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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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Projects 2004 2021

Elucidating the Role of Long Non-coding RNAs

Hurst, L.


Project: Research council

Long Noncoding RNA
Untranslated RNA
Small Untranslated RNA
Human Genome Project


Hurst, L.


Project: EU Commission

Gene Transfer Techniques
Intergenic DNA

Research Output 2000 2019

A century of bias in genetics and evolution

Hurst, L., 29 Jan 2019, (Accepted/In press) In : Heredity.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Endogenous Stochastic Decoding of the CUG Codon by Competing Ser- and Leu-tRNAs in Ascoidea asiatica

Mühlhausen, S., Schmitt, H. D., Pan, K. T., Plessmann, U., Urlaub, H., Hurst, L. D. & Kollmar, M., 9 Jul 2018, In : Current Biology. 28, 13, p. 2046-2057.e5

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
RNA, Transfer, Ser
RNA, Transfer, Leu
1 Citations (Scopus)

Epistasis analysis uncovers hidden antibiotic resistance-associated fitness costs hampering the evolution of MRSA

Yokoyama, M., Stevens, E., Laabei, M., Bacon, L., Heesom, K., Bayliss, S., Ooi, N., O'Neill, A. J., Murray, E., Williams, P., Lubben, A., Reeksting, S., Meric, G., Pascoe, B., Sheppard, S. K., Recker, M., Hurst, L. D. & Massey, R. C., Jul 2018, In : Genome Biology. 19, 1, 94.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
antibiotic resistance
Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus
Microbial Drug Resistance

Exonic splice regulation imposes strong selection at synonymous sites

Savisaar, R. & Hurst, L., 24 Aug 2018, In : Genome Research.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
Inborn Genetic Diseases
Genetic Selection
4 Citations (Scopus)

Faster Evolving Primate Genes Are More Likely to Duplicate

O'Toole, Á. N., Hurst, L. D. & McLysaght, A., 1 Jan 2018, In : Molecular Biology and Evolution. 35, 1, p. 107-118 12 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access