School of Life Sciences

John Brookfield

Professor Emeritus,



BA in Zoology, University of Oxford 1976; Ph. D in Population Genetics, University of London 1980; Research Demonstrator in Genetics, University College of Swansea 1979-1981; Visiting Fellow, Laboratory of Genetics, The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, North Carolina 1981-1983; Lecturer in Genetics, University of Leicester 1983-1986; Lecturer (1987), Reader (1997) and Professor of Evolutionary Genetics (2004) University of Nottingham. Managing Editor, Heredity (2000-2003). Vice-President (External Affairs), Genetics Society 2008-2012, Appointed Fellow of the Institute of Biology, 2009. Member RAE Biological Sciences Panel and Sub-Panel, 2001 and 2008. Deputy Head, School of Life Sciences (2016-18). Retired and Professor Emeritus 2020

Expertise Summary

Population and evolutionary genetics, mathematical biology

Teaching Summary

Dr Brookfield's teaching concerned evolutionary and population genetics, statistics, including advanced Bayesian statistics. He stopped teaching on retirement in June 2020.

Research Summary

I have been interested in a variety of projects concerned with how the genome evolves. We have focused on the evolution of mobile repetitive DNA sequences.

My interests are in the application of evolutionary theory to problems in molecular genetics. Currently, my research includes

Evolution of Interspersed Repetitive DNAs

I have been interested in the evolutionary processes underlying the spread and diversification of mobile genetic elements and their inactive descendants in animal genomes. We have demonstrated that the common ancestry of mammalian Class II mobile elements (moving as DNA rather than through RNA intermediates) from a given mammalian genome is almost as old as the initial invasion of the ancestral genome by the element family, suggesting that there has been little turnover in these element families since their initial proliferation (Hellen and Brookfield 2011, 2013a, 2013b). In studies of the primate Alu sequence family, we have characterised new subfamilies of elements (Styles and Brookfield 2009), and have demonstrated that there is preferential loss of Alu elements from the most gene-rich areas of ape and human genomes, rather than the preferential retention that was supported by earlier data analyses (Hellen and Brookfield 2013c).


Styles, P. and Brookfield, J.F.Y. (2009) Source gene composition and gene conversion of the AluYh and AluYi lineages of retrotransposons. BMC Evolutionary Biology 9: 102

Hellen, E. H. B. and Brookfield, J.F. (2011) Investigation of the Origin and Spread of a Mammalian Transposable Element Based on Current Sequence Diversity Journal of Molecular Evolution 73: 287-296

Brookfield John F.Y. (2011) Host-parasite relationships in the genome. BMC Biology 9: 67

Hellen, E.H.B., and Brookfield, J.F.Y., (2013a) The diversity of Class II transposable elements in mammalian genomes has arisen from ancestral phylogenetic splits during ancient waves of proliferation through the genome. Molecular Biology and Evolution 30: 100-108

Hellen, E.B.H. and Brookfield, J.F.Y. (2013b) Transposable element invasions. Mobile Genetic Elements 3: 1-4.

Hellen, E.H.B, and Brookfield (2013c) Alu elements in primates are preferentially lost from areas of high GC content. PeerJ 1:e78

Adaptive and Neutral Evolutionary Change

I have a general interest in the process of evolution and the contribution of adaptive and neutral changes to this evolution. One study has investigated population genetic variation in host preference in the mosquito Aedes aegypti. The population genetic variation underlying human disease has been another interest, as has been the rate of morphological evolution.


Brookfield, J.F.Y. (2009) Evolution and Evolvability: Celebrating Darwin 200. Biology Letters 5: 44-46.

Stanczyk, N., Brookfield, J.F.Y., Ignell, R., Logan, J.G., and Field, L.M. (2010) Behavioural insensitivity to DEET in Aedes aegypti: A genetically determined trait residing in changes in sensillum function. PNAS 107: 8575-8580

Brookfield, J.F.Y. (2010) Experimental Evolution: The Rate of Adaptive Evolution. Current Biology 20: R23-25.

Brookfield, J.F.Y. (2010) Q & A: Promise and pitfalls of genome-wide association studies. BMC Biology 8: 41

Brookfield, J.F.Y. (2011) Dangers of "Adaptation". Heredity108:260

Brookfield, J.F.Y. (2012) Quick Guide: Heritability. Current Biology 22: R217-R219

Phinchongsakuldit, J, Chaipakdee, P., Collins, J.F., Haroensutasinee, M, and Brookfield, J.F.Y. (2013) Population genetics of cobia (Rachycentron canadum) in The Gulf of Thailand and Andaman Sea: Fisheries management implications Aquaculture International 21:197-217

Stanczyk, N.M., Brookfield J.F.Y., Field L. M., and Logan J.G. (2013) Aedes aegypti mosquitoes exhibit decreased repellency by DEET following previous exposure. PLoS ONE 8: e54438

Brookfield, J.F.Y. (2013) Quantitative Genetics: Heritability is Not Always Missing. Current Biology 23: R276-278

Brookfield, J.F.Y (2016) Why are estimates of the strength and direction of natural selection from wild populations not congruent with observed rates of phenotypic change? Bioessays 38: 927-934

Brookfield, J.F.Y. (2018) Mutation rates: simpler than we thought? Current Biology 28: R1149-1151

Brookfield, J.F.Y. (2020) Genetic variation: Harmful recessive mutations have unexpected effects on variation. Current Biology 30: R16-R18

Hundertmark, A., Goodacre, S.L., and Brookfield, J.F.Y. (2020) Alternative evolutionary outcomes following endosymbiont-mediated selection on male mating preference alleles. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 33: 653-667

Selected Publications

Past Research

Dr. Brookfield is interested in the molecular population genetics and evolution. In recent years, he has specialised in the genetics and molecular biology of transposable genetic elements in Drosophila and other species. He is also interested in the statistical analyses of hypervariable DNA in ecology and forensic science, and some more general problems in evolutionary biology.

Future Research

Since retirement in 2020, I have made some further contributions including coalescent theory and models of genetic variation. I have continued my interest in the evolutionary genetics of mobile DNA sequences, and am developing interests in evolutionary ecology.

Brookfield, J.F.Y. (2021) Population genetics: How many variable genes affect variable traits? Current Biology 31: R248-R250

Brookfield, John FY (2021) Coalescence: the Sharing of Ancestry of Alleles. In: eLS, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd: Chichester [DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0001775.pub2]

School of Life Sciences

University of Nottingham
Medical School
Queen's Medical Centre
Nottingham NG7 2UH

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