Dr Jon Wetton

Telephone: +44 (0) 116 252 3377

Email: jw418@ le.ac.uk

Lab: Adrian G2


Current Role: Co-Director of Alec Jeffreys Forensic Genomics Unit


The primary aim of my research is the identification of patterns of genetic variation in modern populations that can be used to test historical hypotheses regarding the timing, magnitude and origins of past migration events.   Rapid advances in DNA sequencing technology are dramatically reducing the cost of screening populations for DNA variants resulting in a sudden wealth of new studies from across Europe and beyond.  We are currently using published data on both the male-specific Y chromosome and the mitochondrial genome which is inherited from mother to child to study differential impacts of male and female movement.  As more data becomes available we will expand the search to cover variants across the entire human genome not only from individuals alive today with ancestry traceable to specific regions but also recovered from excavated burials to provide a glimpse of the genetic makeup of those areas in past times.  These will be examined for similarities and discontinuities both spatial and temporal within the British gene pool which can be compared with the expected patterns predicted by computer modeling of a range of migration scenarios into various regions of the British Isles.

Current Projects

We are using the latest generation of forensic Y-STR DNA test to profile men from the British Isles and beyond to date the expansion and to trace the spread of male lineages. Some of the data has been published in Forensic Science International: Genetics and has been analyzed in conjunction with Y-SNP data for a publication in Molecular Biology & Evolution on the dating of major demographic events in European pre-history.

We are also investigating mitochondrial DNA variation in cats to enhance a database we created to support a murder investigation by Hampshire Police (link to press release).  Pet hairs transferred between offender and victim can provide an evidential DNA link and advanced Next Generation Sequencing techniques are being used to maximize the discriminatory power of the test.  The methods are equivalent to those used to study human female lineage expansions and spread.

I am also supervising a PhD student looking at novel approaches to the analysis of highly degraded DNA as part of the INTREPID forensic program (http://www.intrepid-forensics.eu/project-3-geneticschemistry/)

Past Research

My PhD studies focused on increasing our understanding of the structure of natural bird populations through the application of genetics and resulted in the first published application of DNA fingerprinting in wild animals (Wetton et al. 1987).  I continued this interest through a number of post-doctoral research projects applying cutting edge genetic profiling methods used in humans by isolating similar DNA markers in other species such as single locus minisatellites and STRs. These novel markers revealed the true relationships between nestlings and the adults raising them, demonstrating both extra-pair paternity and the identity of the true parents and provided an insight into genetic differences that can be used to distinguish populations and species.  This led to work with the police and conservation bodies in developing and applying forensic methods for the investigation of wildlife crime. 

After joining the Forensic Science Service to set up a non-human DNA testing service I became increasingly involved in specialist DNA approaches for the investigation of complex mixtures and trace quantities of human DNA such as mitochondrial, Y chromosome and SNP testing and became intrigued by the geographic distribution of genetic variants and their significance in forensic casework.  With the government’s decision to close the Forensic Science Service I took the opportunity to pursue this interest as part of the Diasporas project.


Previous Career & Education

Senior Researcher, Forensic Science Service, 1997–2011 

PDRA, Temporary Lecturer, Research Associate & Research Fellow, Department of Genetics, University of Nottingham 1987–1997 

PhD, Department of Genetics, University of Nottingham, 1990, “Aspects of the Biology of a House Sparrow Passer domesticus colony”. 

BSc Zoology, University College London, 1984.


Selected Publications 

Hallast P, Batini C, Zadik D, Delser PM, Wetton JH, et al. (2014) The Y-chromosome tree bursts into leaf: 13,000 high-confidence SNPs covering the majority of known clades. Molecular Biology and Evolution

Purps J, Siegert S, Willuweit S, Nagy M, Alves C,...Wetton JH,...et al. (2014) A global analysis of Y-chromosomal haplotype diversity for 23 STR loci. Forensic Science International: Genetics, 12: 12-23

Tully G & Wetton JH (2014) Mitochondrial DNA: Interpretation. In Wiley Encyclopedia of Forensic Science. Eds. A Jamieson & AA Moenssens, J Wiley & Sons.

Wetton JH, Lee-Edghill J, Archer E, Tucker VC, Hopwood AJ, Whitaker J, Tully G (2011) Analysis and interpretation of mixed profiles generated by 34 cycle SGM Plus amplification. Forensic Science International: Genetics 5: 376-380. 

Dawnay N, Ogden R, Wetton JH, Thorpe RS, McEwing R (2009) Genetic data from 28 STR loci for forensic individual identification and parentage analyses in 6 bird of prey species. Forensic Science International: Genetics 3: e63-e69. 

Balaresque P, Parkin EJ, Roewer L, Carvalho-Silva DR, Mitchell RJ, van Oorschot RAH, Henke J, Stoneking M, Nasidze I, Wetton J, de Knijff P, Tyler-Smith C, & Jobling MA (2009) Genomic complexity of the Y-STR DYS19: inversions, deletions and founder lineages carrying duplications. International Journal of Legal Medicine 123(1): 15-23. 

Wetton JH, Tsang KW, Khan H (2005) Inferring the population of origin of DNA evidence within the UK by allele-specific hybridization of Y-SNPs. Forensic Science International 152(1): 45-53. 

Wetton JH, Higgs JE, Spriggs AC, Roney CA, Tsang CSF & Foster AP (2003) Mitochondrial profiling of dog hairs. Forensic Science International 133(3): 235-241. 

Wetton JH, Tsang CSF, Roney CA & Spriggs AC (2002) An extremely sensitive species-specific ARMS PCR test for the presence of tiger bone DNA. Forensic Science International 126(2): 137-144. 

Wetton JH, Braidley GL, Tsang CSF, Roney CA, Powell SL & Spriggs AC (2002) Generation of a species-specific DNA sequence library of British mammals. Report for the Joint Nature Conservation Committee & the Environment and Heritage Service, Northern Ireland. 

Wetton JH, Tsang CSF, Roney CA & Spriggs AC (2000) Developing a DNA test for the identification of tiger bone, DETR Project CR207. DETR, Bristol, UK. 

Korpimaki E, May CA, Parkin DT, Wetton JH & Wiehn J (2000) Environmental and parental condition dependent variation in sex ratio of kestrel broods. Journal of Avian Biology 31: 128-134. 

Cordero PJ, Wetton JH & Parkin DT (1999) Extra-pair paternity and male badge size in the house sparrow. Journal of Avian Biology 30: 97-102. 

Wetton JH (1998) DNA - the future. Proceedings of the 1998 National Police Wildlife Liaison Officers' Conference. pp 27-32. DETR, Bristol, U.K. 

Wetton JH & Parkin DT (1997) A suite of falcon single-locus minisatellite probes: a powerful alternative to DNA fingerprinting. Molecular Ecology 6: 119-128. 

Neumann K & Wetton JH (1996) Highly polymorphic microsatellites in the house sparrow (Passer domesticus). Molecular Ecology 5: 307-309.

Korpimaki E, Lahti K, May CA, Parkin DT, Powell GB, Tolonen P & Wetton JH (1996) Copulatory behaviour and paternity determined by single-locus profiling in kestrels: effects of cyclic food abundance. Animal Behaviour 51: 945-955. 

Wetton JH, Burke T, Parkin DT & Cairns E (1995) Single-locus DNA fingerprinting reveals that male reproductive success increases with age through extra-pair paternity in the house sparrow (Passer domesticus). Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, series B 260: 91-98. 

Warkentin IG, Carter RE, James PC, Oliphant LW, Parkin DT & Wetton JH (1994) No evidence for extra-pair fertilizations in the merlin as revealed by DNA fingerprinting. Molecular Ecology 3: 229-234. 

Wetton JH & Parkin DT (1994) Genetic variation in birds of prey. Department of the Environment, Bristol, UK. 50pp. Genetic Variation in Birds of Prey, Phase IV Final Report

May CA, Wetton JH & Parkin DT (1993) Polymorphic sex-specific sequences in birds of prey. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, series B 253: 271-276. 

May CA, Wetton JH, Davis PE, Brookfield JFY & Parkin DT (1993) Single-locus profiling reveals loss of variation in inbred populations of the red kite (Milvus milvus). Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, series B 251: 165-170. 

Wetton JH, Parkin DT & Carter RE (1992) The use of genetic markers for parentage analysis in Passer domesticus (house sparrows). Heredity 69: 243-254. 

Wetton JH & Parkin DT (1991) An association between fertility and cuckoldry in the house sparrow Passer domesticus. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, series B 245: 227-233. 

May CA & Wetton JH (1991) DNA fingerprinting by specific priming of concatenated oligonucleotides. Nucleic Acids Research 19: 4557. 

Carter RE, Wetton JH & Parkin DT (1989) Improved DNA fingerprinting using RNA probes. Nucleic Acids Research 17: 5867. 

Parkin DT, Hutchinson I & Wetton JH (1988) Genetic fingerprinting and its role in bird research and law enforcement. RSPB Conservation Review. pp. 22-24. ed. CJ Cadbury & M Everett, RSPB, Sandy, Bedfordshire, U.K. 

Wetton JH, Carter RE, Parkin DT & Walters D (1987) Demographic study of a wild house sparrow population by DNA fingerprinting. Nature 327: 147-149.


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