Professor Michael Brockhurst
Anniversary Chair



2012 Professor Department of Biology, University of York
2011 - 2012 Reader University of Liverpool 
2009 -2011 Senior Lecturer University of Liverpool 
2006 - 2009 Lecturer University of Liverpool
2005 Post-doc Université de Montpellier II
2004 PhD University of Oxford
2000 BA University of Oxford



Rapid contemporary evolution can have important applied consequences, and particularly so in microbes, whose short generation times and large populations potentiate high evolutionary rates. My lab employs a diversity of study systems and a broad range of approaches including laboratory experimental evolution, surveys of natural communities, analysis of clinical samples, next-generation sequencing, and mathematical modelling to address both pure and applied research questions in coevolution, diversification and adaptation. Current interests include:

  • Examining the role for coevolution between species as a driver of adaptation and diversification, and as a force shaping the structure and function of microbial communities
  • Integrating coevolution into our understanding of vector-mediated horizontal gene transfer (i.e., conjugation and transduction)
  • Understanding the consequences of within-host evolution for the prognosis and treatment of chronic bacterial infections with a focus on Pseudomonas aeruginosa lung infections
  • Analysing the evolutionary risks of novel antimicrobial therapies with a focus on antimicrobial peptides

Two references

  1. Mowat E, Paterson S, Fothergill JL, Wright EA, Ledson MJ, Walshaw MJ, Brockhurst MA, Winstanley C. 2011. Pseudomonas aeruginosa population diversity and turnover in cystic fibrosis chronic infections. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. 183:1674-9.
  2. Paterson S, Vogwill T, Buckling A, Benmayor R, Spiers AJ, Thomson NR, Quail M, Walker D, Libberton B, Fenton A, Hall N, Brockhurst MA. 2010. Antagonistic coevolution accelerates molecular evolution. Nature. 464:275-8.


We have demonstrated by combining whole-genome next-generation sequencing with experimental evolution that antagonistic coevolution leads to a doubling of the rate of molecular evolution in viruses. We have demonstrated that Pseudomonas aeruginosa populations infecting cystic fibrosis lungs have evolved incredible diversity that is highly dynamic.


  • Real-time host-parasite coevolution in natural microbial communities (with Angus Buckling & Mike Boots at Exeter and Steve Paterson at Liverpool). Funding: NERC
  • Beyond the Red Queen: are elevated parasite evolutionary rates driven by host shifts? (with Greg Hurst, Steve Paterson and Kayla King at Liverpool). Funding: NERC
  • Host-symbiont coevolution: exploring the parasitism-mutualism continuum (with Steve Paterson at Liverpool). Funding: NERC
  • The impact of hybridization on functional diversification: experimental evolution with sexual microbes (with Rike Stelkens at Liverpool). Funding: EU
  • Genetic diversification and within-host evolution of chronic Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections in cystic fibrosis patients (with Craig Winstanley and Steve Paterson at Liverpool). Funding: Wellcome Trust
  • Understanding the role of temperate bacteriophages in the ecology of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in the cystic fibrosis lung environment (with Craig Winstanley at Liverpool). Funding: Wellcome Trust
  • Evolutionary responses to ocean acidification in a free-living protist (with Phill Watts at Liverpool). Funding: NERC
  • Experimental evolution of novel genetic codes (with Louise Johnson and Rob Jackson at Reading). Funding: Leverhulme Trust
  • Using experimental evolution to develop phage therapy agents for the horse chestnut bleeding canker pathogen Pseudomonas syringae (with Rob Jackson at Reading and Glynn Percival at Bartletts Tree Specialists). Funding: NERC

Research group(s)

Postdoctoral researcher

Dr Ellie Harrison

Host-symbiont coevolution: exploring the parasitism-mutualism continuum  
Research student Mr Ewan Minter Evolutionary responses to ocean acidification in a free-living protist 

Professor Michael Brockhurst

Contact details

Michael Brockhurst
Anniversary Chair, Evolutionary Biology
Department of Biology
University of York
Wentworth Way
YO10 5DD

Tel: 01904 328576