The Department of Genetics consists of 22 research groups headed by University Teaching Officers and Senior Fellows, with support from a further 50-60 Postdoctoral researchers. The groups cover a wide range of interests, summarised below, and with links to group webpages.
Functional Genomics and Systems Biology
The post-genomic era has stimulated the use of high-throughput techniques for data generation. The Department is at the forefront of utilising such techniques, including - but not limited to - functional and computational genomics, bioinformatics, and genetic databases, to understand and quantify genomic processes in both invertebrate and vertebrate cells. In addition, we are involved in internationally recognised services to the research community, including , InterMine/FlyMine [Micklem], a Drosophila functional genomic facility [Russell], and a Bioinformatics teaching suite. There are also strong links with proteomics and structural biology groups in the Department of Biochemistry, and computational protein chemistry in the Department of Chemistry, to allow multi-scale studies of biological phenomena. Several groups develop tools for in vivo functional genomics, as illustrated by the genome-wide RNAi screen of C. elegans [Ahringer], and RNAi and protein trap screens in Drosophila [Russell] [St.Johnston] [O'Kane].
This represents a large area of international research strength. The Department has had a tradition of excellence in Drosophila genetics, which has underpinned the analysis of developmental processes in recent years. Members of the Department have featured prominently in these advances. In recent years Developmental Biology has been in a state of transition, and is becoming increasingly cellular in its focus and analytical methods. This is reflected in the research of several groups in the main Department [Martinez Arias] [Furner] [Ferguson-Smith], in the Stem Cell Institute [Koo], and in the Gurdon Institute [St.Johnston] [Ahringer]. The topics of interest include the role of cell signalling and gene regulation in cell fate assignments and pattern formation in Drosophila [St.Johnston] [Martinez Arias] [Russell], in plants [Furner], in C. elegans [Ahringer] and in mammalian systems in cultured stem cells and in vivo [Martinez Arias] [Ferguson-Smith] [Koo]
The major topic of interest is the cell division cycle. Errors in the cell division cycle can disrupt development and promote pathological conditions such as cancers. Cancer Research UK provides the major support in this area, although substantial funding also comes from other sources. Thus there is a critical mass of internationally-recognised groups studying aspects of cell division, and chromosome and microtubule biology in the main Department [Glover] [Farr] [Segal] [Kimata]. There are also groups studying neuronal membrane biology, cytoskeleton and protein aggregation, and their roles in neurodegeneration [O'Kane]
Epigenetic modifications to DNA and chromatin can regulate genome function, host defense mechanisms and can have a profound impact on phenotype. Using a range of model systems (e.g. genomic imprinting, transposon repression, RNA-mediated silencing) and model organisms including plants, Drosophila, C. elegans and mouse, we focus on the relationships between genotype, epigenotype and normal and abnormal phenotype. In addition, we consider the contribution of dynamic changes in epigenetic state to the properties and programming of stem cells in vivo and in vitro, and the mechanisms regulating the epigenetic programme both within and between generations. Research groups in this area conduct both computational and experimental research and include [Ahringer] [Ferguson-Smith] [Furner] [Miska] [Paszkowski]
The Department hosts microbial research groups working on E. coli [Summers] and budding yeast [Segal]. Research areas include the cell cycle, signalling, intracellular communication, and novel cell factories. Research collaborations have been established with both academic and industrial partners. The outcomes from this research includes a series of patents.
Evolution and Population Genetics
The genomes of living things contain a wealth of information about their evolutionary history, enabling us to infer the causes and timescales of past evolutionary change. Evolutionary research in the Department has a tradition extending back to the work of Ronald Fisher in the 1930s, as one of the founders of modern evolutionary genetics. Today it combines field and experimental approaches with mathematical and computational techniques, and focuses on a variety of questions, including the co-evolution of pathogens and their hosts, and the evolutionary origins of humans and primates. A focus common to all of the evolutionary labs [Jiggins] [Welch] [Scally] [Illingworth] is understanding the role of Darwinian natural selection in shaping genomes.
A full alphabetical list of groups in the Department is available HERE