School of Life Sciences
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John Brookfield

Professor of Evolutionary Genetics, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences



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.

Teaching Summary

Dr Brookfield's current teaching activities now focus on three main themes.

i) Population and evolutionary genetics. This involves introductory teaching in the first year and an advanced course on quantitative population genetics in the third year, which highlights molecular evolution and the evolution of the genome.

ii) Statistical analyses of biological data. Teaching in a second year module combines fundamental aspects of probability theory with training in frequentist and hypothesis-testing approaches to statistics, along with practical training in experimental design. In the fourth-year Masters level course, Bayesian and likelihood-based approaches are highlighted.

iii) Project work combines computer-based biology and experimental work on fruit flies (Drosophila species) and their parasitoids.

Research Summary

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

Our interests are in the application of evolutionary theory to problems in molecular genetics. Currently, our research can be grouped under two main headings:

Evolution of Developmental Processes:

We are interested in the ways in which the DNA sequences that control development evolve, and in the genetic variation in developmental processes that exists in populations. One approach is to investigate the way in which enhancer sequences evolve and we are interested in modeling the ways in which interactions between transcription factors and their targets might be expected to evolve (Cooper et al., 2008, 2009).


Cooper, M.B., Loose, M., and Brookfield, J.F.Y. (2008) Evolutionary modeling of feed forward loops in gene regulatory networks. Biosystems 91: 231-244

Cooper, M.B, Loose, M, and Brookfield, J.F.Y. (2009) The evolutionary influence of binding site organization on gene regulatory networks. Biosystems 96: 185-193

Evolution of Interspersed Repetitive DNAs

We are 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

We have general Interests 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.


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

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.

School of Life Sciences

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

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