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Post-transcriptional Control of Gene Expression following toxic injury


anne willis

Professor Anne E. Willis

Director MRC Toxicology Unit  (

Professor of Toxicology


MRC Toxicology Unit

Lancaster Rd

Leicester LE1 9HN


Phone: 0116 2525611 (direct)

Or please try

EA: Tara Stevenson

0116 2525544


Positions available

We have three Postdoctoral positions and one studentship available.


Toxic injury, post-transcriptional control, RNA binding proteins, mRNA translation, therapeutic RNAs

Investigator Biography 

Anne obtained a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of London while working in the Imperial Cancer Research Fund laboratories (now CRUK) on DNA repair with Dr Tomas Lindahl.  She then moved to Cambridge to work with Professor Richard Perham in the Department of Biochemistry, where she also held a Junior Research Fellowship and then a College Lectureship at Churchill College Cambridge.  Anne was appointed to her first independent position as a Lecturer in the Biochemistry Department at the University of Leicester, progressing to Reader in 2002 and Professor in 2004, from 2000-2005 she held a BBSRC Advanced Fellowship. In 2004, she was appointed Director of Cancer Research Nottingham and Chair of Cancer Cell Biology, where she was based in the School of Pharmacy.  From 2009-2013 Anne held a BBSRC Professorial Fellowship. In 2010 Anne became Director of the MRC Toxicology Unit.  Anne was appointed as a member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation in 2015, and awarded and OBE for services to biomedical sciences and supporting the careers of women scientists.

Research Summary

The mission of the MRC Toxicology Unit is to deliver field-changing mechanistic insights into toxicology and disease.  Anne’s research in the Unit is directed towards understanding the role of post-transcriptional control in response to toxic injury with a focus on RNA-binding proteins, regulatory RNA motifs and tRNAs.  Through our mechanistic research we are developing predictive adverse outcome models that can be shared with our industrial partners, in particular to understand the “off target” effects of new modalities such as   therapeutic RNAs. In addition to her Unit programme, Anne holds a Wellcome Trust investigator award (jointly with Professor Kathryn Lilley in Biochemistry) to research into the processes that drive localised mRNA translation, a Wellcome Trust collaborative grant to study the role of mRNA translation elongation control, with additional funding from BBSRC Bloodwise, and Cancer Research Technologies (as part of translational alliance with industry).

Research Group

Dr Jana Alexandra, Dr Tatyana Chernova, Veronica Dezi, Dr Stefano Grosso, Dr Rob Harvey, Dr Emilie Horvilleur, Jashu Meisuria, Ryan Mordue, Tom Mulroney, Dr Tuija Poyry, Dr Vicky Pizzinga, Dr Manasa Ramankrisna, Dr Liza Skelly, Dr Mark Stoneley

Key Publications

Chernova T, Murphy FA, Galavotti S, Sun XM, Powley IR, Grosso S, Schinwald A, Zacarias-Cabeza J, Dudek KM, Dinsdale D, Le Quesne J, Bennett J, Nakas A, Greaves P, Poland CA, Donaldson K, Bushell M, Willis AE, MacFarlane M. (2017) Long-Fiber Carbon Nanotubes Replicate Asbestos-Induced Mesothelioma with Disruption of the Tumor Suppressor Gene Cdkn2a (Ink4a/Arf). Curr Biol. 2017 27:3302-3314.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.09.007. 

Bastide A, Peretti D, Knight JR, Grosso S, Spriggs RV, Pichon X, Sbarrato T, Roobol A, Roobol J, Vito D, Bushell M, von der Haar T, Smales CM, Mallucci GR, Willis AE. (2017) RTN3 Is a Novel Cold-Induced Protein and Mediates Neuroprotective Effects of RBM3. Curr Biol. 2017 27:638-650. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.01.047.

Somers J, Wilson LA, Kilday JP, Horvilleur E, Cannell IG, Pöyry TA, Cobbold LC, Kondrashov A, Knight JR, Puget S, Grill J, Grundy RG, Bushell M, Willis AE. (2015) A common polymorphism in the 5' UTR of ERCC5 creates an upstream ORF that confers resistance to platinum-based chemotherapy. Genes Dev. 29:1891-6. doi: 10.1101/gad.261867.115.

Peretti D, Bastide A, Radford H, Verity N, Molloy C, Martin MG, Moreno JA, Steinert JR, Willis AE, Mallucci GR. (2015) RBM3 mediates structural plasticity and protective effects of cooling in neurodegeneration. Nature. 518:236-9

Faller WJ, Jackson TJ, Knight JR, Ridgway RA, Jamieson T, Karim SA, Jones C, Radulescu S, ….Willis AE, Sansom OJ. (2015) mTORC1-mediated translational elongation limits intestinal tumour initiation and growth Nature 517:497-500.

Horvilleur E, Sbarrato T, Hill K, Screen M, Goodrem PJ, Spriggs RV, Sawicka K, Chaplin LC, Packham G, Potter N, Dirnhofer S, Tzankov A, Dyer MJS, Bushell M, MacFarlane M and Willis. A.E. (2014) A role for eukaryotic initiation factor 4B overexpression in the pathogenesis of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma Leukemia. 28:1092-102

King HA, Cobbold LC, Pichon X, Pöyry T, Wilson LA, Booden H, Jukes-Jones R, Cain K, Lilley KS, Bushell M, Willis AE (2014) Remodelling of a polypyrimidine tract-binding protein complex during apoptosis activates cellular IRESs. Cell Death Differ. 21:161-71. doi: 10.1038/cdd.2013.135

Meijer HA, Kong YW, Lu WT, Wilczynska A, Spriggs RV, Robinson SW, Godfrey JD, Willis AE, Bushell M. (2013) Translational repression and eIF4A2 activity are critical for microRNA-mediated gene regulation. Science. 340:82-5. doi: 10.1126/science.1231197

Spriggs KA, Bushell M, Willis AE (2010) Translational regulation of gene expression during conditions of cell stress. Mol Cell. 40:228-37. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2010.09.028

Powley IR, Kondrashov A, Young LA, Dobbyn HC, Hill K, Cannell IG, Stoneley M, Kong YW, Cotes JA, Smith GC, Wek R, Hayes C, Gant TW, Spriggs KA, Bushell M, Willis AE. 2009 Translational reprogramming following UVB irradiation is mediated by DNA-PKcs and allows selective recruitment to the polysomes of mRNAs encoding DNA repair enzymes. Genes Dev. 2009 23:1207-20. doi: 10.1101/gad.516509.