Dr Ian Adams: Chromosomes and Gene Expression

Chromosomes in meiosis. Chromosome axes are labelled red, and centromeres labelled green.

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Genetic and Chromosomal Stability in Mammalian Germ Cells



Germ cells are responsible for transmitting genetic information from one generation to the next. Meiosis, a specialised form of cell division that halves the number of chromosomes in male and female germ cells, is central to germ cell development and heredity. We are interested in how male and female germ cells protect the genome from mutation during their development, and how the germ cells ensure that the correct number of chromosomes is transmitted from generation to generation.




Key Publications

  1. Crichton JH, Dunican DS, Maclennan M, Meehan RR*, and Adams IR* (2014). Defending the genome from the enemy within: mechanisms of retrotransposon suppression in the mouse germline. Cell. Mol. Life Sci. 71: 1581–1605.
  2. Dunican DS, Cruickshanks HA, Suzuki M, Semple CA, Davey T, Arceci RJ, Greally J, Adams IR*, and Meehan RR* (2013). Lsh regulates LTR retrotransposon repression independently of Dnmt3b function. Genome Biol. 14: R146.
  3. Reichmann J, Reddington JP, Best D, Read D, Öllinger R, Meehan RR*, and Adams IR* (2013). The genome-defence gene Tex19.1 suppresses LINE-1 retrotransposons in the placenta and prevents intra-uterine growth retardation in mice. Hum. Mol. Genet. 22: 1791–1806.
  4. Hackett JA, Reddington JP, Nestor CE, Dunican DS, Branco MR, Reichmann J, Reik W, Surani MA, Adams IR*, and Meehan RR* (2012). Promoter DNA methylation couples genome-defence mechanisms to epigenetic reprogramming in the mouse germline. Development 139: 3623–3632.
  5. Reichmann J, Crichton JH, Madej MJ, Taggart M, Gautier P, Garcia-Perez JL, Meehan RR, and Adams IR (2012). Microarray analysis of LTR retrotransposon silencing identifies Hdac1 as a regulator of retrotransposon expression in mouse embryonic stem cells. PLoS Comput. Biol. 8: e1002486.
  6. Öllinger R, Reichmann J, and Adams IR (2010). Meiosis and retrotransposon silencing during germ cell development in mice. Differentiation 79: 147–158.
  7. Best D, Sahlender DA, Walther N, Peden AA, and Adams IR (2008). Sdmg1 is a conserved transmembrane protein associated with germ cell sex determination and germline-soma interactions in mice. Development 135: 1415–1425.
  8. Öllinger R, Childs AJ, Burgess HM, Speed RM, Lundegaard PR, Reynolds N, Gray NK, Cooke HJ*, and Adams IR* (2008). Deletion of the pluripotency-associated Tex19.1 gene causes activation of endogenous retroviruses and defective spermatogenesis in mice. PLoS Genet. 4: e1000199.


Lab Members

Current lab members involved in this work are:

  • Marie Maclennan
  • James Crichton
  • Chris Playfoot
  • Abby Wilson
  • David Read
  • Karen Dobie


Genetic and Chromosomal Stability in Mammalian Germ Cells

Genome instability in the developing germline results in the transmission of new mutations and chromosomal changes into the next generation where they can cause developmental abnormalities, lethality, and human genetic disease. In particular, chromosomal aneuploidies, which arise at high frequencies in ageing human oocytes, are a leading cause of miscarriage and genetic diseases such as Down’s syndrome in human populations. Our research aims to characterise the pathways that promote genome stability in germ cells and pluripotent cells, thereby advancing our understanding of the basic biological mechanisms that cause human genetic disease.


Genes involved in defending the genome against the mutagenic activity of mobile genetic elements play a crucial role in maintaining genetic stability and in preventing aneuploidy in the germline. We have recently discovered a novel germline genome defence pathway that protects germ cells from endogenous retroviruses present in the genome, and helps to ensure that the correct number of chromosomes is transmitted to the next generation. We are currently using mice as a model system to investigate the consequences of failing to suppress mobile genetic elements in the germline, and to understand why mutations in germline genome defence genes lead to defects in meiosis in the developing germline. Currently, very little is known about cell type-specific regulation of chromosome segregation, and our research is aimed at advancing our understanding of the basic biological processes that can influence the rates of mutation and aneuploidy in mammalian sperm, eggs and embryos.



To investigate molecular mechanisms involved in maintaining genetic and chromosomal stability in mammalian germ cells


Approach, Progress and Future Work

We use genetic manipulation in embryonic stem cells in order to investigate genes involved in germ cell function, and variety of techniques in genetics, biochemistry, developmental biology, bioinformatics, microscopy, and molecular and cell biology to study genetic and chromosomal stability using appropriate model systems.