Michael Cowley

Associate Professor


Bioinformatics, Functional Genomics, Genetics, Toxicology & Environmental Health Sciences


Research Interests 


The Cowley Lab studies the relationship between the environment we are exposed to during development and our epigenome. We aim to understand how early life exposures remodel the epigenome to affect genome function and how this, in turn, affects susceptibility to disease in later life.

Our primary areas of focus are the impacts of cadmium exposure and maternal over-nutrition on the programming of metabolic disease. We use a diverse range of tools to explore the importance of epigenetics in this relationship, spanning genetics, genomics, cell metabolism and whole organism physiology.

A common theme that cuts across our research projects is genomic imprinting.

Selected Publications


Riegl SD, Starnes C, Jima DD, Baptissart M, Diehl AM, Belcher SM & Cowley M. The
imprinted gene Zac1 regulates steatosis in developmental cadmium-induced non-
alcoholic fatty liver disease. In revision.

Simmers MD, Hudson KM, Baptissart M & Cowley M (2022) Epigenetic control of the
imprinted growth regulator Cdkn1c in cadmium-induced placental dysfunction.
Epigenetics, in press.

Baptissart M, Bradish CM, Jones BS, Walsh E, Tehrani J, Marrero-Colon V, Mehta S,
Jima DD, Oh SH, Diehl AM, Fougeray T, Guillou H & Cowley M (2022) Zac1 and the
imprinted gene network program juvenile NAFLD in response to maternal metabolic
syndrome. Hepatology, in press.

Hudson KM, Shiver E, Yu J, Mehta S, Jima DD, Kane MA, Patisaul HB & Cowley M
(2021) Transcriptomic, proteomic, and metabolomic analyses identify candidate
pathways linking maternal cadmium exposure to altered neurodevelopment and
behavior. Sci Rep, 11(1):16302.

Hudson KM, Belcher SM & Cowley M (2019) Maternal cadmium exposure in the mouse
leads to increased heart weight at birth and programs susceptibility to hypertension in
adulthood. Sci Rep, 9(1):13553.

Baptissart M, Lamb HE, To K, Bradish C, Tehrani J, Reif D & Cowley M (2018)
Neonatal mice exposed to a high fat diet in utero influence the behavior of their nursing
dam. Proc R Soc B, 285:20181237.

Cowley M*, Skaar DA, Jima DD, Maguire R, Hudson KM, Park SS, Sorrow P & Hoyo C
(2018) Effects of cadmium exposure on DNA methylation at imprinting control regions
and genome-wide in mothers and newborn children. Environ Health Perspect,
126(3):037003. *corresponding author

Michael Cowley