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Research interests

Are synonymous mutations under selection and if so why?  Are genomes randomly arranged assemblages of genes or is gene order non-random? Why are most genes apparently “redundant”?  My research approaches these and related questions employing mathematical, bioinformatical, systems biological and experimental tools.

Two classes of problem stand out. On the one hand there are features of genetic systems that appear counter-intuitive.  Why, for example, do many single celled organisms have just two mating types and inherit their organelles from just one parent, even when both gametes are the same size? On the other hand I wish to understand whether genes, genomes and genetic systems are shaped by selection (and if so why) or whether they are neutrally evolving traits. I have shown, for example, how the genetic code is well structured to minimize the effects of mistranslation. More recently I have been concerned with the evolution of isochores, of redundancy, of gene content, of selection on synonymous mutations (and codon usage bias) and gene order evolution. A decade ago it was considered that in mammals both gene order and synonymous mutations were neutrally evolving. The research of my group has been important in overturning these positions.  Gene order evolution and mechanisms for selection on synonymous mutations are the focus of much of our current work.

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  • Elucidating the Role of Long Non-coding RNAs

    Hurst, L.



    Project: Research council

  • Research Output

    A century of bias in genetics and evolution

    Hurst, L., 12 Jun 2019, In : Heredity. 123, 1, p. 33-43 11 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

    Open Access
    12 Downloads (Pure)

    Conditional expression explains molecular evolution of social genes in a microbe

    de Oliveira, J. L., Morales, A. C., Stewart, B., Gruenheit, N., Engelmoer, J., Brown, S. B., de Brito, R. A., Hurst, L. D., Urrutia, A. O., Thompson, C. R. L. & Wolf, J. B., 23 Jul 2019, In : Nature Communications. 10, 1, p. 1-12 12 p., 3284.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
    1 Citation (Scopus)


    Wang, J., Izsvák, Z. & Hurst, L., 2019, Patent No. WO 2016/055519 A1(EP3204490, US2017313978), 7 Oct 2015, Priority date 7 Oct 2014, Priority No. 10 2014 114 558.5

    Research output: Patent

    Evidence for the Success of a Quantitative Assessment Instrument for Teaching Evolution in Primary Schools in England

    Buchan, L., Hejmadi, M. & Hurst, L., 2019, Evolution Education Re-considered. Harms, U. & Reiss, M. (eds.). UK: Springer, p. 21-40 20 p.

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

    In eubacteria, unlike eukaryotes, there is no evidence for selection favouring fail-safe 3' additional stop codons

    Ho, A. T. & Hurst, L. D., 17 Sep 2019, In : Plos Genetics. 15, 9, p. 1-32 32 p., e1008386.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access


    Assessing selective processes acting on allele frequencies, genomic organisation, gene expression profiles in eukaryotic genomes

    Author: Wang, W., 10 May 2015

    Supervisor: Urrutia, A. (Supervisor) & Hurst, L. (Supervisor)

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


    Comparative and functional analysis of alternative splicing in eukaryotic genomes

    Author: Chen, L., 23 Mar 2012

    Supervisor: Urrutia, A. (Supervisor) & Hurst, L. (Supervisor)

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


    Conflict and the Evolution of Genetic Systems

    Author: Randerson, J., 1 Dec 2001

    Supervisor: Hurst, L. (Supervisor)

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


    Developing Arabidopsis thaliana as a model for use in conservation genetics

    Author: Priest, A., 1 Sep 2014

    Supervisor: Kover, P. (Supervisor) & Hurst, L. (Supervisor)

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


    Development and evaluation of resources for teaching evolution in primary schools

    Author: Buchan, L., 29 May 2019

    Supervisor: Martin, S. (Supervisor), Hejmadi, M. (Supervisor) & Hurst, L. (Supervisor)

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD