Jonathan Higgins

  • See a full publication list here.


We focus on cell division, a process that requires a dramatic and highly orchestrated change in cell structure, including the condensation of chromosomes, their alignment on a bipolar spindle, the synchronous movement of exactly half of the chromosomes to opposite poles of the cell, and then cytokinesis (dividing the cell into two).

To accomplish cell division with high fidelity requires tight control of chromosome structure, including the displacement of proteins that might hinder chromosome segregation, and the recruitment of proteins that allow the chromosomes to condense and be “bi-oriented” on the spindle. Through all of this change, the cell also may retain markers (“bookmarks”) on chromosomes that can “remember” whether genes are active or inactive so that they can be returned to their original states once cell division is complete. These events must be precisely controlled in location and timing. Our laboratory studies these control mechanisms. In particular, we study how chromatin modifications help determine where and when key regulatory factors can bind to chromosomes.

We are particularly interested in how histone kinases such as Haspin and Aurora B control cell division in human cells, how this process contributes to the generation of cancer and birth defects, and how it can be exploited for disease therapy. In the future, we aim to determine the roles of additional histone modifications in mitosis, to explore their functions in meiosis, and to develop a genome-wide understanding of how these marks are deposited to regulate both chromosome segregation and the inheritance of epigenetic information during cell division.

Current lab members
  • Mahsa Azizyan, Research Associate
  • Tyrell Cartwright, Research Associate
  • John Exton, PhD student (joint with Jinju Chen, SAgE)
  • Connor Gilkes-Imeson, PhD student (joint with Christine Harrison)
  • Beccy Harris, PhD Student/Research Assistant
  • Mark Levasseur, Senior Research Associate
  • Ma Luo, PhD student (joint with Jinju Chen, SAgE)
  • Stephanie Meyer, Research Associate
  • Diana Papini, Research Associate
Previous lab members (Newcastle University)
  • Camilla Ascanelli, Undergraduate Student
  • Marcos Camara Donoso, Postgraduate student (joint with Daniel Rico)
  • Laura Cheung, Summer Student
  • Brigid Davidson, Summer Student
  • Sean Devlin, Undergraduate Student
  • Elliott Frodsham, Undergraduate Student
  • Qaaifah Gillani, PhD Exchange Student (University of Kashmir)
  • Michael Gledson, Wellcome Trust Summer Student
  • Beccy Harris, Undergraduate Student
  • Ellie Hawke, Undergraduate Student
  • Maninder Heer, MRes Student (joint with Daniel Rico)
  • Arwel Hopkins, Undergraduate Student
  • Tinglan Liu, Summer Student
  • Jonny McHugh, Wellcome Trust Summer Student (joint with Alex Laude)
  • Lisa Prendergast, Research Associate
  • Onur Sen, Research Associate
  • Alex Shaw, Undergraduate Student
  • Robert Stones, Bioinformatician (Bioinformatics Support Unit)
  • Cheryl Tan, Undergraduate Student
  • Kristy Thompson, Undergraduate Student
  • Kento Thomsen, Undergraduate Student
  • Nik Watson, PhD Student
  • Beth Weston, MSci Student, Research Assistant
  • Blythe Wright, MRes Student
Previous lab members (Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School)