About Professor Christopher R Murphy

My mission in life is to increase human understanding - particularly in the fields of structural cell biology and evolution.

Chris Murphy is the international authority on the plasma membrane of uterine epithelial cells and his work has been central to establishing that this structure is a key to understanding uterine receptivity for pregnancy as well as playing a critical role in the evolution of viviparity.

His work on the plasma membrane of uterine epithelial cells explains in precise cellular terms how the blastocyst is allowed to invade an intact epithelium through the apical surface, a highly unusual biological event and it shows how junctional complexes in all compartments of the plasma membrane are systematically down regulated.

Chris advanced and pioneered the concept of “the plasma membrane transformation”, which encapsulates and highlights the commonality across species, regardless of placental type, of changes in the organisation of this plasma membrane during early pregnancy and this concept provides a common origin for the widely disparate types of placentation seen in mammals and is now the basis for much thinking about uterine receptivity.  His identification of "uterodomes" in the uterine epithelium and the insights into human reproduction arising from it have led to new approaches to human fertility. These discoveries have prompted clinical trials which have improved implantation rates and successful pregnancies in women undergoing assisted reproductive therapies.

Chris’ recent work with Prof Mike Thompson has extended the importance of the concept of the “plasma membrane transformation” to reptiles, and shows that placentation across amniotes has commonalties at the cellular level - a key factor in understanding how placentation has evolved.

Chris’ discoveries are revolutionising the way we conceptualise placentation.

Selected publications

  • Murphy, B.F., S.L. Parker, C.R. Murphy and M.B. Thompson. Angiogenesis of the uterus and the chorioallantois in the eastern water skink Eulamprus quoyii. Journal of Experimental Biology 213: 3340-3347.  2010.  THIS PAPER  ANNOUNCED THE DISCOVERY OF THE VESSEL-DENSE ELLIPSE (VDE)     - A UTERINE MODIFICATION FOR LIVE BIRTH IN LIZARDS.
  • Kaneko, Y., L.A. Lindsay and C.R. Murphy. Focal adhesions disassemble during early pregnancy in rat uterine epithelial cells. Reproduction, Fertility and Development 20: 892-899. 2008.  ESTABLISHED THAT THE BASAL PLASMA MEMBRANE STRUCTURES, FOCAL ADHESIONS, MUST BE DOWN-REGULATED TO ALLOW THE BLASTOCYST TO PENETRATE THE UTERINE EPITHELIUM.
  • Lindsay, L.A. and C.R. Murphy. Redistribution of aquaporins 1 and 5 in the rat uterus is dependant on progesterone: a study with light and electron microscopy. Reproduction 131: 369-378.  2006.  SHOWED FOR THE FIRST TIME THAT THE MEMBRANE-BOUND WATER CHANNELS, THE AQUAPORINS, ARE INVOLVED IN REGULATING FLUID BALANCE IN THE UTERINE LUMEN.
  • Murphy, C.R. Uterine receptivity and the plasma membrane transformation. Cell Research 14: 258-267. 2004.  AN INVITED REVIEW WHICH HAS SINCE BECOME THE STANDARD REFERENCE ON THE PLASMA MEMBRANE TRANSFORMATION AND WHICH ESTABLISHED FOR THE FIRST TIME THAT THIS PHENOMENON APPLIED ACROSS AMNIOTE VERTEBRATES.
  • Murphy, C.R. Pinopods - or uterodomes? 2000. Human Reproduction 15: 2451-54. SUGGESTED NEW ROLES AND A NOW WIDELY ACCEPTED NEW NAME FOR THIS KEY UTERINE CELLULAR STRUCTURE.
  • Murphy, C.R. 2000. Junctional barrier complexes undergo major alterations during the plasma membrane transformation of uterine epithelial cells. Human Reproduction 15, Suppl 3: 182-8.  SHOWED THAT ALL COMPONENTS OF JUNCTIONAL COMPLEXES ARE INVOLVED IN UTERINE RECEPTIVITY AND DEVELOPED A NEW SYNTHESIS OF THEIR ROLE IN THE PLASMA MEMBRANE TRANSFORMATION.
  • Murphy, C.R. 1995. The cytoskeleton of uterine epithelial cells: a new player in uterine receptivity and the plasma membrane transformation. Human Reproduction Update 1: 567-580.  DEVELOPED THE CONCEPT THAT THE MEMBRANE SKELETON WAS PART OF THE PLASMA MEMBRANE TRANSFORMATION AND SUGGESTED A ROLE FOR MEMBRANE ELEMENTS IN THAT TRANSFORMATION.
  • Murphy, C.R. 1993. The plasma membrane of uterine epithelial cells: structure and histochemistry. Gustav Fischer Verlag: Stuttgart and New York. Published as both a book (ISBN 3-437-11514-6) and a serial - Progress in Histochemistry and Cytochemistry (27:3).  THIS BOOK BROUGHT TOGETHER DISPARATE DATA ON UTERINE RECEPTIVITY AND SYNTHESISED A NEW VIEW ON THE ROLE OF THE PLASMA MEMBRANE OF UTERINE EPITHELIAL CELLS
  • Luxford, K.A. and C.R. Murphy. 1992. Reorganization of the apical cytoskeleton of uterine epithelial cells during early pregnancy in the rat : a study with myosin subfragment 1. Biology of the Cell 74:195-202.  SHOWED FOR THE FIRST TIME THAT THE CYTOSKELETON WAS ALTERED IN UTERINE EPITHELIAL CELLS DURING UTERINE RECEPTIVITY.
  • Murphy, C.R., J.G. Swift, T.M. Mukherjee and A.W. Rogers. 1982. Changes in the fine structure of the apical plasma membrane of endometrial epithelial cells during implantation in the rat. Journal of Cell Science 55:1-12.  ESTABLISHED THAT MAJOR MOLECULAR ALTERATIONS OCCUR IN THIS PLASMA MEMBRANE DURING UTERINE RECEPTIVITY IN NORMAL PREGNANCY.