Dr Michael Piper

Contact Information

Otto Hirschfeld Building (81)
St Lucia Campus
Room 721
Tel: +61 7 3365 4484

Mailing Address

School of Biomedical Sciences
The University of Queensland
Brisbane, 4072


Lab Members

Lab Home Page

Short biography

Research directions

Current collaborations

Selected Publications


Short Biography

Dr. Piper graduated from The University of Tasmania, and received his PhD in Developmental Biology from The University of Queensland in 2003. His PhD, performed at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience with Prof. Melissa Little, centred on understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying embryonic kidney development. His first postdoc was performed with Prof. Christine Holt at The University of Cambridge, UK, where he studied the mechanisms by which axonal growth cones navigate to their targets in the brain, using the frog Xenopus laevis as a model system. The significance of his findings was to demonstrate that local protein synthesis within retinal growth cones plays a critical role in guiding nascent retinal axons to their synaptic targets within the brain in the developing Xenopus tadpole. These discoveries greatly expanded our understanding of the mechanisms underlying axonal guidance at the level of the growth cone. In a broader developmental context they also illustrated a sophisticated means by which navigating growth cones are able to respond to extracellular guidance cues in order to reach their specific targets with precision within the startlingly complex environment of the developing nervous system. In his second postdoctoral position, at the Queensland Brain Institute at The University of Queensland, his work focussed on understanding the molecular mechanisms of neural progenitor cell specification in the developing cerebral cortex. In late 2010, Dr. Piper took up a joint position with the Queensland Brain Institute and The School of Biomedical Sciences to continue his research into the mechanisms underlying neural stem cell differentiation. Dr. Piper holds an Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellowship (2013-2017).

Research directions

We use the cortex, cerebellum and spinal cord of the developing and adult mouse as model systems to elucidate the biology of neural stem cells within the brain. Ultimately, we hope to define the genes that drive the differentiation of neural progenitor cells into either neurons or glia. Dr. Piper has currently has funding from the NHMRC (2014-2016) to investigate how neural stem cell differentiation within the developing cortex is co-ordinated. This work aims to characterise the molecular cascades regulating neural stem cell development, providing a clearer insight into how the mature brain is formed. He was also recently awarded an ARC Discovery Project grant (2016-2018) to investigate how neural stem cell quiescence in the adult brain is co-ordinated. This work will provide pivotal insights into how ongoing neurogenesis in the adult brain is regulated, and the behavioural consequences of deficits to this process. Finally, Dr. Piper is funded by the Cancer Council Queensland (2016-2017) to investigate the transcriptional regulation of stem cell biology within the developing cerebellum and in medulloblastoma, a cerebellar tumour that is the most common malignant paediatric brain cancer. We envisage that this research will provide important insights into the control of neural stem cell differentiation within the cerebellum, as well as providing avenues that will lead to improved treatment for this devastating disorder.

  • Professor Linda Richards - Queensland Brain Institute, The University of Queensland
  • Assoc. Prof. Thomas Burne - Queensland Brain Institute, The University of Queensland
  • Professor Richard Gronostajski - Department of Biochemistry, State University of New York at Buffalo
  • Professor Francois Guillemot - Division of Molecular Neurobiology, National Institute for Medical Research, Mill Hill, London, UK

Selected Publications

Leung L, Harris WA, Holt CE, Piper M (2015) NF-protocadherin regulates retinal ganglion cell axon behaviour in the developing visual system. PLoS One, 10(10): e0141290.

Vidovic D, Harris L, Harvey T, Heng YHE, Smith A, Osinski J, Hughes J, Thomas P, Gronostajski R, Bailey T, Piper M (2015) Expansion of the lateral ventricles and ependymal deficits underlie the hydrocephalus evident in mice lacking the transcription factor NFIX. Brain Research, 1616, 71-87.

Heng YHE, Zhou B, Harris L, Harvey T, Smith A, Horne E, Martynoga B, Andersen J, Achimastou A, Cato K, Richards L, Gronostajski R, Yeo G, Guillemot F, Bailey T, Piper M (2015) NFIX regulates proliferation and migration within the murine SVZ neurogenic niche. Cerebral Cortex 25:3758-3778.

Piper M, Barry G, Harvey TJ, McLeay R, Smith AG, Harris L, Mason S, Stringer BW, Day BW, Wray NR, Gronostajski RM, Bailey TL, Boyd AW, Richards LJ (2014) NFIB-mediated repression of the epigenetic factor Ezh2 regulates cortical development. The Journal of Neuroscience, 34:2921-2930.

Heng YHE, McLeay R, Harvey TJ, Smith AG, Barry G, Cato K, Plachez C, Little E, Mason S, Dixon C, Gronostajski RM, Bailey TL, Richards LJ, Piper M (2014) NFIX regulates neural progenitor cell differentiation during hippocampal morphogenesis. Cerebral Cortex, 24; 261-279.

Martynoga B, Mateo JL, Zhou B, Andersen J, Achimastou A, Urban N, van den Berg D, Georgopoulou D, Hadjur S, Wittbrodt J, Ettwiller L, Piper M, Gronostajski RM and Guillemot F. 2013. Epigenomic enhancer annotation reveals a key role for NFIX in neural stem cell quiescence. Genes Dev 27(16):1769-1786.

Plachez C, Cato K, McLeay R, Heng YHE, Bailey TL, Gronostajski RM, Richards LJ, Piper M (2012) Expression of Nuclear Factor One A and B in the olfactory bulb. The Journal of Comparative Neurology, 520:3135-3149.

Subramanian L, Sarkar A, Shetty A, Muralidharan B, Padmanabhan H, Piper M, Monuki E, Bach I, Gronostajski RM, Richards LJ, Tole S. (2011) Lhx2 is necessary and sufficient to suppress astrogliogenesis and promotes neurogenesis in the developing hippocampus. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108: 265-274.

Zivraj KH, Tung YCL, Piper M, Gumy L, Fawcell J, Yeo GSH, Holt CE. Subcelllular profiling reveals distinct and developmentally regulated repertoire of growth cone mRNAs. (2010) The Journal of Neuroscience, 30(46):15464-15478.

Piper M, Barry G, Hawkins J, Mason S, Lindwall C, Little E, Sarkar A, Moldrich RX, Boyle GM, Tole S, Gronostajski RM, Bailey T, Richards LJ. NFIA regulates telencephalic progenitor cell differentiation through repression of the Notch effector Hes1. (2010) The Journal of Neuroscience, 30(27):9127-9139.

Piper M, Plachez C, Zalucki O, Fothergill T, Guy Goudreau, Erzurumlu R, Gu C, Richards LJ. (2009) Neuropilin 1-Sema signalling regulates crossing of cingulate pioneering axons during development of the corpus callosum. Cerebral Cortex, 19:i11-i21.

Barry G, Piper M, Lindwall C, Moldrich R, Mason S, Little E, Sarkar A, Tole S, Gronostajski RM, Richards LJ (2008) Specific glial populations regulate hippocampal morphogenesis. The Journal of Neuroscience, 28(47): 12328-12340.

Piper M, Dwidevy A, Leung L, Bradley RS, Holt CE (2008) NF-protocadherin and TAF1 regulate axon initiation and elongation in vivo. The Journal of Neuroscience, 28 (1): 100-105.

Piper M, Anderson R, Dwivedy A, Weinl C, van Horck F, Leung KM, Cogill E, Holt C (2006) Signalling mechanisms underlying Slit2-induced collapse of retinal growth cones. Neuron, 49: 215-228.

Brunet I, Weinl C, Piper M, Trembleau A, Volovitch M, Harris W, Prochiantz A, Holt C (2005) The transcription factor Engrained-2 guides retinal axons. Nature, 438: 94-98.

Piper M, Salih S, Weinl C, Holt CE, Harris WA (2005) Endocytosis-dependent desensitization and protein synthesis-dependent resensitization in retinal growth cone adaptation. Nature Neuroscience, 8: 179-186.


PhD projects available:
If you are interested in pursuing graduate studies with us, please contact Dr. Piper for more information on available projects.

Contact details:
Dr Michael Piper
NHMRC Research Fellow
Queensland Brain Institute and the School of Biomedical Sciences
The University of Queensland
Brisbane Qld 4072
Tel: (+61 7) 3365 4484
Email: m.piper@uq.edu.au