Molecular mechanisms that regulate cell development and differentiation

our-research-bodyIn parallel with studies of cancer cells, we are investigating basic molecular mechanisms that control cell development, differentiation and function.

We employ diverse model organisms from humans to mice, fish frogs and fruit flies in order to study the function and regulation of the genome.

These studies include:

Epigenetics and genome function

We use genome-wide approaches to study the roles of epigenetic modifications within chromatin. These tools are employed by many of our research groups who share common interests. We are investigating the roles of histone modifications and the enzymes that modify histones. We also use genome-wide epigenetic profiling as a tool to define regulatory networks within cells.

Key researchers

Paul Badenhorst Drosophila development and epigenetics
Constanze Bonifer Epigenetics and gene regulation in blood cells
Peter Cockerill Epigenetics and gene regulation in blood cells
Carmel McConville Gene expression in neuronal cancer
Bryan Turner Regulation of histone modifications

The regulation of stem cell development

Stem cells differentiate progressively from primitive embryonic stem cells to stem cells (ES cells) committed to different lineages that ultimately give rise to all the various differentiated tissues. We are studying the molecular pathways that control the development of ES cells to mature lineages such as blood cells. We are also investigating the roles of specific genes such as the RUNX, AP-1 and MYB families of transcription factors in these processes.

Key researchers

Constanze Bonifer Epigenetics and gene regulation in blood cells
Jonathon Frampton Blood stem cells and leukaemia
Paloma Garcia The role of MYB proteins in blood cells
Rui Monteiro

TGFb signalling in haematopoiesis and endothelial biology

Chromatin programming and transcription regulation in Zebrafish

We are investigating the regulation of differential gene expression during vertebrate embryo development and comparative/functional genomic analysis of cis-regulatory elements. We use high throughput approaches to study transcriptional regulators in the zebrafish embryo model system.

Key researcher

Rui Monteiro TGFb signalling in haematopoiesis and endothelial biology
Ferenc Mueller Gene regulation and development in zebrafish

The roles of ATP dependent chromatin remodelling enzymes in drosophila

We are using drosophila blood cell development as a model system for studying the functions of chromatin remodellers in blood cell development.

Key researcher

 Paul Badenhorst  Drosophila development and epigenetics

The establishment and maintenance of memory T cells

We are using genome-wide epigenetic and transcriptional profiling to define the molecular basis of acquired immunity that represents the fundamental basis of our response to infections and vaccination.

Key researcher

 Peter Cockerill  Epigenetics and gene regulation in blood cells


Autophagy is an intracellular degradation pathway essential for cell survival. We are studying the regulation and therapeutic application of autophagy in human cellular platforms using human embryonic stem cells and disease-specific human induced pluripotent stem cells.

Key researcher

 Sovan Sarkar  Autophagy in health and disease

The roles of inherited mutations in rare diseases

Our research has defined specific mutations and molecular pathways that are disrupted in specific inherited diseases that lead to diabetes and many other disorders. The diseases we investigate include Wolfram Syndrome, Wolcott Rollison syndrome, and Alstrom Syndrome, as well as lysosomal storage disorders. This research is brought together under the umbrella of the Centre for Rare Disease Studies (CRDS) Birmingham.

Key researchers

 Tim Barrett  Paediatric genetics and rare diseases
 Richard Tuxworth  Lysosomal storage diseases