Front Quad of Lincoln College, the walls covered in bright green ivy

Dr Peter Sarkies

Dr Peter Sarkies

  • Tutorial Fellow in Biochemistry
  • APTF in Biochemistry


I grew up in a small town near Cambridge and studied Biochemistry at Oxford for my first degree. I then went to the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge where I did a PhD in the lab of Julian Sale. After my PhD I stayed in Cambridge as a Research Fellow at Gonville and Caius College, working in the lab of Eric Miska. Here I became interested in how the regulation of genes evolves across species. I developed this interest further when I established my own group at the London Institute of Medical Sciences at Imperial College London. My lab moved to the Biochemistry Department in Oxford in 2021.

College teaching

I teach most of the course in Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, specialising in aspects related to how genes are regulated, how DNA is replicated and repaired, the biochemistry of cancer, and data analysis and interpretation, including computational methods. I try to put all of what I teach in an evolutionary context by comparing mechanisms across different organisms.


I am fascinated by how gene regulation evolves. In particular, a key part of the control of genes in cells is 'epigenetic': information controlling whether a gene is active or shut down, which is preserved when cells divide. Epigenetic information is really important because it enables cells to specialise and perform different functions despite having the same DNA sequence. However, epigenetic mechanisms are extremely divergent across organisms. This is very interesting because epigenetic mechanisms are also divergent across human cancers. We use computational and 'wet lab' approaches to explore the factors driving the evolution of epigenetic pathways in species and in cancers.

Select publications

Sarkies P. 'Encyclopaedia of eukaryotic DNA methylation: from patterns to mechanisms and functions'. Biochem Soc Trans. 2022 Jun 30;50(3):1179-1190. doi: 10.1042/BST20210725. PMID: 35521905; PMCID: PMC9246332.

Perez MF, Sarkies P. 'Malignancy and NF-κB signalling strengthen coordination between expression of mitochondrial and nuclear-encoded oxidative phosphorylation genes'. Genome Biol. 2021 Dec 2;22(1):328. doi: 10.1186/s13059-021-02541-6. PMID: 34857014; PMCID: PMC8638269.

Schneider L, Guo YK, Birch D, Sarkies P. 'Network-based visualisation reveals new insights into transposable element diversity'. Mol Syst Biol. 2021 Jun;17(6):e9600. doi: 10.15252/msb.20209600. PMID: 34169647; PMCID: PMC8226279.

Beltran T, Shahrezaei V, Katju V, Sarkies P. 'Epimutations driven by small RNAs arise frequently but most have limited duration in Caenorhabditis elegans'. Nat Ecol Evol. 2020 Nov;4(11):1539-1548. doi: 10.1038/s41559-020-01293-z. Epub 2020 Aug 31. PMID: 32868918.

Rošić S, Amouroux R, Requena CE, Gomes A, Emperle M, Beltran T, Rane JK, Linnett S, Selkirk ME, Schiffer PH, Bancroft AJ, Grencis RK, Jeltsch A, Hajkova P, Sarkies P. 'Evolutionary analysis indicates that DNA alkylation damage is a byproduct of cytosine DNA methyltransferase activity'. Nat Genet. 2018 Mar;50(3):452-459. doi: 10.1038/s41588-018-0061-8. Epub 2018 Feb 19. PMID: 29459678; PMCID: PMC5865749.