Simon Walker

Simon obtained his first degree in Biochemistry at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh before moving to the John Innes Centre in Norwich where he studied for his PhD under the supervision of Allan Downie looking at the role of calcium signalling during legume symbiosis.

Simon then went to work as a postdoc for four years in Pete Cullen's lab in the Department of Biochemistry at Bristol University where he investigated the GAP1 family of ras GTPase-activating proteins.

​Having become interested in the application of imaging technologies to answer biological quesions Simon moved to the Babraham Institute in 2004 where he helped establish the core Imaging Facility.

Simon now manages the Facility which has over 100 registered users based within the Institute and an increasing number of commercial users based both on and off campus.

Latest Publications

ATG13 dynamics in nonselective autophagy and mitophagy: insights from live imaging studies and mathematical modeling.
Dalle Pezze P, Karanasios E, Kandia V, Manifava M, Walker SA, Gambardella Le Novère N, Ktistakis NT

During macroautophagy/autophagy, the ULK complex nucleates autophagic precursors, which give rise to autophagosomes. We analyzed, by live imaging and mathematical modeling, the translocation of ATG13 (part of the ULK complex) to the autophagic puncta in starvation-induced autophagy and ivermectin-induced mitophagy. In nonselective autophagy, the intensity and duration of ATG13 translocation approximated a normal distribution, whereas wortmannin reduced this effect and shifted to a log-normal distribution. During mitophagy, multiple translocations of ATG13 with increasing time between peaks were observed. We hypothesized that these multiple translocations arise because the engulfment of mitochondrial fragments required successive nucleation of phagophores on the same target, and a mathematical model based on this idea reproduced the oscillatory behavior. Significantly, model and experimental data were also in agreement that the number of ATG13 translocations is directly proportional to the diameter of the targeted mitochondrial fragments. Thus, our data provide novel insights into the early dynamics of selective and nonselective autophagy. ATG: autophagy related 13; CFP: cyan fluorescent protein; dsRED: red fluorescent protein; GABARAP: GABA type A receptor-associated protein; GFP: green fluorescent protein; IVM: ivermectin; MAP1LC3/LC3: microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3; MTORC1: mechanistic target of rapamycin kinase complex 1; PIK3C3/VPS34: phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase catalytic subunit type 3; PtdIns3P: PtdIns-3-phosphate; ULK: unc-51 like autophagy activating kinase.

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Autophagy, 1, 1, 22 Apr 2020

DOI: 10.1080/15548627.2020.1749401

PMID: 32320309

An mTORC1-to-CDK1 Switch Maintains Autophagy Suppression during Mitosis.
Odle RI, Walker SA, Oxley D, Kidger AM, Balmanno K, Gilley R, Okkenhaug H, Florey O, Ktistakis NT, Cook SJ

Since nuclear envelope breakdown occurs during mitosis in metazoan cells, it has been proposed that macroautophagy must be inhibited to maintain genome integrity. However, repression of macroautophagy during mitosis remains controversial and mechanistic detail limited to the suggestion that CDK1 phosphorylates VPS34. Here, we show that initiation of macroautophagy, measured by the translocation of the ULK complex to autophagic puncta, is repressed during mitosis, even when mTORC1 is inhibited. Indeed, mTORC1 is inactive during mitosis, reflecting its failure to localize to lysosomes due to CDK1-dependent RAPTOR phosphorylation. While mTORC1 normally represses autophagy via phosphorylation of ULK1, ATG13, ATG14, and TFEB, we show that the mitotic phosphorylation of these autophagy regulators, including at known repressive sites, is dependent on CDK1 but independent of mTOR. Thus, CDK1 substitutes for inhibited mTORC1 as the master regulator of macroautophagy during mitosis, uncoupling autophagy regulation from nutrient status to ensure repression of macroautophagy during mitosis.

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Molecular cell, S1097-2765, 19, 06 Nov 2019

DOI: 10.1016/j.molcel.2019.10.016

PMID: 31733992

Autophagosome biogenesis machinery.
Walker SA, Ktistakis NT

We review current knowledge of the process of autophagosome formation with special emphasis on the very early steps: turning on the autophagy pathway, assembling the autophagy machinery, and building the autophagosome. The pathway is remarkably well co-ordinated spatially and temporally, and it shows broad conservation across species and cell types, including neurons. In addition, although much current knowledge derives mostly from settings of non-selective autophagy, recent work also indicates that selective autophagy, and more specifically mitophagy, shows similar dynamics. Having an understanding of this remarkable process may help the design of novel therapeutics for neurodegeneration and other pathologies.

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Journal of molecular biology, , 1089-8638, 2019

PMID: 31705882