Dr James Higgins


James Higgins

Office 317, lab 319 Adrian Building

+44 (0)116 223 1296

Email: JH555@le.ac.uk

Personal details

BSc (Hons) University of Nottingham, MSc University of Bristol, PhD University of Birmingham, CBiol, MRSB.

I received a BSc (Hons) in Biology from the University of Nottingham (1997), where I developed an interest in plant genetics. I pursued applying this knowledge to improve plant varieties by undertaking an MSc in Crop protection at the University of Bristol (1998). This was followed by a PhD at HRI-Warwick to understand and potentially delay the post-harvest yellowing of broccoli (2002). As a post-doctoral fellow I worked in the groups of Professor Chris Franklin and Dr. Gareth Jones (University of Birmingham) to identify and characterise key genes involved in meiotic recombination in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. The knowledge and tools were transferred to barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) to open up inaccessible areas of the genome to recombination, so that desirable traits can be bred together and undesirable traits selected out. I became a lecturer at the University of Leicester in 2013 and I'm pursuing an interest in crop genetics as well as using model systems to gain a greater understanding of meiotic recombination to improve crop varieties for the challenges of the 21st Century.


Google Scholar


Immunolocalisation technique in Arabidopsis.

ORCid profile.

Monogram website.



  • BS1070 Adaptation & Diversity
  • MCGB Medical Cell Biology and Genetics
  • BS3X00 Laboratory based project



Molecular cell biology of plant sexual reproduction: My aim is to understand how the number and distribution of genetic crossovers are controlled by interacting meiotic proteins in Arabidopsis and crop species, including cereals. This involves analysis of genetic and epigenetic factors that have been selected by evolution to maintain genome integrity.

Current areas of research

The main focus of the Higgins lab. is to unravel the mechanisms governing meiotic crossover frequency and distribution in crop plants such as bread wheat (Triticum aestivum). This will involve understanding the evolution of meiosis from diploid ancestors through to the modern day tetraploid and hexaploid genomes. We are also investigating meiotic adaptation to whole genome duplication in non-model plant systems such as Arabidopsis lyrata and Mimulus gattutus.

The Higgins lab. also has ongoing collaborations with Prof. Chris Franklin (University of Birmingham), Dr. Kirsten Bomblies and Dr. Levi Yant (JIC), Dr. Xiaoqi Feng (JIC), Dr. Ian Henderson (University of Cambridge), Prof. Keith Edwards (University of Bristol) and Prof. Wanqi Liang (Shanghai Jiao Tong University).

Post-Doctoral researchers

Dr. Paul Seear

Paul Seear

Following whole genome duplication (WGD), the doubled set of chromosomes can provide serious problems for reliable chromosome segregation during meiosis, particularly in neo-autotetraploids. The aim of my research is to compare meiosis in neo-autotetraploids with that of fully evolved autotetraploids found in nature using a range of cytological and molecular techniques in order to better understand the mechanisms that underlie the stabilisation of meiotic chromosomes after WGD.


Dr. Stuart Desjardins

Stuart cropIn many eukaryotic species genetic crossovers (COs) are unevenly distributed along chromosomes and tend to occur in favoured regions - so-called "recombination hot-spots". This is true of bread wheat, and other cereals, where COs are largely restricted to regions near the ends of chromosomes. A direct result of this is that a significant proportion of genes (~30%), including potentially important agronomic traits, are located in "recombination cold" regions and essentially inaccessible to plant breeders. A lack of COs in these "cold" regions can also lead to problems associated with linkage drag, where undesirable variation cannot be separated from useful traits. My project is part of a multi-disciplinary research program that aims to release this "locked" variation by modulating the frequency and distribution of COs in wheat, using state-of-the-art approaches.


Doctoral researchers

Daisy Ogle

Martin France

Ghazwan Qasim Hasan


Technical researcher

Dr. Inna Guterman



Our outreach work for BBSRC funded projects aims to explain the process of meiotic recombination in wheat. We presented posters and the chromosome model at Dynamic DNA at the University of Leicester 7-8th September, 2016. Over 400 local school children mixed and matched the wheat chromosome agronomical traits using the model, to see if they could generate a new super variety of wheat.

Higgins group photo

Gene shuffling poster JHgene shuffling poster

dd poster

Gene shuffling model

To see a video of the model go to (Gene shuffling model) and you may need to turn the sound up!








Neelam postert-shirt and badgePaul poster







Stuart model

Neelam and DaisyJames poster






Paul model

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Contact Details

Department of Genetics
University of Leicester

Adrian Building
University Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)116 252 3374
Fax: +44 (0)116 252 3378
E Mail: genetics@le.ac.uk

Head of Department
Professor Alison Goodall


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