Glenys J. Thomson

Glenys Thomson

Professor Emerita

Phone: (510) 642-7025

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Research Description

My research in human disease and evolutionary genetics combines theoretical and molecular biological approaches. The specific aims of my research are: (1) investigation of the HLA component of complex diseases, including delineating disease predisposing variants at the amino acid level, (2) study of complex genetic diseases, (3) investigation of the evolutionary history of the HLA region, and (4) study of overall human genetic variation. The HLA region, the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) of humans, contains a number of closely linked, highly polymorphic genes whose products control a variety of functions concerned with the regulation of immune responses. Selection has been very important in the evolutionary history of the HLA region. This is reflected in a number of features of HLA genetic variation. Also, over 50 diseases have been shown to be associated with the HLA region, these include: autoimmune diseases such as insulin dependent diabetes and multiple sclerosis; cancers such as Hodgkin disease; and infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis and AIDS. These diseases are genetically complex and involve genetic heterogeneity in the HLA region and non-HLA genes.

Our approach is multi-faceted, involving molecular biology in the study of HLA and microsatellite variation, mathematical and computer modeling, and empirical data analysis. My students are uniquely trained, in that those doing molecular biology laboratory work are also trained in population genetics, evolutionary theory, and the various aspects of data analysis, while those interested in statistical analyses and modeling have access to the data generated in our laboratory, as well as from collaborations and the literature. Our population and disease studies emphasize consideration of ethnic variation in human populations and across species variation.

Selected Publications

Meyer D, G. Thomson. 2001. How selection shapes variation of the human major histocompatibility complex: a review. Annals of Human Genetics65:1-26.

Adams, E., S. Cooper, G. Thomson, P. Parham. 2000. Common chimpanzees have greater diversity than humans at two of the three major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I genes. Immunogenetics 51:410-424.

Noble, J.A., A.M. Valdes, G. Thomson, H.A. Erlich. 2000. The HLA class II locus DPB1 can influence susceptibility to type 1 diabetes. Diabetes49:121-125.

Thomson, G., M.S. Esposito. 1999. The genetics of complex diseases. Trends in Genetics 15:M17-M20.