ones), and it is important for understanding cancer and developing regenerative medicine.

Selected Publications


Lee, D.M. and Harris, T.J.C. (2013) An Arf-GEF regulates antagonism between endocytosis and the cytoskeleton for Drosophila blastoderm development. Current Biology. 23(21):2110-20.

David, D.J.V., Wang, Q., Feng, J.J. and Harris, T.J.C. (2013) Bazooka inhibits aPKC to limit antagonism of actomyosin networks during amnioserosa apical constriction. Development. 140:4719-4729.

Goldenberg, G. and Harris, T.J.C. (2013) Adherens junction distribution mechanisms during cell-cell contact elongation in Drosophila. PLoS One. 8(11):e79613.


McKinley, R.F.A. and Harris, T.J.C. (2012) Displacement of basolateral Bazooka/PAR-3 by regulated transport and dispersion during epithelial polarization in Drosophila. Molecular Biology of the Cell. 23:4465-71.

Yu, C.G. and Harris, T.J.C. (2012) Interactions between the PDZ domains of Bazooka (Par-3) and phophatidic acid: in vitro characterization and role in epithelial development. Molecular Biology of the Cell. 23:3743-53. 

McKinley, R.F.A, Yu, C.G. and Harris, T.J.C. (2012) Assembly of Bazooka polarity landmarks through a multifaceted membrane association mechanism. J. Cell Science. 125:1177-1190.

Adherens junctions: from molecular mechanisms to tissue development and disease (2012) Tony Harris (Ed.). Springer Science+Business Media, Dordrecht, Netherlands. Subcellular Biochemistry, 60: 1-431. 17 chapters. DOI 10.1007/978-94-007-4186-7  Intoductory chapter (click here)

David, D.J.V., McGill, M.A., McKinley, R.F.A. and Harris, T.J.C. (2012) Live imaging of Drosophila embryos: Quantifying protein numbers and dynamics at subcellular locations. Methods in Molecular Biology. 839:1-17.

Harris, T.J.C. (2012) Adherens junction assembly and function in the Drosophila embryo. The International Review of Cell and Molecular Biology. 293:45-83.


David, D.J.V, Tishkina, A. and Harris, T.J.C. (2010) The PAR complex regulates pulsed actomyosin contractions during amnioserosa apical constriction in Drosophila. Development 137: 1635-1643.

Shao, W., Wu, J., Chen, J., Lee, D. Tishkina, A. and Harris, T.J.C. (2010) A modifier screen for Bazooka/PAR-3 interacting genes in the Drosophila embryo epithelium PLoS ONE. 5:e993.

Harris, T.J.C. and Tepass, U. (2010) Adherens Junctions: from molecules to morphogenesis. Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 11: 502-514.


McGill, M.A., McKinley, R.F.A. and Harris, T.J.C. (2009) Independent cadherin-catenin and Bazooka clusters interact to assemble adherens junctions. J. Cell Biol. 185: 787-96.

Harris, T.J.C., J.K. Sawyer and Peifer, M. (2009) How the cytoskeleton helps build the embryonic body plan: Models of morphogenesis from Drosophila. Current Topics in Developmental Biology 89: 55-85.


Pope, KL and Harris, T.J.C. (2008) Control of cell flattening and associated junctional remodelling during squamous epithelial morphogenesis in Drosophila. Development 135: 2227-2238.




Current Lab Members (always looking for talented people)

Postdocs: Tao (JT) Jiang, Jiangshu Liu

PhD Candidates: Donghoon (Hoon) Lee, Francisco Rodrigues, Yixie Zhang

MSc Candidates: Junior West, Yan Li

Technician: CQ Yu

Undergraduates: Gerry Gotesman, Caroline Wang, Alex Hsieh, Kamal Singh