Research projects on Diversity, Genetics, Genomics, Molecular Cytogenetics, Chromosomes, Genome Organization, Cells and Systems Biology in Crop Plants and other Species
Pat Heslop-Harrison and Trude Schwarzacher, Department of Biology, University of Leicester, LE1 7RH UK. E-mail: PHH4(a) & TS32(a) Phone: +44/0 116 252 3381; FAX: +44/0 116 252 3330

April 2012 Update: some new papers on molecular cytogenetics and plant breeding; activity on YouTube
Our Publication List and Abstracts are Updated Link to Previous News Stories from this page


Darwin Phylogenetics Tree

It is always good to be able to publish something directly related to Darwin, and a new review paper of ours reproduces part of the only figure there is in his most famous opus, The Origin of Species, from 1859. Give me an instruction, in this case, "focus on work published in the last two years", and I can't resist doing the opposite - but I hope the article makes the point of how his work underpins all we are doing on evolution and phylogeny today, with huge amounts of extra data. The review is in doi: 10.1016/j.pbi.2012.03.006 Current Opinion in Plant Biology or as an author-preprint at GenomeEvolution_AuthorPreprint.pdf. The review is based on a talk HeslopHarrison_PGE11_Amsterdam.pdf.

Activity continues on YouTube, with several videos posted in 2012, incluidng some in 'virtual studio' format, and others relating to different aspects of plant biology - see the full pathh1 channel at

I like to see real technology, normally hidden from view: here is a 2-stone roadside flour mill with sieves separating bran and flour.



The molecular cytogenetics research group at the University of Leicester studies the diversity, evolution and function of the chromosomes, genes and other nuclear DNA of plant and animals. Our work has a focus on crop plants and their wild relatives as well as model plants, fungi, bacteria and animals (Drosophila and cows). We make and use new hybrid plants to investigate the transfer and exploitation of novel genetic diversity in crops. The techniques include molecular biology and genomics, bioinformatics, systems biology, growing and crossing plants, and techniques include microscopy and in situ hybridization to examine the physical organization of DNA sequences that make up the genome.

Collaboration with groups internationally is very important, and we work on joint research projects with many countries, both for gaining applicable results and training or technology transfer: in the first half of the year 2011, we have had people from 15 countries from four continents working with us here in Leicester.


Brassica Rfo gene location

Work with Tarja Niemelä and colleagues has shown the location of the fertility restoration gene Rfk in Brassicaceae: the chromosomes on the left show strong sites at the end of an unstable chromosome from radish (red) introgressed into a turnip rape (Brassica rapa) line, where the homologous sites show weak hybridization (green) at the ends of the chromosomes.

See original paper in Chromosome Research 10.1007/s10577-012-9280-5 or the free author-preprint.


AoB BlogAnnals of Botany Blog:

The Annals of Botany Blog features Snapshots of all the papers published in this primary academic Journal, and news items about everything botanical - from the Plant Cuttings, and from other Journals and the press around the world. As Editor, Pat Heslop-Harrison writes his own blogs about, mostly but not entirely, botany, science and dissemination. Along with my colleagues involved with editing and the website development, we hope that the features relevant to plant science, the environment and our own interests, will reach a new audience and show some of the exciting work we are doing!

Pat Heslop-Harrison, Trude Schwarzacher and the Molecular Cytogenetics and Plant Cell Biology Group study the biology of the cell nucleus: its spatial and dynamic organisation or architecture, the function and interactions of its components, and the nature, evolution, expression, recombination and segregation of the DNA sequences within the nucleus at interphase, mitosis and meiosis. We look at repetitive DNA and its evolution, with a particular focus on tandemly repeated satellite sequences and retrotransposons. We look at the biodiversity of genes, particularly in crops, and those related to pathology and disease resistance, sustainability and consumer traits, and abiotic stress and have interests in sources and uses of genomic mutations. Key methods include molecular cytogenetics, DNA sequence analysis and systems biology approaches. Taking a comparative genomics approach, we have interlinked projects with a range of different species: a particular focus is on plant crop species (banana, cereals including wheat, rye and barley, Brassicas, Saffron Crocus and Pea/Groundnut), while important projects include work with Dictyostelium and E. coli, Drosophila, Scallops (Pecten), and bovids. We have a number of projects on germplasm utilization in plant breeding.


Related websites: for our Systems Biology work. for our spin-out company involved in hyperspectal quantitative imaging. for information about a new EU project on Saffon Crocus and its relatives

Link to PubMed database and paper downloads (click on 'page' icon next to title).
Downloads of recent lectures, including one on banana and genomic sequencing with new preliminary results on heterozygosity, and other information is available from .

The group has four major aims:

Research on the fundamental biology of the genome
Application of research in crops and animals of importance to tropical agriculture
Development of novel technology for biological research
Technology transfer and training in the approaches we use.

Chromosomes with in situ hybridization
Our molecular cytogenetics lab is in the Adrian Building of the University of Leicester. It includes the major wet-lab and informatics areas, with two air conditioned fluorescent microscope rooms, equipment and cold rooms across the hall. This photograph is taken from outside the staff offices.
We use a combination of genetic, molecular and cytological methods - molecular cytogenetics - including in situ hybridization (hybridisation), fluorescence microscopy, electron microscopy, flow cytometry, DNA microarray and oligonucleotide hybridization. supported by development and application of modelling and structural/mathematical techniques as well as molecular biology. Repetitive DNA in the genome is important for evolutionary, genetic, taxonomic and applied studies, providing polymorphic markers. Repetitive sequences include microsatellites or simple sequence repeats, retrotransposons and retroelements, genes, and tandemly repeated elements.

Our work is important in showing the evolution and interaction of the majority of sequences in the genome, and their physical and functional relationships. The unifying aim of our work in terms of fundamental biology is the understanding of the dynamic and functional architecture of the cell nucleus, leading to an integrated structural, physical and functional map of the genome.

A lot of this fundamental work is directed towards applications in biodiversity studies, phylogenetic and evolution, and for uses by plant breeders, particularly in agriculture of subsistence and smallholder farmers. For example, plant breeders need to know about how evolution occurs, the diversity that is available to them, and how genes recombine and are involved in generation of somaclonal variation and functional genomics. Our work with mammals and insects has veterinary and medical implications.

Key areas of our research are:

Large scale organization and evolution of genomes
The function of repetitive DNA sequences,
including those at the centromeres
The evolution of repetitive, tandemly repeated satellite sequences
The assessment of biodiversity in wild and cultivated species
The technology of fluorescence imaging, improving the sensitivity, quantification and discrimination of probes used for
in situ and microarray hybridization
The understanding of the origin, diversity and evolution of agricultural species
The improvement of crop species using novel germplasm, particularly for applications in developing countries
Understanding genome modulation in hybrids and polyploids
The application of mathematical approaches to 1) evolutionary and sequence analysis problems ('bioinformatics') and 2) of systems biology approaches to understand interactions ocurring in the cell - its nucleus and cytoplasm
Understanding genome modulation in hybrids and polyploids
systems biology, Dictyostelium Following the effects of alteration of DNA methylation and DNA protein interactions
Characterizing the nature and behaviour of the centromere and it associated DNA sequences



Cover Practical in situ hybridization book

Practical In situ Hybridization - Schwarzacher & Heslop-Harrison 2000
is available easily from (second hand only from

Price Euro€/US$70, GBP£38, JPY10,500

Buy this book from amazon

Ears of wheat species oil palm chromosomes probed with telomeric sequence and NOR probe Arabidopsis centromeric sequence

The current projects are within the University of Leicester. As part of cell biology, our interests include the RNA and proteins located within the nucleus, and their temporal and spatial relationships. We take a comparative approach to genome analysis, investigating many different species to find universal and species-specific features of genome organization. In animals, we work with the Bovideae, rodents and some insects. Within plants, we work with the Gramineae (wheat, rye, barley), Chenopodiaceae (sugar beet), Palmae (oil palm), Pinaceae (pine, spruce), Leguminoseae, Iridacae (Crocus), Cruciferae (Brassica and Arabidopsis), Musaceae (banana). In systems biology, we use Dictyostelium models.

Pat Heslop-Harrison is Professor of Molecular Cytogenetics and Cell Biology at the University of Leicester. His interests include genetic diversity, crop evolution and breeding. Pat Heslop-Harrison moved from the Karyobiology Group, John Innes Centre, Norwich UK in October 2000. Trude Schwarzacher is Lecturer in Molecular cytogenetics in the University of Leicester. She moved from the Cereals Department, John Innes Centre in January 2001. To assist indexing programmes, this home page is designed to be key-word rich, and variant spellings are used (e.g. organization/organisation, labelling/labeling, hybridization/hybidisation). Sadly my Dawes Kara kum Karakum bike bicycle second hand used red forks silver gray frame 20" 22" was stolen serial number Dawes Karakum J20400801 J 20400801 was stolen from the University - any info to phh4(a)

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