Dr Leda Mirbahai

Dr Leda Mirbahai

School of Biosciences
Birmingham Fellow in Epigenomics

Contact details

School of Biosciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Dr Mirbahai was appointed as a Birmingham Fellow in 2015. Her research focuses on using cutting edge technologies, such as high throughput sequencing to answer questions about the role of epigenetic factors in health and disease and chemical risk assessment. Her research spans from characterising the role of epigenetic factors in accelerating ageing to environmental toxico-epigenomics. 


  • PhD (Environmental toxico-epigenomics) University of Birmingham
  • MSc (Toxicology) University of Birmingham
  • BSc (Microbiology) University of Azad


Dr Leda Mirbahai completed her PhD in the field of environmental toxico-epigenomics at the University of Birmingham. Her research established a new insight into epigenetic mechanisms associated with tumourigenesis which resulted in publication of the first comprehensive DNA methylation profiling of adult zebrafish liver alongside the first application of Methylated DNA Immunoprecipitation (MeDIP) combined with de novo high-throughput DNA sequencing in any un-sequenced species. During subsequent postdoctoral appointments at the University of Birmingham and FHNW in Switzerland, she gained substantial training in the use of alternative models, such as Daphnia for epigenetic research.  

Her work has gained her an international recognition within the field of environmental epigenomics and has led to several invitations to write review papers on the subjects of environmental epigenetics and use of zebrafish for toxicoepigenomics research. Her work has been recognised and awarded by AstraZeneca, the British Society of Toxicology and the University of Birmingham.

Dr Mirbahai joined the faculty of the University of Birmingham in August 2015, as part of the Birmingham Fellows program.


Dr Mirbahai teaches epigenomics on a range of undergraduate and postgraduate course.

Postgraduate supervision

Dr Mirbahai is currently recruiting graduate students and postdocs interested in epigenomics, ageing and/or bioinformatics.  A list of possible PhD projects offered by Dr Mirbahai is available on FindAPhD. Limited number of summer internships, MSci and MRes projects in the areas of epigenetics, ageing and toxicology are also available.Interested candidates should email their CV and a brief statement (<1 page) outlining their research interests to l.mirbahai@bham.ac.uk.


Research in Dr Mirbahai’s lab utilizes molecular genetics approaches to investigate the role of epigenetic factors in health and disease as well as understanding how they contribute towards the way species sense and respond to environmental stressors.

1) Epigenetics and ageing:

A main research focus in Dr Mirbahai’s lab is to understand the epigenetic component of ageing. It is thought that the 'epigenetic drift' in the genome accumulates with age, increasing an individual's risk of developing disease. The direction and severity of epigenetic drift is influenced by external factors. Therefore the aim of the research conducted at Dr Mirbahai’s lab is to: (A) identify epigenetic pathways influencing ageing, longevity and age-associated diseases (B) promote healthy ageing by genetically and chemically manipulating the identified pathways (C) Establish alternative models for epigenetic research into complex trait.

2) Environmental toxico-epigenomics

One of the research areas in Dr Mirbahai’s lab is to advance environmental toxico-epigenomics by (A) progressing predictive toxicology based on genomics and epigenomics pathways, (B) identifying epigenetic biomarker for assessing the long-term effect of environmental pollutants, (C) discovering genetic and epigenetic mechanisms of adaptive and adverse responses in organisms after chronic exposure to low doses of stressors and (D) generating the methylome of environmentally-relevant species, such as Daphnia. The overall aim is to accomplish a mechanistic understanding of how organisms and their populations sense and cope with environmental stress, including chemicals. 

Other activities

  • Recipient of the 2009 British Toxicology Society (BTS) award, presented at the BTS Spring meeting, held at the University of Warwick
  • Recipient of Astra Zeneca project awards, 2009, University of Birmingham
  • Recipient of the Royal Society International Exchange and European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) workshop grants
  • Co-hosted the “EMBO Conference on The mighty Daphnia: Past, present and future”, University of Birmingham, UK, January 2014
  • Invited speaker at several conferences, such as Eurotox 2014
  • Member of ‘Epigenetics Society’ and ‘British Society for Research on Ageing’


Selected publications

  • Olsvik, P.A., Williams, T.D., Tung, H., Mirbahai, L., Sanden, M., Skjaerven, K.H., Ellingsen, S. (2014) Impacts of TCCDD and MeHg on DNA methylation in zebrafish (Danio rerio). Comp Biochem Physiol C Toxicol Pharmacol. S1532-0456(14)00077-5.
  • Zucchi, S*., Mirbahai, L*., Castiglioni, S., Chew, G., Fent, K. (2014) Transcriptional and physiological responses induced by binary mixtures of drospirenone and progesterone in zebrafish (Danio rerio). Environ Sci Technol. 48(6): 3523-31 (* co-first author)
  • Mirbahai, L., Chipman, J.K. (2014) Epigenetic memory of environmental organisms: a reflection of life-time stressor exposures. Mutation Research: Genet. Toxicol. Environ. Mutagen. 764-765: 10-17
  • Williams, T.D., Mirbahai, L., Chipman, J.K. (2014) The toxicological application of transcriptomics and epigenomics in zebrafish and other teleosts. Brief Funct Genomics. 13(2):157-71. (invited review paper)
  • Mirbahai, L., Southam, A.D., Sommer, U., Williams, T.D., Bignell, J.P., Lyons, B.P., Viant, M.R., Chipman, J.K. (2013) Disruption of DNA methylation via S-adenosylhomocysteine is a key process in high incidence liver carcinogenesis in fish. J Proteome Res. 12(6) 2895-2904
  • Chan, T., Williams, T.D., Mally, A., Hamberger, C., Mirbahai, L., Hickling, K., Chipman, J.K. (2012) Gene expression and epigenetic changes by furan in rat liver. Toxicology. 292 (2-3): 63-70
  • Mirbahai, L., Yin, G., Bignell, J.P., Li, N., Williams, T.D., Chipman, J.K. (2011) DNA methylation in liver tumorigenesis in fish from the environment. Epigenetics. 6(11) 1319-1333 [Publication of this paper led to an interview by GenomeWeb news]
  • Mirbahai, L., Williams, T.D., Zhan, H., Gong, Z., Chipman, J.K. (2011) Comprehensive profiling of zebrafish hepatic proximal promoter CpG island methylation and its modification during chemical carcinogenesis. BMC Genomics, 12 1-16
  • Mirbahai, L., Kershaw, R.M., Green, R.M., Hayden, R.E., Meldrum, R.A., Hodges, N.J. (2010) Use of a molecular beacon to track the activity of base excision repair protein OGG1 in live cells. DNA Repair, 9 144-152