Our current laboratory research

The role of DNA structure in eukaryotic transcriptional regulation

DNA sequences called genes pass inherited qualities from generation to generation, control of these genes is strictly regulated in terms of both when and where they are active. Regions of DNA known as promoters control this gene activity. Proteins interact with the promoter, and this in turn regulates the gene. The proteins that bind to the promoters normally recognise a specific sequence of the four bases (A, G, C and T) that compose DNA. The sequence of the four bases is extrinsic to the DNA.

However, DNA can also hold information intrinsic to itself, in its actual three-dimensional structure. The structure of DNA is dependent upon both the sequence of the bases it contains and the conditions that are present around it. Most DNA exists in what is known as the B-form structure, however other forms are known to exist, these include A-form, Z-form and triplex. Little is known of the biological significance of these other DNA forms. We study the role of these non-B form structures in eukaryotic gene regulation that can act as targets for trans acting factors. Our laboratory uses a wide range of genetic, biochemical and biophysical techniques to analyse the interaction between A-form DNA and the proteins that bind it. These include RNA micro-injection, recombinant DNA technologies, protein purification, circular dichroism, NMR and EMSA. We believe that this combined structural and functional approach will shed light on this poorly understood gene regulatory mechanism.

Canine ancient DNA analysis

In recent years ancient DNA (aDNA) has become a powerful tool in archaeological study. However aDNA has number of inherent problems based around the fragmentation and damage of the DNA over time. Given the low yields of recovered material contamination is a major issue and the work has to be undertaken in specialist positive pressure clean facilities, which we fortunately have within the department. In addition to our specialist facilities we have developed a number of specific assays focused on canine DNA as we are interested in the development of the modern English dog breeds. We have collaborations with a number of archaeological organisations that have provided us with remains that are all over 500 years old. The DNA from these remains will shed light on the genetic and phenotypic changes that have occurred in dogs prior to the extensive modern record keeping in the last 200 years. 

Current lab members

  • Garry Scarlett (Senior lecturer)
  • Liliya Nazlamova (PhD student)
  • James Richardson (Post graduate student)
  • Niru Nahar (Technical support aDNA lab)

Former lab members

  • Katrina Llewellyn (Now at University of California, Irvine, USA)
  • Valeria Runfola (Now at Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele, Milan - Italy)

Contact our researchers

Garry Scarlett Portrait

Dr Garry Scarlett

Associate Head (Academic)

Interim Head of School


School of Biological Sciences

Faculty of Science and Health

PhD Supervisor

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