Department of Biology & Biochemistry

Professor of Evolutionary Genetics

4 South 0.12


Tel: +44 (0) 1225 386424 


Professor Laurence D Hurst 


Current Research

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.


Mead, R., Hejmadi, M. and Hurst, L. D., 2017. Teaching genetics prior to teaching evolution improves evolution understanding but not acceptance. PLoS Biology, 15 (5), e2002255.

Thorpe, H. A., Bayliss, S. C., Hurst, L. D. and Feil, E. J., 2017. Comparative analyses of selection operating on non-translated intergenic regions of diverse bacterial species. Genetics, 206 (1), 195784.

Savisaar, R. and Hurst, L., 2017. Both maintenance and avoidance of RNA-binding protein interactions constrain coding region evolution. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 34 (5), pp. 1110-1126.

Savisaar, R. and Hurst, L. D., 2017. Estimating the prevalence of functional exonic splice regulatory information. Human Molecular Genetics

Thumann, G., Harmening, N., Prat-Souteyrand, C., Marie, C., Pastor, M., Sebe, A., Miskey, C., Hurst, L. D., Diarra, S., Kropp, M., Walter, P., Scherman, D., Ivics, Z., Izsvák, Z. and Johnen, S., 2017. Engineering of PEDF-Expressing Primary Pigment Epithelial Cells by the SB Transposon System Delivered by pFAR4 Plasmids. Molecular Therapy - Nucleic Acids, 6, pp. 302-314.

Wang, L., Zhang, Y., Qin, C., Tian, D., Yang, S. and Hurst, L. D., 2016. Mutation rate analysis via parent- progeny sequencing of the perennial peach. II. No evidence for recombination associated mutation. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 283 (1841), 20161785.

Xie, Z., Wang, L., Wang, L., Wang, Z., Lu, Z., Tian, D., Yang, S. and Hurst, L. D., 2016. Mutation rate analysis via parent– progeny sequencing of the perennial peach. I. A low rate in woody perennials and a higher mutagenicity in hybrids. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 283 (1841), 20161016.

Liu, H., Jia, Y., Sun, X., Tian, D., Hurst, L. D. and Yang, S., 2016. Direct determination of the mutation rate in the bumblebee reveals evidence for weak recombination-associated mutation and an approximate rate constancy in insects. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 34 (1), pp. 119-130.

Savisaar, R. and Hurst, L. D., 2016. Purifying selection on exonic splice enhancers in intronless genes. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 33 (6), pp. 1396-1418.

Hurst, L., 2016. Why did sex evolve? Researchers edge closer to solving longstanding mystery. [Non-academic press]

Wang, J., Singh, M., Sun, C., Besser, D., Prigione, A., Ivics, Z., Hurst, L. D. and Izsvák, Z., 2016. Isolation and cultivation of naive-like human pluripotent stem cells based on HERVH expression. Nature Protocols, 11 (2), pp. 327-346.

Wu, X. and Hurst, L. D., 2016. Determinants of the usage of splice-associated cis-motifs predict the distribution of human pathogenic SNPs. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 33 (2), pp. 518-529.

Hurst, L. D. and Huminiecki, L., 2016. Why is the X chromosome so odd? Traffic analogy helped us crack the mystery. [Non-academic press]

Izsvák, Z., Wang, J., Singh, M., Mager, D. L. and Hurst, L. D., 2016. Pluripotency and the endogenous retrovirus HERVH:conflict or serendipity? Bioessays, 38 (1), pp. 109-117.

Hurst, L. D., Ghanbarian, A. T., Forrest, A. R. R. and Huminiecki, L., 2015. The constrained maximal expression level owing to haploidy shapes gene content on the mammalian X chromosome. PLoS Biology, 13 (12), e1002315.

Yang, S., Wang, L., Huang, J., Zhang, X., Yuan, Y., Chen, J. Q., Hurst, L. D. and Tian, D., 2015. Parent-progeny sequencing indicates higher mutation rates in heterozygotes. Nature, 523 (7561), pp. 463-467.

Sealey, K. L., Harris, S. R., Fry, N. K., Hurst, L. D., Gorringe, A. R., Parkhill, J. and Preston, A., 2015. Genomic analysis of isolates from the United Kingdom 2012 pertussis outbreak reveals that vaccine antigen genes are unusually fast evolving. Journal of Infectious Diseases, 212 (2), pp. 294-301.

Ghanbarian, A. T. and Hurst, L. D., 2015. Neighboring genes show correlated evolution in gene expression. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 32 (7), pp. 1748-1766.

Wu, X. and Hurst, L. D., 2015. Why selection might be stronger when populations are small:intron size and density predicts within and between-species usage of exonic splice associated cis-motifs. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 32 (7), pp. 1847-1861.

Wang, J., Xie, G., Singh, M., Tashakkori Ghanbarian, A., Raskó, T., Szvetnik, A., Cai, H., Besser, D., Prigione, A., Fuchs, N. V., Schumann, G. G., Chen, W., Lorincz, M. C., Ivics, Z., Hurst, L. D. and Izsvák, Z., 2014. Primate-specific endogenous retrovirus-driven transcription defines naive-like stem cells. Nature, 516 (7531), pp. 405-409.

Schüler, A., Ghanbarian, A. T. and Hurst, L. D., 2014. Purifying selection on splice-related motifs, not expression level nor RNA folding, explains nearly all constraint on human lincRNAs. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 31 (12), pp. 3164-3183.

Jiang, C., Mithani, A., Belfield, E. J., Mott, R., Hurst, L. D. and Harberd, N. P., 2014. Environmentally responsive genome-wide accumulation of de novo Arabidopsis thaliana mutations and epimutations. Genome Research, 24 (11), pp. 1821-1829.

Yin, S., Yang, J., Lin, B., Deng, W., Zhang, Y., Yi, X., Shi, Y., Tao, Y., Cai, J., Wu, C.-I., Zhao, G., Hurst, L.D., Zhang, J., Hu, L. and Kong, X., 2014. Exome sequencing identifies frequent mutation of MLL2 in non-small cell lung carcinoma from Chinese patients. Scientific Reports, 4, 6036.

Hurst, L. D., Sachenkova, O., Daub, C., Forrest, A. R. R. and Huminiecki, L., 2014. A simple metric of promoter architecture robustly predicts expression breadth of human genes suggesting that most transcription factors are positive regulators. Genome Biology, 15 (7), 413.

Laabei, M., Recker, M., Rudkin, J. K., Aldeljawi, M., Gulay, Z., Sloan, T. J., Williams, P., Endres, J. L., Bayles, K. W., Fey, P. D., Yajjala, V. K., Widhelm, T., Hawkins, E., Lewis, K., Parfett, S., Scowen, L., Peacock, S. J., Holden, M., Wilson, D., Read, T. D., Van Den Elsen, J., Priest, N. K., Feil, E. J., Hurst, L. D., Josefsson, E. and Massey, R. C., 2014. Predicting the virulence of MRSA from its genome sequence. Genome Research, 24 (5), pp. 839-849.

Charneski, C. A. and Hurst, L. D., 2014. Positive charge loading at protein termini is due to membrane protein topology, not a translational ramp. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 31 (1), pp. 70-84.

Zhang, Y., Castillo Morales, A., Jiang, M., Zhu, Y., Hu, L., Urrutia, A. O., Kong, X. and Hurst, L. D., 2013. Genes that escape X-inactivation in humans have high intraspecific variability in expression, are associated with mental impairment but are not slow evolving. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 30 (12), pp. 2588-2601.

Maharjan, R., Nilsson, S., Sung, J., Haynes, K., Beardmore, R.E., Hurst, L.D., Ferenci, T. and Gudelj, I., 2013. The form of a trade-off determines the response to competition. Ecology Letters, 16 (10), pp. 1267-1276.

Hurst, L. D., 2013. Open questions:A logic (or lack thereof) of genome organization. BMC Biology, 11, 58.

Woods, S., Coghlan, A., Rivers, D., Warnecke, T., Jeffries, S. J., Kwon, T., Rogers, A., Hurst, L. and Ahringer, J., 2013. Duplication and retention biases of essential and non-essential genes revealed by systematic knockdown analyses. Plos Genetics, 9 (5), e1003330.

Charneski, C. A. and Hurst, L. D., 2013. Positively charged residues are the major determinants of ribosomal velocity. PLoS Biology, 11 (3), e1001508.

Wu, X., Tronholm, A., Fernandez Cáceres, E., Tovar-Corona, J. M., Chen, L., Urrutia, A.O. and Hurst, L.D., 2013. Evidence for deep phylogenetic conservation of exonic splice-related constraints:Splice-related skews at exonic ends in the brown alga Ectocarpus are common and resemble those seen in humans. Genome Biology and Evolution, 5 (9), pp. 1731-1745.

Yang, S., Yuan, Y., Wang, L., Li, J., Wang, W., Liu, H., Chen, J.-q., Hurst, L. D. and Tian, D., 2012. Great majority of recombination events in Arabidopsis are gene conversion events. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109 (51), pp. 20992-20997.

Feher, T., Bogos, B., Mehi, O., Fekete, G., Csorgo, B., Kovacs, K., Posfai, G., Papp, B., Hurst, L. D. and Pal, C., 2012. Competition between transposable elements and mutator genes in bacteria. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 29 (10), pp. 3153-3159.

Webster, M. T. and Hurst, L. D., 2012. Direct and indirect consequences of meiotic recombination: Implications for genome evolution. Trends in Genetics, 28 (3), pp. 101-109.

Weber, C. C., Pink, C. J. and Hurst, L. D., 2012. Late-replicating domains have higher divergence and diversity in Drosophila melanogaster. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 29 (2), pp. 873-882.

He, C., Li, Z., Chen, P., Huang, H., Hurst, L. D. and Chen, J., 2012. Young intragenic miRNAs are less coexpressed with host genes than old ones: Implications of miRNA-host gene coevolution. Nucleic Acids Research, 40 (9), pp. 4002-4012.

Warnecke, T. and Hurst, L. D., 2011. Error prevention and mitigation as forces in the evolution of genes and genomes. Nature Reviews Genetics, 12 (12), pp. 875-881.

Pink, C. J. and Hurst, L. D., 2011. Late replicating domains are highly recombining in females but have low male recombination rates: implications for isochore evolution. PLoS ONE, 6 (9), e24480.

Charneski, C. A., Honti, F., Bryant, J. M., Hurst, L. D. and Feil, E. J., 2011. Atypical AT skew in firmicute genomes results from selection and not from mutation. Plos Genetics, 7 (9), e1002283.

Nahorski, M. S., Reiman, A., Lim, D. H. K., Nookala, R. K., Seabra, L., Lu, X. H., Fenton, J., Boora, U., Nordenskjold, M., Latif, F., Hurst, L. D. and Maher, E. R., 2011. Birt Hogg-Dube Syndrome-Associated FLCN Mutations Disrupt Protein Stability. Human Mutation, 32 (8), pp. 921-929.

Beardmore, R. E., Gudelj, I., Lipson, D. A. and Hurst, L. D., 2011. Metabolic trade-offs and the maintenance of the fittest and the flattest. Nature, 472 (7343), pp. 342-346.

Hurst, L. D., 2011. Molecular genetics: The sound of silence. Nature, 471 (7340), pp. 582-583.

Weber, C. C. and Hurst, L. D., 2011. Support for multiple classes of local expression clusters in Drosophila melanogaster, but no evidence for gene order conservation. Genome Biology, 12 (3), R23.

Garfield, A. S., Cowley, M., Smith, F. M., Moorwood, K., Stewart-Cox, J. E., Gilroy, K., Baker, S., Xia, J., Dalley, J. W., Hurst, L. D., Wilkinson, L. S., Isles, A. R. and Ward, A., 2011. Distinct physiological and behavioural functions for parental alleles of imprinted Grb10. Nature, 469 (7331), pp. 534-538.

Wang, G. Z., Lercher, M. J. and Hurst, L. D., 2011. Transcriptional coupling of neighboring genes and gene expression noise: evidence that gene orientation and noncoding transcripts are modulators of noise. Genome Biology and Evolution, 3, pp. 320-331.

Weber, C. C. and Hurst, L. D., 2010. Intronic AT skew is a defendable proxy for germline transcription but does not predict crossing-over or protein evolution rates in Drosophila melanogaster. Journal of Molecular Evolution, 71 (5-6), pp. 415-426.

Zhang, Z. G., Zhou, L., Hu, L. D., Zhu, Y. F., Xu, H., Liu, Y., Chen, X. F., Yi, X. F., Kong, X. Y. and Hurst, L. D., 2010. Nonsense-mediated decay targets have multiple sequence-related features that can inhibit translation. Molecular Systems Biology, 6, 442.

MacLean, R. C., Fuentes-Hernandez, A., Greig, D., Hurst, L. D. and Gudelj, I., 2010. A mixture of "cheats" and "co-operators" can enable maximal group benefit. PLoS Biology, 8 (9), e1000486.

Warnecke, T., Huang, Y., Przytycka, T. M. and Hurst, L. D., 2010. Unique cost dynamics elucidate the role of frameshifting errors in promoting translational robustness. Genome Biology and Evolution, 2, pp. 636-645.

Mcdonald, L. A., Gerrelli, D., Fok, Y., Hurst, L. D. and Tickle, C., 2010. Comparison of Iroquois gene expression in limbs/fins of vertebrate embryos. Journal Of Anatomy, 216 (6), pp. 683-691.

Pink, C. J. and Hurst, L. D., 2010. Timing of replication is a determinant of neutral substitution rates but does not explain slow Y chromosome evolution in rodents. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 27 (5), pp. 1077-1086.

Warnecke, T. and Hurst, L. D., 2010. GroEL dependency affects codon usage-support for a critical role of misfolding in gene evolution. Molecular Systems Biology, 6, 340.

Charalambous, M., Cowley, M., Geoghegan, F., Smith, F. M., Radford, E. J., Marlow, B. P., Graham, C. F., Hurst, L. D. and Ward, A., 2010. Maternally-inherited Grb10 reduces placental size and efficiency. Developmental Biology, 337 (1), pp. 1-8.

Necsulea, A., Semon, M., Duret, L. and Hurst, L. D., 2009. Monoallelic expression and tissue specificity are associated with high crossover rates. Trends in Genetics, 25 (12), pp. 519-522.

Weber, C. C. and Hurst, L. D., 2009. Protein rates of evolution are predicted by double-strand break events, independent of crossing-over rates. Genome Biology and Evolution, 2009, pp. 340-349.

Warnecke, T., Wang, G. Z., Lercher, M. J. and Hurst, L. D., 2009. Does negative auto-regulation increase gene duplicability? BMC Evolutionary Biology, 9, 193.

Kovacs, K., Hurst, L. D. and Papp, B., 2009. Stochasticity in protein levels drives colinearity of gene order in metabolic operons of Escherichia coli. PLoS Biology, 7 (5), e1000115.

Zhang, Z. G., Xin, D. D., Wang, P., Zhou, L., Hu, L. D., Kong, X. Y. and Hurst, L. D., 2009. Noisy splicing, more than expression regulation, explains why some exons are subject to nonsense-mediated mRNA decay. BMC Biology, 7 (23).

Pink, C. J., Swaminathan, S. K., Dunham, I., Rogers, J., Ward, A. and Hurst, L. D., 2009. Evidence that replication-associated mutation alone does not explain between-chromosome differences in substitution rates. Genome Biology and Evolution, 2009, pp. 13-22.

Hurst, L. D., 2009. Evolutionary genomics and the reach of selection. Journal of Biology, 8 (2), p. 12.

Hurst, L. D., 2009. Evolutionary genomics: A positive becomes a negative. Nature, 457 (7229), pp. 543-544.

Yin, S., Wang, P., Deng, W., Zheng, H., Hu, L., Hurst, L. D. and Kong, X., 2009. Dosage compensation on the active X chromosome minimizes transcriptional noise of X-linked genes in mammals. Genome Biology, 10 (7), R74.

Hurst, L. D., 2009. Genetics and the understanding of selection. Nature Reviews Genetics, 10 (2), pp. 83-93.

Hurst, L., 2009. Three's a crowd. New Scientist, 203 (2725), p. 73.

Warnecke, T., Weber, C. C. and Hurst, L. D., 2009. Why there is more to protein evolution than protein function: Splicing, nucleosomes and dual-coding sequence. Biochemical Society Transactions, 37 (4), pp. 756-761.

Wang, P., Yin, S., Zhang, Z., Xin, D., Hu, L., Kong, X. and Hurst, L., 2008. Evidence for common short natural trans sense-antisense pairing between transcripts from protein coding genes. Genome Biology, 9 (12), R169.

Forde, S. E., Beardmore, R. E., Gudelj, I., Arkin, S. S., Thompson, J. N. and Hurst, L. D., 2008. Understanding the limits to generalizability of experimental evolutionary models. Nature, 455 (7210), pp. 220-223.

Lopes, S. S., Yang, X. Y., Muller, J., Carney, T. J., McAdow, A. R., Rauch, G.-J., Jacoby, A. S., Hurst, L. D., Delfino-Machin, M., Haffter, P., Geisler, R., Johnson, S. L., Ward, A. and Kelsh, R. N., 2008. Leukocyte tyrosine kinase functions in pigment cell development. Plos Genetics, 4 (3), e1000026.

Warnecke, T., Parmley, J. L. and Hurst, L. D., 2008. Finding exonic islands in a sea of non-coding sequence: splicing related constraints on protein composition and evolution are common in intron-rich genomes. Genome Biology, 9 (2), R29.

Urrutia, A. O., Ocana, L. B. and Hurst, L. D., 2008. Do Alu repeats drive the evolution of the primate transcriptome? Genome Biology, 9 (2), R25.

Reuter, M., Engelstadter, J., Fontanillas, P. and Hurst, L. D., 2008. A test of the null model for 5 ' UTR evolution based on GC content. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 25 (5), pp. 801-804.

de Crespigny, F. E. C., Hurst, L. D. and Wedell, N., 2008. Do Wolbachia-associated incompatibilities promote polyandry? Evolution, 62 (1), pp. 107-122.

Warnecke, T., Batada, N. N. and Hurst, L. D., 2008. The Impact of the Nucleosome Code on Protein-Coding Sequence Evolution in Yeast. Plos Genetics, 4 (11), e1000250.

This list was generated on Tue Oct 17 12:00:29 2017 IST.

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