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


Patten MM, Cowley M, Oakey RJ & Feil R (2016) Regulatory links between imprinted genes: evolutionary predictions and consequences. Proc Biol Sci, 283(1824).

Madon-Simon M, Cowley M, Garfield AS, Moorwood K, Bauer SR & Ward A (2014) Antagonistic roles in fetal development and adult physiology for the oppositely imprinted Grb10 and Dlk1 genes. BMC Biol, 12(1):771.

Cowley M, Garfield AS, Madon-Simon M, Charalambous M, Clarkson RW, Smalley MJ, Kendrick H, Isles AR, Parry AJ, Carney S, Oakey RJ, Heisler K, Moorwood K, Wolf JB & Ward A (2014) Developmental programming mediated by complementary roles of imprinted Grb10 in mother and pup. PLoS Biol, 12(2):e1001799.

Cowley M & Oakey RJ (2013) Transposable elements re-wire and fine-tune the transcriptome. PLoS Genet, 9(1): e1003234.

Cowley M & Oakey RJ (2012) Resetting for the next generation. Mol Cell, 48(6):819-21.

Cowley M, Wood AJ, Böhm S, Schulz R & Oakey RJ (2012) Epigenetic control of alternative mRNA processing at the imprinted Herc3/Nap1l5 locus. Nucleic Acids Res, 40(18):8917-26.

Proudhon C, Duffié R, Ajjan S, Cowley M, Carbajosa G, Iranzo J, Holland M, Oakey RJ, Rakyan V, Schulz R & Bourc’his D (2012) Protection against de novo methylation is instrumental in maintaining parent-of-origin methylation inherited from the gametes. Mol Cell, 47(6):909-20.

Garfield AS, Cowley M, Smith FM, Moorwood K, Stewart-Cox JE, Gilroy K, Baker S, Xia J, Dalley JW, Hurst LD, Wilkinson LS, Isles AR & Ward A (2011) Distinct physiological and behavioural functions for parental alleles of imprinted Grb10. Nature, 469:534-8. PubMed abstract

Cowley M, de Burca A, McCole RB, Chahal M, Saadat G, Oakey RJ & Schulz R (2011) Short interspersed element (SINE) depletion and long interspersed element (LINE) abundance are not features universally required for imprinting. PLoS ONE, 6(4): e18953.


Michael Cowley