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Dr Jane Cleal BSc (Hons), PhD

Lecturer in Epigenetics

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Dr Jane Cleal is Lecturer in Epigenetics within Medicine at the University of Southampton.

Dr Cleal received her BSc in Molecular Cell Biology in 2001 before undertaking a PhD with Professor Hanson and Dr Green in the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD) division, The University of Southampton with the majority of the work at the Royal Veterinary College, London. She played a pivotal role in developing an ovine model which showed for the first time that fetal nutritional status determines adult cardiovascular function in sheep, and influences the response to postnatal nutrient restriction (Cleal et al., 2007 PNAS). This publication was awarded the University Research prize 2007.

Following the completion of her PhD Dr Cleal remained in Southampton, supported by a School of Medicine Career Track Fellowship. Her studies in humans have made significant progress in understanding how amino acids get out of the human placenta and into the fetal circulation. Dr Cleal was appointed to her current post as a lecturer in epigenetics in 2010.


BSc (Hons), Molecular Cell Biology, University of Southampton, 2001
PhD, University of Southampton, 2005

Appointments held

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Southampton. 2005 – 2007

SoM Career Track Fellow, University of Southampton. 2007 – 2010

Lecturer in Epigenetics, University of Southampton. 2010 – present

Research interests

Developmental origins of health and disease

(With Dr Lucy Green, Dr Kirsten Poore and Professor Mark Hanson)
Fetal growth restriction is associated with increased risk of perinatal mortality and chronic diseases in later life, including osteoporosis, obesity, cardiovascular and metabolic disease.
Dr Cleal is following up from her PhD findings by investigating the effects of pre- and post-natal nutrient restriction on adult cardiovascular function using an ovine model.

The placenta is a vital component in the process of nutrient supply from the maternal circulation into the fetal circulation, and is therefore implicated in the association between fetal undernutrition and cardiovascular disease in adult life.

Regulation of placental amino acid transport

(With Dr Rohan Lewis and Professor Mark Hanson)
To understand why placental amino acid transfer is insufficient in growth restricted pregnancies it is important to understand the mechanisms of placental amino acid transfer in normal pregnancy.
Dr Cleal and Dr Lewis have previously identified three novel amino acid transporters (TAT1, LAT3 and LAT4) in human placenta which control the flux of amino acids to the fetus and subsequent fetal growth (Cleal et al., 2011 J Physiol).

The maternal environmental factors controlling the expression of these transporters are currently being investigated. This involves cytotrophoblast cell culture, promoter analysis and the use of specific antibodies for these proteins. Placentas from the unique, well-characterised Southampton cohort studies are used to relate the regulation of these transporters to the maternal environment and factors indicative of lifelong health.

Maternal vitamin D levels and placental amino acid transport

(With Dr Nicolas Harvey and Dr Karen Lillycrop)
Specifically, low maternal vitamin D levels are associated with reduced fetal growth and poor postnatal health. Studies in Southampton have indicated that vitamin D insufficiency is common in women of childbearing age and that maternal vitamin D concentrations correlate with neonatal bone mass. All maternal nutrients must however be transported by the placenta in order to reach the fetus and influence fetal growth. Whether vitamin D controls placental amino acid transporters is currently being investigated. This involves trophoblast cell culture, epigenetic analysis and placental tissues from well-characterised pregnancies.


Human Development and Health

Affiliate Department(s)

Human Development and Physiology

Postgraduate student supervision


Priscilla Day (PhD)
Claire Simner (PhD)

Faculty of Medicine

Postdoctoral Mentoring Committee member
Introductory Mentor
BMedSc project supervisor

University of Southampton

Outreach activities involving local schools; this includes Lifelab

National and International responsibilities

European representative on the DOHaD Society Council.
Member of the Editorial Board for the Journal of DOHaD.
Scientific advisor: International Baccalaureate in science at Totton College

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Book Chapters


Journal Special Issue


BSc Biomedical Science, Biochemistry and Pharmacology:
Dr Cleal contributes to year 1 and 2 teaching of Molecular Cell Biology and Biochemistry. She delivers lectures, small group teaching and practicals.

She is a Personal Tutor for year 1-3 Biomedical Sciences students.

Dr Cleal offers student laboratory projects on the regulation of placental nutrient transport (BSc and BMedSc).

BSc and BM5:
Dr Cleal contributes to physiology teaching by delivering lectures on placental structure and function.

Dr Jane Cleal
Phone: (023) 8120 8663 Fax: (023) 8120 4221 Email:

Room Number: SGH/IDS/MP887

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