Professor Alpha Yap

Professorial Research Fellow

Institute for Molecular Bioscience

Affiliated Professor

School of Biomedical Sciences
Faculty of Medicine
+61 7 334 62013


My group studies the role of cadherin cell adhesion molecules in morphogenesis and tumor development. E-cadherin is a key mediator of cell-cell recognition. It participates in tissue patterning and its dysfunction contributes to tumor progression and invasion.

Associate Professor Yap is the group leader for Cadherin cell adhesion molecules, Epithelial morphogenesis & Cell locomotion research at the IMB.

Research Interests

  • Cadherin cell adhesion molecules, Epithelial morphogenesis & Cell locomotion
    We seek to understand the cellular basis of cadherin recognition, and how this controls cell movement and organisation. We are studying the molecular and cellular mechanisms by which cadherin cell adhesion molecules mediate cell-cell recognition. Our current work builds on two recent discoveries made by my lab. Firstly, we found that E-cadherin, the principal cadherin molecule found in epithelial tissues, functions as an adhesion-activated cell signaling receptor. In particular, upon adhesion E-cadherin activates signaling via the small GTPase, Rac, and the lipid kinase PI3-kinase. Finally, an important potential target of this signaling receptor is the Arp2/3 protein complex, a protein machine that nucleates assembly of actin filaments. We were the first to discover that E-cadherin interacts with the Arp2/3 complex to mark sites for actin assembly within cells. We are now exploring the general hypothesis that cadherin-activated signaling controls the subcellular localization and activity of Arp2/3 to modulate cell shape changes and motility in response to productive cell-cell recognition.


  • Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Queensland
  • Fellow Royal Australasian College of Physicians
  • Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (Hons), The University of Queensland
  • Bachelor of Medical Science, The University of Queensland


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Book Chapter

  • Priya, Rashmi and Yap, Alpha S. (2015). Active Tension: The Role of Cadherin Adhesion and Signaling in Generating Junctional Contractility. In Alpha S. Yap (Ed.), Cellular Adhesion in Development and Disease (pp. 65-102) Maryland Heights, MO United States: Academic Press. doi:10.1016/bs.ctdb.2014.11.016

  • Yap, Alpha S. (2015). Preface. In Yap, AS (Ed.), Cellular adhesion in development and disease (pp. xv-xvii) Maryland Heights, MO United States: Academic Press. doi:10.1016/S0070-2153(15)00024-1

  • Ratheesh, Aparna, Priya, Rashmi and Yap, Alpha S. (2013). Coordinating Rho and Rac: the regulation of Rho GTPase signaling and cadherin junctions. In Frans Van Roy (Ed.), Progress in molecular biology and translational science: the molecular biology of cadherins (pp. 49-68) London, United Kingdom: Academic Press (Elsevier). doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-394311-8.00003-0

  • Han, Siew Ping and Yap, Alpha S. (2012). The cytoskeleton and classical cadherin adhesions. In Tony Harris (Ed.), Adherens junctions: From molecular mechanisms to tissue development and disease (pp. 111-135) Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-94-007-4186-7_6

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Other Outputs

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

Completed Supervision