Warr - Neural signalling

The Warr group studies how cells in the nervous system receive and respond to signals from the environment. We are particularly interested in how neuropeptides regulate animal growth, how cells in the olfactory system detect odour information, and how neuronal cell signalling goes wrong in motor neuron disease.

We use the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism as many of the major cell signalling pathways in mammals are conserved (and were in fact first discovered) in flies. Signalling between cells in the nervous system is highly conserved between flies and humans. For flies we have highly sophisticated genetic and molecular approaches available to study gene function and expression. They are also great lab organisms as they breed quickly, are easy to maintain, and are low cost!

Coral Warr’s web page contains more information.

Research areas

Characterisation of novel neuropeptide receptors involved in controlling growth

In animals developmental timing and growth are controlled by steroid hormones that are under complex regulation by both developmental and environmental cues. We performed a forward genetic screen and identified novel neuropeptide receptors involved in controlling growth in Drosophila, and are now characterising the mechanisms by which they control growth in response to environmental signals.

Molecular basis of odour detection in insects

We are studying the signalling mechanisms of the insect odorant receptors, and their evolution and functions in the pest species the Australian sheep blowfly. The findings of this ARC-funded project will contribute to future efforts to develop novel methods of pest control for the sheep blowfly. This project is in collaboration with Dr Trent Perry and Prof Phil Batterham at the University of Melbourne.

Determining the mechanism of altered neuronal excitability in motor neuron disease

We are using Drosophila models to determine which cell types underly the altered neuronal excitability seen prior to onset of symptoms in motor neuron disease. Understanding this will help determine intervention points and may identify novel therapeutic approaches. This project is in collaboration with Prof Tracey Dickson and Dr Rosemary Clark at the University of Tasmania.

Meet the team

Group members

Warr Lab photo

Group leader

Coral Warr

Research Assistant

Ms Emily Kerton
Ms Natasha Fahey-Lozano


Dr Mackenzie Lovegrove

PhD student

Ms Sachini Arachchilage

Masters student

Stephen Penrose




See a full list of publications on Google Scholar [external link] or view Coral Warr’s profile.