Blizard Institute - Barts and The London

Dr Miguel Branco, PhD


Senior Lecturer

Centre: Centre for Genomics and Child Health

Telephone: 020 7882 2355
Website: Miguel Branco



After graduating in Biochemistry (Univ. Lisbon, Portugal), Miguel did a PhD at the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre in London with Prof. Ana Pombo, where he studied the spatial organisation of the genome. He then joined Prof. Wolf Reik’s group at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge to investigate mechanisms of epigenetic regulation, and in particular the role of DNA hydroxymethylation in embryonic stem cells. In 2011 he was awarded a Next Generation Fellowship from the Centre for Trophoblast Research (Univ. of Cambridge) and joined the Blizard Institute (QMUL) in October 2013 after securing a Sir Henry Dale Fellowship from the Wellcome Trust and Royal Society.


Personal Webpages:


Group website:





Our group is interested in the epigenetic regulation of transposable elements and its impact on genome function. Almost half of the human genome is made up of transposons, and a proportion of these remain active and mobile. Therefore, their transcription needs to be tightly controlled to prevent mutagenic events. On the other hand, transposons have helped to drive genome evolution, often contributing with gene regulatory elements, amongst other genetic components. Our lab uses epigenomic approaches and molecular biology tools to investigate the epigenetic mechanisms involved in these two seemingly opposing facets of transposon biology. Our group aims to elucidate the functional roles that transposable elements play in the contexts of development, health and disease.


Lectures on Epigenetics for:

iBSc in Neuroscience

MSc in Neuroscience and Translational Medicine



Research Interests:

Retroelement regulation in embryonic stem cells. Preimplantation development involves dramatic epigenome-wide changes that are permissive for the expression of certain retroelement classes. We use ESCs as models to dissect the mechanisms governing class-specific retroelement regulation during this period, namely with respect to DNA methylation, its oxidation by TET enzymes, and the interplay with other layers of epigenetic regulation.

Functional evaluation of retroelements as regulatory elements. Whilst there is an increasing amount of data supporting the role of retroelements in the regulation of gene networks, it remains unclear how important this contribution is functionally. We are using CRISPR/Cas9 to genetically and epigenetically manipulate retroelements, and evaluate their impact on gene expression and cellular phenotype.

Retroelement regulatory potential in cancer. Epigenetic alterations in cancer create an opportunity for retroelement activation, not only at the transcriptional level but also with regards to their potential as gene regulatory elements. Using computational approaches, cell culture models and patient samples we are investigating the contribution of retroelements to gene misregulation in cancer.



Research Group Members


Jennifer Frost, Postdoctoral Research Assistant

Ozgen Deniz, Postdoctoral Research Assistant







Branco MR, King M, Perez-Garcia V, Bogutz AB, Caley M, Fineberg E, Lefebvre L, Cook SJ, Dean W, Hemberger M, Reik W (2016) "Maternal DNA methylation regulates early trophoblast development", Developmental Cell, 36(2): 152-63

Booth MJ*, Branco MR*, Ficz G, Oxley D, Krueger F, Reik W, Balasubramanian S (2012) “Quantitative sequencing of 5-methylcytosine and 5-hyroxymethylcytosine at single-base resolution”, Science, 336(6083): 934-7

Branco MR, Ficz G, Reik W (2011) “Uncovering the role of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine in the epigenome”, Nature Reviews Genetics, 13(1): 7-13

Ficz G*, Branco MR*, Seisenberger S, Santos F, Krueger F, Hore TA, Marques CJ, Andrews S, Reik W (2011) “Dynamic regulation of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine in mouse ES cells and during differentiation”, Nature, 473(7347): 398-402



*equal contributors

View all Miguel Branco's Research Publications at:


Ekaterina Rozhavskaya, PhD Student

Darren Taylor, PhD Student

Minli Zhu, MSc Student