Research in the Higgins lab.


James received a BSc (Hons) in Biology from the University of Nottingham (1997), where he developed an interest in plant genetics. He 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 James worked in the groups of Prof. 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. James became a lecturer at the University of Leicester (2013) and is pursuing his 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.


Current areas of research:

The main focus of the Higgins lab. is to unravel the mechanisms governing meiotic crossover frequency and distribution in model and crop plants, including Arabidopsis, wheat and rice. Genetic, cytogenetic and genomic techniques are used to answer fundamental biological questions about the function of meiotic genes that ensure correct chromosome pairing, synapsis and crossing over to promote balanced segregation of chromosomes into haploid gametes. One of the outstanding mysteries is how the  synaptonemal complex proteins mediate crossover patterning (see figure below) and we aim to further elucidate this and translate this knowledge to aid breeding programmes with crop plants.

SC figure

The Higgins lab. also has ongoing collaborations with Prof. Chris Franklin (University of Birmingham), Prof. Anthony Hall (Earlham Institute) and Dr. Levi Yant (University of Nottingham), Dr. Xiaoqi Feng (John Innes Centre), Dr. Ian Henderson (University of Cambridge), Prof. Keith Edwards (University of Bristol) and Prof. Wanqi Liang (Shanghai Jiao Tong University).

Useful links:

To access publications: James D. Higgins on researchgate although you will have to follow updates for it to work.        Immunolocalisation technique in Arabidopsis. ORCid profile. James has written a short blog on starting up a new lab which features on the Monogram website.

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Department of Genetics
University of Leicester

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