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Sex, genomes, history: molecular, evolutionary and cultural effects on human genetic diversity

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

We are interested in patterns of human genetic diversity, and how these are influenced by population-level processes including migration, social organisation, language and culture, as well as fundamental genome-level processes of mutation, copy number variation, gene conversion and recombination.

We have used population-based next-generation sequencing (NGS) approaches to generate large datasets to address these questions, comparing the diversity of the non-recombining region of the paternally inherited Y chromosome, with maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA to provide information about sex-biased population processes. We are also studying autosomal and X-chromosomal haplotypes, which provide phylogeographically informative markers.

Our current population studies focus on Western Europe and the British Isles, including patrilineal surnames as cultural markers of male coancestry. We collaborate with Leicester colleagues in History, Archaeology, and English in a multidisciplinary approach to understanding the human past, via both experimental and modelling approaches.

Our molecular evolutionary studies are focused on understanding the mutation processes affecting the evolution of the primate sex chromosomes and the functions of their genes. We have a particular interest in the influence of gene conversion on the evolution of Y-chromosomal palindromes, and on the regions of the X and Y chromosomes that share close sequence similarity. As part of these studies, our NGS experiments include great apes.

Finally, we also have a strong interest in forensic genetics and the application of human and animal genetic diversity to problems of individual and species identification, using both second- and third-generation sequencing technologies.

A PhD project is offered in one of these areas; applicants are encouraged to think of projects that would match their own areas of interest and complement our activities.

Please contact me for further information or to discuss project ideas.

We are an equal opportunities employer and particularly welcome applications for Ph.D. places from women, minority ethnic and other under-represented groups.

Funding Notes

This PhD studentship is currently for self-funded applicants only.

References

Batini, C., et al. (2015) Large-scale recent expansion of European patrilineages shown by population resequencing. Nature Commun., 6, 7152.

Hallast, P., et al. (2015) The Y-chromosome tree bursts into leaf: 13,000 high-confidence SNPs covering the majority of known clades. Mol. Biol. Evol., 32; 661-673.

Balaresque, P., et al. (2015) Y-chromosome descent clusters and male differential reproductive success: Young lineage expansions dominate Asian pastoral nomadic populations. Eur. J. Hum. Genet., doi: 10.1038/ejhg.2014.285.

Balaresque, P., et al. (2014) Gene conversion violates the stepwise mutation model for microsatellites in Y-chromosomal palindromic repeats. Hum. Mut., 35, 609-617.

Hallast, P., et al. (2013) Recombination dynamics of a human Y-chromosomal palindrome: rapid GC-biased gene conversion, multi-kilobase conversion tracts, and rare inversions. PLoS Genet. 9: e1003666.

Balaresque, P., et al. (2010). A predominantly Neolithic origin for European paternal lineages. PLoS Biol., 8, e1000285.

King, T.E. and Jobling, M.A. (2009) Founders, drift and infidelity: the relationship between Y chromosome diversity and patrilineal surnames. Mol. Biol. Evol., 26, 1093-1102.

Rosser, Z.H., et al. (2009) Gene conversion between the X chromosome and the male-specific region of the Y chromosome at a translocation hotspot. Am. J. Hum. Genet., 85, 130-134

Jobling, M.A., Hollox, E.J., Hurles, M.E., Kivisild, T. and Tyler-Smith C (2013) Human Evolutionary Genetics, 2nd edn., 670 pp., Garland Science, New York and London.

See also references listed at: http://www.le.ac.uk/genetics/maj4/maj4.html, and the Impact of Diasporas programme at: http://www2.le.ac.uk/projects/impact-of-diasporas

How good is research at University of Leicester in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 37.40

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