MRC Human Genetics Unit
Medical Research Council Human Genetics Unit

Andrew Jackson Research Group

Mechanisms for Microcephaly, Cancer and Autoinflammation

Professor Andrew Jackson FRS
Professor Andrew Jackson FRS

Research in a Nutshell 

This programme identifies genes causing inherited disorders of the brain. We study how these genes function, using cells and model organisms.

Aicardi-Goutières syndrome is a genetic condition in which faults in genes encoding enzymes called nucleases mimic viral infection of the brain. These nucleases may normally clean up naturally produced ‘waste’ DNA and RNA. Failure of this process leads to the body mounting an immune reaction against itself. This immune response mechanism is relevant to common autoimmune diseases such as lupus. So, we are studying these nucleases to understand their normal roles in cells and to establish what happens when these enzymes fail.

From studying one of these nucleases, we have found that ribonucleotides, the building blocks of RNA, are also present in DNA. They can be harmful causing damage to the genome and can lead to mutations in cancers. The signature of such mutations may be useful in future in tailoring cancer therapies.

We also discover genes that cause primordial dwarfism, conditions with extreme growth failure of the brain and body. Such individuals are the 'smallest people in the world'. These disorders are due to fewer cells being made during development, leading to a smaller person. Identifying primordial dwarfism genes helps diagnose and manage these rare conditions. It also gives insights into how the body regulates growth, perhaps shedding light into why humans are bigger than mice and how our brains evolved to be so large.

Research Programme

Andrew Jackson group Jan 2024


Professor Andrew Jackson FRS Group Leader
Kamila Musialik Research Technician
Andrea Robertson Senior Research Technician and Area Supervisor
Julia Auer Postdoctoral Researcher
Diana Rios Szwed Postdoctoral Researcher
Paula Carroll Research Technician
Colin Stok Postdoctoral Researcher
Maggie MacDonald Research Coordinator
Martin Reijns Senior Postdoctoral Researcher
Lukas Tamayo Orrego Postdoctoral Researcher
Dan Sarni Postdoctoral Researcher
Carol-Anne Martin Postdoctoral Researcher
Zicheng Yu (YC) PhD Student (with Professor Martin Taylor)
Maarten van den Ancker PhD Student 
Zofia Pukalo PhD Student (with Professor Jeyaprakash Arulanandam)


Top Publications

  1. In silico protein interaction screening uncovers DONSON's role in replication initiation. Lim et al, Science 2023.
  2. Signatures of TOP1 transcription-associated mutagenesis in cancer and germline. Reijns et al, Nature 2022.
  3. Gain of function DNMT3A mutations cause microcephalic dwarfism and hypermethylation of polycomb-regulated regions. Heyn et al, Nature Genetics 2019.
  4. CRISPR screens identify genomic ribonucleotides as a source of PARP-trapping lesions. Zimmermann et al, Nature 2019.
  5. cGAS surveillance of micronuclei links genome instability to innate immunity. Mackenzie et al, Nature 2017.


  • Professor Martin Taylor, MRC HGU, University of Edinburgh
  • Professor Yanick Crow, MRC HGU, University of Edinburgh
  • Dr Duncan Sproul, MRC HGU, University of Edinburgh
  • Dr Tom Deegan, MRC HGU, University of Edinburgh
  • Professor Nick Gilbert, MRC HGU, University of Edinburgh
  • Professor Javier Caceres, MRC HGU, University of Edinburgh
  • Dr Andrew Wood, MRC HGU, University of Edinburgh
  • Dr Tamir Chandra, MRC HGU, University of Edinburgh
  • Dr Joe Marsh, MRC HGU, University of Edinburgh
  • Dr Ailith Ewing, MRC HGU, University of Edinburgh
  • Dr Luke Boulter, MRC HGU, University of Edinburgh
  • Professor Neil Henderson, MRC HGU (affiliate), CIR, University of Edinburgh
  • Professor David Hunt, DRI, University of Edinburgh
  • Professor Elaine Dzierzak, QMRI, University of Edinburgh
  • Professor Jeyaprakash Arulanandam, Wellcome Centre for Cell Biology, University of Edinburgh
  • Professor Grant Stewart, University of Birmingham
  • Professor Dan Durocher, University of Toronto
  • Professor Ian Hickson, University of Copenhagen
  • Professor Simon Boulton, The Francis Crick Institute, London
  • Professor Johannes Walter, Harvard Medical School, Boston
  • Professor Jan Rehwinkel, WIMM, University of Oxford
  • Professor Tuncay Baubec, Utrecht Univeristy
  • Professor Kamil Kranc, Queen Mary University, London
  • Professor Tatjana Stankovic, University of Birmingham
  • Dr Mike Bober, Nemours Children's Health, Delaware
  • Dr Carol Wise, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas
  • Professor Bernd Wollnik, University of Gottingen
  • Professor Valerie Cormier-Daire, Paris
  • Walking with Giants Foundation, UK
  • Potentials Foundation, USA

Partners and Funders

  • Medical Research Council
  • European Research Council
  • EMBO

Scientific Themes

Microcephaly, Aicardi-Goutieres syndrome, Ribonuclease H2, genome stability, inflammation, cancer