Comparative Genome Biology
Led by Professor Frank Grutzner (School of Biological Sciences)
The comparison of genes, genomes and epigenetic mechanisms in different species has provided many fundamental insights into how genes function in humans, how they evolved, and how they contribute to diseases. Studying genes in species distantly related to humans has helped in the development of novel drugs including treatment for type 2 diabetes.
The Comparative Genome Biology group study gene evolution in mammalian species distantly related to humans. Monotremes in particular (platypus and echidna) have an extraordinary sex chromosome system that can reveal novel genes and pathways involved in sex determination in humans. Monotremes experienced radical changes to their stomach anatomy and physiology, accompanied by significant loss or change in genes involved in digestion. Studying monotremes provides the opportunity to identify the role of key genes involved in stomach function and metabolism in humans, and may lead to the identification of new therapeutic targets for metabolic diseases such as diabetes.
Recently we continued to investigate the role of genes in the piRNA pathway in the ovary and ovarian cancer. We embarked new research to investigate if the interaction of genes in the nucleus changes in ovarian cancer when compared to normal cells. Additionally, we published research demonstrating that in monotremes, sex chromosomes are not silenced at male meiosis. This is a significant finding as it shows that silencing mechanisms evolved later in mammalian evolution with the emergence of the sex chromosomes in therian mammals.