Professor Colin Semple: Biomedical Systems Analysis

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Regulatory Genomics in Evolution
and Disease



Our group undertakes computational analyses of large-scale genomic, transcriptomic and genotyping datasets to investigate human disease and molecular evolution in mammals. Highlights have included exploratory, genome-wide studies of regulatory sequence evolution (Taylor et al, 2006) and of human chromosome structure and mutation rates (Prendergast et al, 2007). At the same time we have been active in studies of medical relevance, such as the reconstruction of regulatory networks in cancer (FANTOM Consortium, 2009).




Recent Publications

HGU Computational Genomics Laboratory




Lab Members

Current lab members involved in this work are:

  • Professor Colin Semple - Head of Bioinformatics
  • Dr Stuart Aitken - Bioinformatician
  • Dr Philippe Gautier - Bioinformatician
  • Mr Graeme Grimes - Bioinformatician
  • Dr Vera Kaiser - Bioinformatician
  • Dr Alison Meynert - Bioinformatician
  • Sarah Baker - PhD student
  • Zhenhua Hu - PhD student
  • Ben Moore - PhD student


We have also been active in more focused work, examining the regulation and evolution of genes studied by human disease geneticists. These results have guided the subsequent work of experimental biologists.


  1. Computational Genomics Laboratory



We exploit large-scale datasets to study mammalian genome function and evolution.


Approach, Progress and Future Work

We aim to build on our past work and existing collaborations to examine regulatory genomics in evolution and disease at various levels:


(i) Chromatin structure in development and disease

We have examined the correlation between chromatin fiber structure and various evolutionary parameters such as mutation and selection across the human genome (Prendergast et al, 2007). We intend to extend this work to generate new insights into development and disease states with an epigenetic component, such as cancers.


(ii) Comparative epigenomics

Developments in high throughput sequencing have provided the first glimpses of conservation and divergence of the epigenomic landscape between species (Semple and Taylor, 2009), we are currently studying the dynamics of chromatin structure over evolutionary time.


Dr Colin Semple's Lab(iii) Transcriptional regulation and molecular evolution

Our studies of the dynamics of mammalian promoter evolution concluded that primate regulatory sequences appeared to have suffered an unusual mutational spectrum (Carninci et al, 2006; Taylor et al, 2006). This work has generated new questions that we aim to address by studying patterns of mutation and selective constraint at higher resolution. In addition we are undertaking novel analyses of new datasets made available through our participation in an ongoing international consortium: the FANTOM Consortium (The FANTOM Consortium, 2009).


(iv) Prediction of causal variants in human disease

We have had a long-standing interest in prioritising genetic variants for meta-analyses of human disease (Turner et al, 2003) and in genome-wide association studies (Tenesa et al, 2008). Recent work has suggested several strategies to increase the success of such analyses.