University of Dundee

"Peter Garland Lecture 2019" - ‘The genetics and epigenetics of Rett Syndrome’

Event Date: 
Friday, October 25, 2019 - 14:00 to 15:00
Event Location: 
MSI Large Lecture Theatre
Professor Claire Halpin FRSE FRSB
Professor Julian Blow FRSE FMedSci
Event Speaker: 
Professor Adrian Bird
Wellcome Centre of Cell Biology, University of Edinburgh
Event Type: 
Named Lecture

The talk will be followed by refreshments in WTB Atrium/Life Space, to which everyone is invited. 



Cytosine residues in DNA can be modified post-synthetically and this affects local protein-DNA interactions. For example, the MeCP2 protein specifically binds to methylated sites in the genome, potentially allowing it to interpret this “epigenetic” mark. Several clinical disorders are caused by mutations in the MECP2 gene, including the profound neurological disorder Rett syndrome. The equivalent phenotype in animal models can be reversed, suggesting that the protein fine-tunes neuronal function and that the human disorder may also be curable. Evidence will be presented that the root cause of Rett syndrome is failure of the primary function of MeCP2, which is to restrain gene expression in a DNA methylation-dependent manner.




Adrian Bird is Buchanan Professor of Genetics at the University of Edinburgh. He obtained his PhD at Edinburgh University and, following postdoctoral experience at the Universities of Yale and Zurich, joined the Medical Research Council’s Mammalian Genome Unit in Edinburgh. In 1987 he moved to Vienna as a Senior Scientist at the Institute for Molecular Pathology. Following his return to Edinburgh he was Director of the Centre for Cell biology (1999-2011), a governor of the Wellcome Trust and subsequently a trustee of Cancer Research UK. Awards include the Gairdner International Award, the BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge Award and the Shaw Prize. Dr Bird’s research focuses on the basic biology of DNA methylation and other epigenetic processes. His group identified CpG islands as gene markers in the vertebrate genome and discovered proteins that read the DNA methylation signal to influence chromatin structure. Mutations in one of these proteins, MeCP2, cause the severe neurological disorder Rett Syndrome. In 2007 his laboratory showed that the Rett syndrome-like phenotype in mice is reversible, raising the possibility that the condition in humans can be cured.


About the lecture series:

The Peter Garland Lecture was set up in 1985 to mark the achievement of Dundee’s first Professor of Biochemistry in building up the Department into one of the strongest in the UK over the period 1970 to 1984. Fifteen Peter Garland lecturers have had, or subsequently went on to win, a Nobel Prize.