Professor Ulrich Tepass

Ulrich Tepass



St. George (downtown)

CSB Appointment


Research Areas

Animal Biology, Cell Biology, Developmental Biology, Genetics / Genomics, Molecular Biology, Systems Biology


Ph.D. University of Cologne 1990

Titles and Honors

Canada Research Chair (Tier I) in Epithelial Polarity and Development;Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada

Primary Undergraduate Department

Cell & Systems Biology

Graduate Programs

Cell & Systems Biology
Developmental Biology

Research Description

Finding out how cells adopt specific shapes and organize themselves into tissues and organs in multicellular organisms is one of the most exciting questions in modern biology with profound implications for human health. Our work focuses on epithelial cells, the basic building blocks of all animals that are major components of many organs such as skin, gut, kidney or the retina. These cells form two-dimensional sheets that separate different compartments of the body. Cell polarity is a key feature of simple and more complex epithelial cells such as photoreceptor cells. We also investigate the mechanisms of adhesion between epithelial cells that binds cells into tissues. Both cell polarity and cell adhesion are areas of intense research in current cell biology. Some of the main questions that we pursue are: How do epithelial cells establish and maintain their polar organization, and how is epithelial polarity lost during epithelial-to-mesenchymal transitions? How do epithelial cells adhere to each other and move along each other without compromising epithelial tissue integrity? How do photoreceptor cells establish different, functionally and structurally distinct plasma membrane region? Defects in cell polarity and cell adhesion of epithelial cells cause many diseases. Our research currently explores genetic models for cancer and blindness. In fact, more than 80% of all human cancer cases are caused by the abnormal behaviour of epithelial cells. Blindness results often from death of the retina that is caused by defects in the polarity and adhesion of the epithelial cells of the retina.

Contact Information

Office Phone: 416-978-5712
Office: RW610A
Lab: RW610/RW616/>RW617
Lab Phone: 416-946-8303

Mailing Address

Department of Cell & Systems Biology
University of Toronto
25 Harbord St.
Toronto, ON M5S 3G5

Visit lab’s website

Recent News

Undergraduate researchers reveal exciting project results at year-end poster session to earn F Michael Barrett Award

On Friday, April 5th, 2024 students from the CSB497, 498 and 499 independent research programs presented their project results in a poster session…

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Congratulations to CSB’s Graduate Student Award Recipients!

Congratulations to our Graduate Students who earned recognition for their accomplishments at our Graduate Student Awards on December 19th, 2022!…

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Long-term Research at CSB supported by NSERC Discovery Grants 2022

Congratulations to five researchers at CSB who have earned Discovery Grants starting in 2022 from the National Science and Engineering Research…

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The α-Catenin mechanosensing M region is required for cell adhesion during tissue morphogenesis

Sheppard L, Green DG, Lerchbaumer G, Rothenberg KE, Fernandez-Gonzalez R, Tepass U
2022, Journal of Cell Biology, 10.1083/jcb.202108091

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Apical polarity proteins recruit the RhoGEF Cysts to promote junctional myosin assembly.

Silver JT, Wirtz-Peitz F, Simões S, Pellikka M, Yan D, Binari R, Nishimura T, Li Y, Harris TJC, Perrimon N, Tepass U
2019, The Journal of cell biology, 218, 3397-3414, 31409654

Identification of Genes Required for Apical Protein Trafficking in Drosophila Photoreceptor Cells

Laffafian A, Tepass U
2019, G3 (Bethesda) , 10.1534/g3.119.400635

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Force-dependent allostery of the α-catenin actin-binding domain controls adherens junction dynamics and functions

Ishiyama N, Sarpal R, Wood MN, Barrick SK, Nishikawa T, Hayashi H, Kobb AB, Flozak AS, Yemelyanov A, Fernandez-Gonzalez R, Yonemura S, Leckband DE, Gottardi CJ, Tepass U, Ikura M
2018, Nature Communications, 10.1038/s41467-018-07481-7

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Myosin II promotes the anisotropic loss of the apical domain during Drosophila neuroblast ingression

Simões S, Oh Y, Wang MFZ, Fernandez-Gonzalez R, Tepass U
2017, Journal of Cell Biology, 10.1083/jcb.201608038

Unique cell biological profiles of retinal disease-causing missense mutations in the polarity protein Crumbs

Pellikka M, Tepass U
2017, Journal of Cell Science, 10.1242/jcs.197178

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Muscle versus Snail: Muscle wins

Simoes S, Tepass U,
2016, Journal of Cell Biology, 10.1083/jcb.201512092

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α -Catenin phosphorylation promotes intercellular adhesion through a dual-kinase mechanism

Escobar DJ, Desai R, Ishiyama N, Folmsbee SS, Novak MN, Flozak AS, Daugherty RL, Mo R, Nanavati D, Sarpal R, Leckband D, Ikura M, Tepass U, Gottardi CJ
2015, Journal of Cell Science, 10.1242/jcs.163824

Girdin-mediated interactions between cadherin and the actin cytoskeleton are required for epithelial morphogenesis in Drosophila

Houssin E, Tepass U, Laprise P
2015, Development, 10.1242/dev.122002

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Polarize to elongate

Tepass U
2014, Nature, 10.1038/nature13937

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Monomeric α-catenin links cadherin to the actin cytoskeleton

Desai R, Sarpal R, Ishiyama N, Pellikka M, Ikura M, Tepass U
2013, Nature cell biology, 15, 261-73, 23417122

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The apical polarity protein network in Drosophila epithelial cells: regulation of polarity, junctions, morphogenesis, cell growth, and survival

Tepass U
2012, Annual review of cell and developmental biology, 28, 655-85, 22881460

Mutational analysis supports a core role for Drosophila α-catenin in adherens junction function

Sarpal R, Pellikka M, Patel RR, Hui FY, Godt D, Tepass U
2012, Journal of cell science, 125, 233-45, 22266901

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Novel insights into epithelial polarity proteins in Drosophila

Laprise P, Tepass U
2011, Trends in cell biology, 21, 401-8, 21530265

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Cdc42 and vesicle trafficking in polarized cells

Harris KP, Tepass U
2010, Traffic (Copenhagen, Denmark), 11, 1272-9, 20633244

Adherens junctions: from molecules to morphogenesis

Harris TJ, Tepass U
2010, Nature reviews. Molecular cell biology, 11, 502-14, 20571587

Epithelial polarity proteins regulate Drosophila tracheal tube size in parallel to the luminal matrix pathway

Laprise P, Paul SM, Boulanger J, Robbins RM, Beitel GJ, Tepass U
2010, Current biology : CB, 20, 55-61, 20022244

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Molecular evolution of SPARC: absence of the acidic module and expression in the endoderm of the starlet sea anemone, Nematostella vectensis

Koehler A, Desser S, Chang B, MacDonald J, Tepass U, Ringuette M
2009, Development genes and evolution, 219, 509-21, 20043230

Drosophila laminins act as key regulators of basement membrane assembly and morphogenesis

Urbano JM, Torgler CN, Molnar C, Tepass U, López-Varea A, Brown NH, de Celis JF, Martín-Bermudo MD
2009, Development (Cambridge, England), 136, 4165-76, 19906841

FERM proteins in animal morphogenesis

Tepass U
2009, Current opinion in genetics & development, 19, 357-67, 19596566

Yurt, Coracle, Neurexin IV and the Na(+),K(+)-ATPase form a novel group of epithelial polarity proteins

Laprise P, Lau KM, Harris KP, Silva-Gagliardi NF, Paul SM, Beronja S, Beitel GJ, McGlade CJ, Tepass U
2009, Nature, 459, 1141-5, 19553998

Breaking a temporal barrier: signalling crosstalk regulates the initiation of border cell migration

Godt D, Tepass U
2009, Nature cell biology, 11, 536-8, 19404334

The germline stem cells of Drosophila melanogaster partition DNA non-randomly

Karpowicz P, Pellikka M, Chea E, Godt D, Tepass U, van der Kooy D
2009, European journal of cell biology, 88, 397-408, 19395121

Drosophila convoluted/dALS is an essential gene required for tracheal tube morphogenesis and apical matrix organization

Swanson LE, Yu M, Nelson KS, Laprise P, Tepass U, Beitel GJ
2009, Genetics, 181, 1281-90, 19171940

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Cdc42 and Par proteins stabilize dynamic adherens junctions in the Drosophila neuroectoderm through regulation of apical endocytosis

Harris KP, Tepass U
2008, The Journal of cell biology, 183, 1129-43, 19064670

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The FERM protein Epb4.1l5 is required for organization of the neural plate and for the epithelial-mesenchymal transition at the primitive streak of the mouse embryo

Lee JD, Silva-Gagliardi NF, Tepass U, McGlade CJ, Anderson KV
2007, Development (Cambridge, England), 134, 2007-16, 17507402

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Adherens junctions in Drosophila retinal morphogenesis

Tepass U, Harris KP
2007, Trends in cell biology, 17, 26-35, 17134901

The agrin/perlecan-related protein eyes shut is essential for epithelial lumen formation in the Drosophila retina

Husain N, Pellikka M, Hong H, Klimentova T, Choe KM, Clandinin TR, Tepass U
2006, Developmental cell, 11, 483-93, 17011488

The FERM protein Yurt is a negative regulatory component of the Crumbs complex that controls epithelial polarity and apical membrane size

Laprise P, Beronja S, Silva-Gagliardi NF, Pellikka M, Jensen AM, McGlade CJ, Tepass U
2006, Developmental cell, 11, 363-74, 16950127

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Drosophila melanogaster Cad99C, the orthologue of human Usher cadherin PCDH15, regulates the length of microvilli

D'Alterio C, Tran DD, Yeung MW, Hwang MS, Li MA, Arana CJ, Mulligan VK, Kubesh M, Sharma P, Chase M, Tepass U, Godt D
2005, The Journal of cell biology, 171, 549-58, 16260500

Essential function of Drosophila Sec6 in apical exocytosis of epithelial photoreceptor cells

Beronja S, Laprise P, Papoulas O, Pellikka M, Sisson J, Tepass U
2005, The Journal of cell biology, 169, 635-46, 15897260

Talin’s second persona

Tepass U, Godt D
2005, Nature cell biology, 7, 443-4, 15867924

Mutations in Drosophila sec15 reveal a function in neuronal targeting for a subset of exocyst components

Mehta SQ, Hiesinger PR, Beronja S, Zhai RG, Schulze KL, Verstreken P, Cao Y, Zhou Y, Tepass U, Crair MC, Bellen HJ
2005, Neuron, 46, 219-32, 15848801

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Function of Rho GTPases in embryonic blood cell migration in Drosophila

Paladi M, Tepass U
2004, Journal of cell science, 117, 6313-26, 15561773

The cell fate determinant numb interacts with EHD/Rme-1 family proteins and has a role in endocytic recycling

Smith CA, Dho SE, Donaldson J, Tepass U, McGlade CJ
2004, Molecular biology of the cell, 15, 3698-708, 15155807

Sinuous is a Drosophila claudin required for septate junction organization and epithelial tube size control

Wu VM, Schulte J, Hirschi A, Tepass U, Beitel GJ
2004, The Journal of cell biology, 164, 313-23, 14734539

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Hand-me-downs. Transmitting anterior-posterior asymmetry from older to younger egg follicles

Godt D, Tepass U
2003, Developmental cell, 5, 525-7, 14536049

Organogenesis: keeping in touch with the germ cells

Godt D, Tepass U
2003, Current biology : CB, 13, R683-5, 12956974

CRB1 is essential for external limiting membrane integrity and photoreceptor morphogenesis in the mammalian retina

Mehalow AK, Kameya S, Smith RS, Hawes NL, Denegre JM, Young JA, Bechtold L, Haider NB, Tepass U, Heckenlively JR, Chang B, Naggert JK, Nishina PM
2003, Human molecular genetics, 12, 2179-89, 12915475

Claudin complexities at the apical junctional complex

Tepass U
2003, Nature cell biology, 5, 595-7, 12833061

Gliotactin, a novel marker of tricellular junctions, is necessary for septate junction development in Drosophila

Schulte J, Tepass U, Auld VJ
2003, The Journal of cell biology, 161, 991-1000, 12782681

Interactions between the crumbs, lethal giant larvae and bazooka pathways in epithelial polarization

Tanentzapf G, Tepass U
2003, Nature cell biology, 5, 46-52, 12510193

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Cell sorting in animal development: signalling and adhesive mechanisms in the formation of tissue boundaries

Tepass U, Godt D, Winklbauer R
2002, Current opinion in genetics & development, 12, 572-82, 12200163

Interaction between EGFR signaling and DE-cadherin during nervous system morphogenesis

Dumstrei K, Wang F, Shy D, Tepass U, Hartenstein V
2002, Development (Cambridge, England), 129, 3983-94, 12163402

Adherens junctions: new insight into assembly, modulation and function

Tepass U
2002, BioEssays : news and reviews in molecular, cellular and developmental biology, 24, 690-5, 12210528

Cellular morphogenesis: slow-as-molasses accelerates polarized membrane growth

Beronja S, Tepass U
2002, Developmental cell, 2, 382-4, 11970887

Crumbs, the Drosophila homologue of human CRB1/RP12, is essential for photoreceptor morphogenesis

Pellikka M, Tanentzapf G, Pinto M, Smith C, McGlade CJ, Ready DF, Tepass U
2002, Nature, 416, 143-9, 11850625

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