Simon Walker

Simon Walker
Simon Walker
Simon Walker
Head of Imaging Facility
Simon Walker

Simon obtained his first degree in Biochemistry at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh before moving to the John Innes Centre in Norwich where he studied for his PhD under the supervision of Allan Downie looking at the role of calcium signalling during legume symbiosis.

Simon then went to work as a postdoc for four years in Pete Cullen's lab in the Department of Biochemistry at Bristol University where he investigated the GAP1 family of ras GTPase-activating proteins.

​Having become interested in the application of imaging technologies to answer biological quesions Simon moved to the Babraham Institute in 2004 where he helped establish the core Imaging Facility.

Simon now manages the Facility which has over 100 registered users based within the Institute and an increasing number of commercial users based both on and off campus.

Latest Publications

Novo CL, Wong EV, Hockings C, Poudel C, Sheekey E, Wiese M, Okkenhaug H, Boulton SJ, Basu S, Walker S, Kaminski Schierle GS, Narlikar GJ, Rugg-Gunn PJ

Heterochromatin maintains genome integrity and function, and is organised into distinct nuclear domains. Some of these domains are proposed to form by phase separation through the accumulation of HP1ɑ. Mouse heterochromatin contains noncoding major satellite repeats (MSR), which are highly transcribed in mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs). Here, we report that MSR transcripts can drive the formation of HP1ɑ droplets in vitro, and modulate heterochromatin into dynamic condensates in ESCs, contributing to the formation of large nuclear domains that are characteristic of pluripotent cells. Depleting MSR transcripts causes heterochromatin to transition into a more compact and static state. Unexpectedly, changing heterochromatin's biophysical properties has severe consequences for ESCs, including chromosome instability and mitotic defects. These findings uncover an essential role for MSR transcripts in modulating the organisation and properties of heterochromatin to preserve genome stability. They also provide insights into the processes that could regulate phase separation and the functional consequences of disrupting the properties of heterochromatin condensates.

+view abstract Nature communications, PMID: 35725842 20 Jun 2022

Mikulasova A, Kent D, Trevisan-Herraz M, Karataraki N, Fung KTM, Ashby C, Cieslak A, Yaccoby S, van Rhee F, Zangari M, Thanendrarajan S, Schinke C, Morgan GJ, Asnafi V, Spicuglia S, Brackley CA, Corcoran AE, Hambleton S, Walker BA, Rico D, Russell LJ Immunology

Chromosomal translocations are important drivers of hematological malignancies whereby proto-oncogenes are activated by juxtaposition with super-enhancers, often called enhancer hijacking. We analysed the epigenomic consequences of rearrangements between the super-enhancers of the immunoglobulin heavy locus () and proto-oncogene that are common in B cell malignancies. By integrating BLUEPRINT epigenomic data with DNA breakpoint detection, we characterised the normal chromatin landscape of the human locus and its dynamics after pathological genomic rearrangement. We detected an H3K4me3 broad domain (BD) within the locus of healthy B cells that was absent in samples with translocations. The appearance of H3K4me3-BD over in the latter was associated with overexpression and extensive chromatin accessibility of its gene body. We observed similar cancer-specific H3K4me3-BDs associated with super-enhancer hijacking of other common oncogenes in B cell (, and /) and in T-cell malignancies (, and ). Our analysis suggests that H3K4me3-BDs can be created by super-enhancers and supports the new concept of epigenomic translocation, where the relocation of H3K4me3-BDs from cell identity genes to oncogenes accompanies the translocation of super-enhancers.

+view abstract Genome research, PMID: 34933939 21 Dec 2021

Fra-Bido S, Walker SA, Innocentin S, Linterman MA Immunology, Imaging

Location of immune cells that form the germinal center reaction within secondary lymphoid tissues can be characterized using confocal microscopy. Here, we present an optimized immunofluorescence staining protocol to image germinal center structures in fixed/frozen spleen sections from ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 immunized mice. This protocol can be adapted to identify other cell types within secondary lymphoid tissues. For complete information on the generation and use of this protocol to examine immune responses to the COVID vaccine ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, please refer to Silva-Cayetano et al. (2020).

+view abstract STAR protocols, PMID: 34195671 17 Sep 2021

Group Members

Simon Walker

Head of Imaging Facility

Chieko Itakura

Scanning Electron Microscopy Specialist

Hanneke Okkenhaug

Imaging Facility Deputy Manager