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Professor Rosalind John

Professor Rosalind John

Head of Biomedicine Division, Professor

School of Biosciences

Email
johnrm@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44 (0)29 2087 0145
Campuses
Sir Martin Evans Building, Museum Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3AX
Comment
Media commentator
Users
Available for postgraduate supervision

Overview

Research overview

My current research is directed towards understanding a remarkable epigenetic process termed “Genomic Imprinting” in which certain genes are silenced by epigenetic marks. I am particularly interested in the early life period when epigenetic marks are responsive to environmental stimuli influencing short and long term health outcomes.

Roles

  • Head of Biomedicine Division
  • Academic Team Leader

Biography

Rosalind M John is Professor of Developmental Epigenetics and Head of the Biomedicine Division within the School of Biosciences at Cardiff University. She received her PhD from Imperial College, University of London and trained at University of San Francisco California (UCSF) and Stanford, USA, and Cambridge University. She has a >20 year track record in the epigenetics of fetal and placental development using animal models to study the relevance of genomic imprinting, and how gene dosage may be influenced by environmental factors mediating short and life long phenotypic outcomes. She is an expert in the generation of BAC transgenic mice (Phlda2, Cdkn1c and Ascl2) and the use of loss-of-function models (Cdkn1c, Phlda2 and Peg3) to gain insight in the relevance of controlled gene dosage. Her group have reported phenotypes affecting fetal growth, placental development, metabolism, adult behaviour and, most recently, maternal behaviour in response to placental endocrine dysfunction. Professor John set up the Grown in Wales Study and the Grown in Wales Infant study to translate her findings from experimental models to humans with relevance to low birth weight babies, maternal mood disorders and neurodevelopmental disorders in children. Professor John’s group is funded by MRC, BBSRC, Wellcome, The Waterloo Foundation and the Welsh Government.

Professional memberships

  • The Genetics Society;
  • British Society of Developmental Biology;
  • International Society for Developmental Origins of Health and Disease;
  • International Federation Placenta Associations;
  • European Placenta Group;
  • ESRC InteSTELA network;
  • GeCIPs (Genomics England Clinical Interpretation Partnerships) subdomain Imprinting Disorders: Epigenomics, Aetiology and Stratification, or IDEAS);

Speaking engagements

2018
  • 8th Nature   Conference on Genome Variation in Precision Medicine, Chengdu, (China)   (invited speaker and chair)
  • Perinatal   Mental Health Measures Meeting, Bristol (invited speaker)
  • Parental   Brain 2018: Biological and Behavioural Perspectives in Parental Health,   Toronto (invited speaker)
  • BSDB   Embryonic-Extraembryonic Interactions: from Genetics to Environment, Oxford   (invited speaker and chair)
  • Perinatal   Mental Health Conference: NIMHANS, Bangalore, India (invited speaker)
  • Tata   Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, India (invited talk)
2019
  • Society   for Reproductive Investigation: Placenta Satellite Meeting, Paris (invited   speaker)
  • Endocrine   Society: ENDO2019. New Orleans (invited speaker)
  • Physiology   2019 Placenta symposium Aberdeen (invited speaker)
  • Mental   Health Intergenerational Transmission Work shop Year 2 (invited speaker)
  • MedSci,   Queenstown, New Zealand (Plenary)
  • University   of Dunedin (seminar)
  • University   of Auckland (seminar)
2020
  • Mechanisms   and Evolution of Intergenerational Change, Cambridge (speaker)
  • Genetic   Society: A Century of Genetics, Edinburgh (speaker)
  • Genomic   Imprinting – from Biology to Disease, Cambridge (invited speaker)
  • El Colegio Nacional (online seminar; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVolh1lLsho)
2021
  • IFPA2020: Amsterdam (invited;   postponed from 2020)
  • FASEB Summer Meeting on Growth Hormone/Prolactin Family in   Health and Disease, USA July 2021
  • IFPA2021 (invited; Sept; postponed from 2020)

2022

  • IFPA2022: New Zealand (Sept; postponed from 2021)
  • FASEB Summer Meeting on Growth Hormone/Prolactin Family in Health and Disease (invited speaker; postponed from 2021)

Committees and reviewing

  • MRC Expert Review Panel for UK NRP Collaborative Awards (2019).
  • UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships Interview Panel Round 2 (2019)
  • UKRI GCRF Health and Context Panel (2019-20)
  • Speciality Chief Editor for Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology: Developmental Epigenetics
  • Genetics Society Ordinary Committee Member (Cell and Developmental Genetics)

Publications

2021

2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2002

2001

2000

Teaching

Teaching

BI2332 Concepts of Disease: Epigenetics and Underlying Principles

BI3351 Contemporary Topics in Disease: Mouse models of imprinting

BI3001 Biosciences Final Year Project.

BIT002 MRes Research Techniques in Bioscience: Research seminar

Summary

The principal interest of my laboratory lies in understanding how epigenetic marks direct mammalian development with a particular focus on in utero processes, and how exposure during critically sensitive windows in development can alter outcomes for both mother and child.

Genomic Imprinting

Genomic imprinting is an epigenetic system, first initiated in the germ line, that directs the allele-specific expression of a small set of developmentally important genes (Figure 1). Imprinted genes function within a myriad of networks to regulate fetal growth, placental development, metabolism and behaviour. The aberrant expression of imprinted genes has been reported in relation to low birth weight, placental dysfunction, metabolic and psychiatric diseases. A goal of our research is to further understand the dosage-related function of imprinted genes in development and disease. We are also investigating factors and lifestyles which may influence the expression of imprinted genes early in life resulting in pregnancy complications, mood disorders and poorer behavioural outcomes for children both in the short term and across the life course.

The placenta

We have demonstrated that certain imprinted genes regulate the size of the endocrine compartment of the placenta and consequently modulate the production of placental hormones (Figure 2). During pregnancy placental hormones flood the maternal circulation to induce the physiological changes required for a successful pregnancy. Placental hormones ensure nutrient availability to ensure appropriate fetal growth. Placental hormones also prime the maternal brain in preparation for mothering the newborn infant. Funded by BBSRC, we are using unique experimental models based on the genetically modified expression of imprinted genes to experimentally show that imprinted genes influence fetal growth and maternal caregiving through the regulation of placental endocrine lineages (Figure 3).

Environmental programming

Imprinted genes are regulated by epigenetic marks that can respond to environmental factors. In addition to exploring the consequences of aberrant imprinted gene expression, funded by BBSRC we are investigating whether specific maternal diets or conditions can influence gene expression in the placenta causing placental endocrine dysfunction (Figure 4) and in the fetus directly influencing development, both of which may be linked to the poorer outcomes for children.

Lifelong health

It is well known that prenatal adversity is associated with poorer outcomes for children including behavioural difficulties and metabolic disorders. Funded by BBSRC and Wellcome Trust, we are exploring the consequences of placental endocrine dysfunction on offspring outcomes focusing on offspring behaviour (Figure 4).

Clinical engagement

The imprinted genes we are studying regulate placental development, fetal growth and maternal adaptations to pregnancy via the regulation of placental signalling. The aberrant expression of imprinted genes is common in a number of human disorders of pregnancy including low birth weight, gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. Our recent work suggests that aberrant imprinting may also have relevance to maternal mood disorders programmed by placental dysfunction. Funded by MRC, we initiated “The Grown in Wales” Study (Figure 5) to collect of data and biological samples including placenta from women delivering locally at University Hospital Wales to integrate the knowledge gained from our experimental models with studies on human samples. We are also assessing the development and behaviour of the children from this study in “The Grown in Wales Infant Study” funded by The Waterloo Foundation. Our work will promote the optimal interpretation of clinical data with a longer-term goal of improving diagnostic performance and the identification of possible therapeutic targets for treatment.

Clinical study

“The Grown in Wales Study: Developing and placentomic tool for characterising atypical pregnancies and predicting outcomes.”

REC reference number 15/WA/0004; IRAS project ID 166243; UKCRN ID 18894

Current grant support

Active grants as lead applicant

  • BBSRC (2021-24) Imprinted genes as master regulators of placental hormones.
  • BBSRC (2021-24) Prenatal adversity and the intergenerational transmission of atypical maternal caregiving.
  • TWF (2021-22) Examining whether depression in pregnancy impacts omega-3/6 nutrition and placental transfer increasing the risk of neurodevelopmental disorders
  • TWF (2021) Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in pregnancy: Are infant outcomes associated with BDNF levels in the maternal and foetal circulation?
  • Wellcome Trust Neuroscience DTG “Placental Peg3 expression and Social Communication Behaviour” (2018-2022)

Active grants as co-applicant

  • Leverhulme trust (2021-24) The contribution of maternally expressed imprinted genes to parental behaviour.
  • Foundation for Prader-Willi Research (2020-21) The role of the placenta in PWS: mapping the expression of PWS genes
  • BBSRC (2017-21) Lipid droplets in oocytes: shedding new light on why fats are good or bad for development.
  • Wellcome Trust Neuroscience DTG “A system level approach to identify and validate imprinted genes involved in parental care” (2019-2022)

External Collaborators

Amanda Fisher (MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences, Imperial College, London)

Takahiro Arima (Tokoyu University, Japan)

Jay Cross (Calgary University, Canada)

Meeting organization

Annual Mammalian Genes, Development and Disease meeting (funded by The Genetics Society)

(Rotates between Cardiff, Bath, Bristol and Exeter)

Affiliated staff 

Bridget Allen

Raquel Boque Sastre

Harri Harrison

Alice Chibnall

Hayley Dingsdale

Postgraduate research students

As principle supervisor

Samantha Garay (MRC Biomed DTP PhD)

Hannah Tyson (Wellcome Trust Neuroscience DTP PhD)

As second supervisor

Matt Higgs (Wellcome Trust Neuroscience DTP PhD)

Cindy Ikie (BIOSI PhD)


    Links

    http://safemotherhoodweek.org/maternal-rights-a-professional-perspective/

    Supervision

    I am interested in supervising PhD students in the areas of:

    • genomic imprinting
    • developmental epigenetics
    • fetal programming
    • mammalian placental biology
    • maternal behaviour/maternal mood disorders