Staff profile

Professor Jenny Marshall Graves AO, FAA

Distinguished Professor, Professor Emeritus, ANU; Thinker-in-Residence, University of Canberra; Professorial Fellow, University of Melbourne

Faculty of Science, Technology and Engineering
School of Molecular Sciences
Department of Genetics
La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science

LIMS2 rm 101, Melbourne (Bundoora)


BSc (Hons), MSc, University of Adelaide; PhD University of California, Berkeley

Membership of professional associations

Fellow, Australian Academy of Science; Royal Society of Victoria; Genetics Society of AustralAsia

Area of study


Brief profile

Jenny Graves made seminal contributions to the understanding of mammalian genome organization and evolution, exploiting the genetic diversity of Australia's unique animals as a source of genetic variation to study highly conserved genetic structures and processes. Her studies of the chromosomes and genes of kangaroos and platypus, devils (Tasmanian) and dragons (lizards) has shed light on the organisation, function and evolution of mammalian genomes, and led to influential new theories of the origin and evolution of human sex chromosomes and sex determining genes. She is (in)famous for her prediction that the human Y chromosome is disappearing. She made critical discoveries that the epigenetic silencing of mammalian X chromosomes occurred by transcriptional inhibition, and was mediated by DNA methylation.

Jenny has been involved in international comparative gene mapping and sequencing projects since the mid-1980s, promulgating the value of comparative genomics and the special value of including distantly related species. She initiated projects to sequence the genomes of marsupials and the platypus, and was Foundation Director of the ARC Centre of excellence in Kangaroo Genomics.


Jenny received a BSc Hons and MSc from the University of Adelaide for work on the epigenetic silencing of one X chromosome in female marsupials. She then used a Fulbright Travel Grant to do a PhD in molecular biology at the University of California, Berkeley, which she received in 1971 for her work on the control of DNA synthesis in mammalian cells. In 1971, she returned to Australia as a lecturer in Genetics at La Trobe University, becoming a Professor in 1991. In 2001 she moved to the Research School of Biological Sciences, Australian National University as head of the Comparative Genomics Research Unit and Director of the ARC Centre for Excellence in Kangaroo Genomics. She has recently returned to Melbourne as Distinguished Professor at La Trobe University, but also holds honorary positions at ANU, the University of Canberra and the University of Melbourne.

Jenny has published more than 400 scientific works, including 3 books. She was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science in 1999 and served on the Academy Executive, first as Foreign Secretary, and now as Secretary for Education. She is 2006 L’Oreal-UNESCO Laureate, and has received many awards for her work, including the MacFarlane Burnet Medal for research in biology, and an AO.


Teaching units

 Jenny taught genetics at La Trobe University at every level for 30 years, making many observations about how students learn to understand how science is done, and trialling many different methods of lecture and practical work. She promotes the idea that every topic in biology is united by evolution, endorsing the maxim that “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” She is particularly concerned that many students focus on learning science content and never experience the excitement of scientific discovery, being unable to observe and interpret the world for themselves. Through her executive position as Secretary for Education and Public Affairs in the Academy, she seeks to promote new ways of teaching primary and highschool science that are engaging  to students and engender science literacy in the Australian community.

Recent publications


 Graves, J.A.M. 2014. The epigenetic sole of sex and dosage compensation. Nature Genetics 46, 215–217 

 Ezaz,  T., Azad, B., O’Meally, D., Young, M.J., Matsubara, K., Edwards, M.J., Zhang, X., Holleley, C.E., Deakin, J.E., Graves, J.A.M., Georges, A., Edwards, S.V. and Sarre, S.D. 2013. Sequence and gene content of a large fragment of a lizard sex chromosome and evaluation of candidate sex differentiating gene R-spondin 1. BMC Genomics 17;14:899.

195.  Deakin, J.E., Delbridge, M.L., Koina, E., Harley, N., Alsop, A.E., Wang, C., Patel, V.S and Graves, J.A.M. 2013. Reconstruction of the ancestral marsupial karyotype from comparative gene maps. BMC Evol Biol. 13: 258.

195.  Nishimoto, M., Katano, M., Yamagishi, T., Hishida, T., Kamon, M., Nabeshima, Y., Katsura, Y., Satt, Y., Deakin, J.E., Graves, J.A.M., Kuroki, Y., Ono, R., Ishino, F., Kato, H., Okuda, A. 2013. In vivo function and evolution of the eutherian-specific pluriopotency marker UTF1. PLoS One 8: e68119.  doi:10.1371

195.  Graves, J.A.M. and Renfree, M.B. 2013. Marsupials in the age of genomics. Ann Rev. Genomics and Human Genetics 14: 13.1–13.28

195.  Graves, J.A.M. 2013. Kangaroo gene mapping and sequencing; insights into mammalian genome evolution. Aust. J. Zoology 61: 4-12

195.  Livernois, A.M., Al Nadaf, S., Deakin, J.E., Graves, J.A.M., Waters, P.D.  2013. Independent evolution of transcriptional inactivation on sex chromosomes in birds and mammals. PLoS Genetics 9: e1003635. doi:10.1371

Tsukamato, K., Deakin, J.E.., Graves, J.A.M. and Hashimoto, K. 2013. Exceptionally high conservation of the MHC Class-I-related gene, MR1, among mammals. Immunogenetics  65:115-24.

195.  Graves, J.A.M. 2013. How to evolve new vertebrate sex determining genes. Developmental Dynamics 242: 354-359

Extreme telomere length dimorphism in the Tasmanian devil and related marsupials suggests parental control of telomere length. Bender HS, Murchison EP, Pickett HA, Deakin JE, Strong MA, Conlan C, McMillan DA, Neumann AA, Greider CW, Hannon GJ, Reddel RR, Graves JAM PLoS One. 2012;7(9):e46195. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0046195. Free PMC Article

 Genomic restructuring in the Tasmanian devil facial tumour: chromosome painting and gene mapping provide clues to evolution of a transmissible tumour.

Deakin JE, Bender HS, Pearse AM, Rens W, O'Brien PC, Ferguson-Smith MA, Cheng Y, Morris K, Taylor R, Stuart A, Belov K, Amemiya CT, Murchison EP, Papenfuss AT, Graves JA.

PLoS Genet. 2012;8(2):e1002483. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002483. Free PMC Article 


Evolutionary history of novel genes on the tammar wallaby Y chromosome: Implications for sex chromosome evolution.

Murtagh VJ, O'Meally D, Sankovic N, Delbridge ML, Kuroki Y, Boore JL, Toyoda A, Jordan KS, Pask AJ, Renfree MB, Fujiyama A, Graves JA, Waters PD.

Genome Res. 2012 Mar;22(3):498-507. doi: 10.1101/gr.120790.111. Free PMC Article

Are some chromosomes particularly good at sex? Insights from amniotes. O'Meally D, Ezaz T, Georges A, Sarre SD, Graves JA. Chromosome Res. 2012 Jan;20(1):7-19. doi: 10.1007/s10577-011-9266-8.

The origin and evolution of vertebrate sex chromosomes and dosage compensation.

Livernois AM, Graves JA, Waters PD.

Heredity (Edinb). 2012 Jan;108(1):50-8. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2011.106. Epub 2011 Nov 16.


A cross-species comparison of escape from X inactivation in Eutheria: implications for evolution of X chromosome inactivation.

Al Nadaf S, Deakin JE, Gilbert C, Robinson TJ, Graves JA, Waters PD.

Chromosoma. 2012 Feb;121(1):71-8. doi: 10.1007/s00412-011-0343-8. Free PMC Article


Activity map of the tammar X chromosome shows that marsupial X inactivation is incomplete and escape is stochastic.

Al Nadaf S, Waters PD, Koina E, Deakin JE, Jordan KS, Graves JA.

Genome Biol. 2010;11(12):R122. doi: 10.1186/gb-2010-11-12-r122. Free PMC Article


Genome sequence of an Australian kangaroo, Macropus eugenii, provides insight into the evolution of mammalian reproduction and development.

Renfree MB, Papenfuss AT, Deakin JE, Lindsay J, Heider T, Belov K, Rens W, Waters PD, Pharo EA, Shaw G, Wong ES, Lefèvre CM, Nicholas KR, Kuroki Y, Wakefield MJ, Zenger KR, Wang C, Ferguson-Smith M, Nicholas FW, Hickford D, Yu H, Short KR, Siddle HV, Frankenberg SR, Chew KY, Menzies BR, Stringer JM, Suzuki S, Hore TA, Delbridge ML, Patel HR, Mohammadi A, Schneider NY, Hu Y, O'Hara W, Al Nadaf S, Wu C, Feng ZP, Cocks BG, Wang J, Flicek P, Searle SM, Fairley S, Beal K, Herrero J, Carone DM, Suzuki Y, Sugano S, Toyoda A, Sakaki Y, Kondo S, Nishida Y, Tatsumoto S, Mandiou I, Hsu A, McColl KA, Lansdell B, Weinstock G, Kuczek E, McGrath A, Wilson P, Men A, Hazar-Rethinam M, Hall A, Davis J, Wood D, Williams S, Sundaravadanam Y, Muzny DM, Jhangiani SN, Lewis LR, Morgan MB, Okwuonu GO, Ruiz SJ, Santibanez J, Nazareth L, Cree A, Fowler G, Kovar CL, Dinh HH, Joshi V, Jing C, Lara F, Thornton R, Chen L, Deng J, Liu Y, Shen JY, Song XZ, Edson J, Troon C, Thomas D, Stephens A, Yapa L, Levchenko T, Gibbs RA, Cooper DW, Speed TP, Fujiyama A, Graves JA, O'Neill RJ, Pask AJ, Forrest SM, Worley KC.

Genome Biol. 2011 Aug 29;12(8):R81. doi: 10.1186/gb-2011-12-8-r81. Erratum in: Genome Biol. 2011;12(12):414. Patel, Hardip R [added]. Free PMC Article









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Older publications

38. Sinclair, A.H., Foster, J.W., Spencer, J.A., Page, D.C., Palmer, M., Goodfellow, P.N. and Graves, J.A.M. 1988. Sequences homologous to ZFY, a candidate human sex-determining gene, are autosomal in marsupials. Nature 336: 780-783 (cover story). IF = 38.6 (citations 155).

87. Foster J.W., Brennan, F.E., Hampikian, G.K., Goodfellow, P.N., Sinclair, A.H., Lovell-Badge, R., Selwood, L., Renfree, M.B., Cooper, D.W. and Graves, J.A.M. 1992. Evolution of sex determination and the Y chromosome: SRY-related sequences in marsupials.  Nature 359: 531-533. IF= 38.6 (citations 175) 

117. Foster, J.W. and Graves, J.A.M. 1994. An SRY-related sequence on the marsupial X chromosome: implications for the evolution of the mammalian testis-determining gene. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 91: 1927-1931. IF= 10.5 (citations 211). Chosen by the journal as “paper of the month”. 

 125. Graves, J.A.M. 1995.  The origin and function of the mammalian Y chromosome and Y-borne genes – an evolving understanding.  BioEssays  17: 311-320. IF= 5.423 (citations 324) 

144. Delbridge, M.L., Harry, J.L., Toder, R., O’Neill, R.J.W., Ma, K., Chandley, A.C. and Graves, J.A.M. 1997. A human candidate spermatogenesis gene, RBM1, is conserved and amplified on the marsupial Y chromosome.  Nature Genetics 15: 131–136 (erratum Nature Genetics  15: 411). IF= 33.1 (citations 117) 

161. O’Neill, R.J.W., O’Neill, M.J. and Graves, J.A.M. 1998.  Undermethylation associated with retroelement activation and chromosome remodelling in an interspecific mammalian hybrid.  Nature 393:68-72, erratum Nature 420:106. IF= 38.6 (citations 292) 

167. Graves, J.A.M., Wakefield, M.J. and Toder, R. 1998.  Evolution of the pseudoautosomal region of mammalian sex chromosomes.  Human Molec. Genet.  7: 1991-1996. IF= 7.6 (citations 119) 

180. Shetty, S., Griffin, D. and Graves, J.A.M. 1999.  Comparative chromosome painting reveals strong chromosome homology over 80 million years of  bird evolution.  Chromosome Research 7: 289–295. IF= 2.8 (citations 168) 

181. Delbridge, M.L., Lingenfelter, P.A., Disteche, C.M. and Graves, J.A.M. 1999.  The candidate spermatogenesis gene RBMY has a homologue on the human X chromosome.  Nature Genetics 22: 223–224. IF= 33.1 (citations 113) 

184. O’Brien, S.J., Menotti-Raymond, M., Murphy, W.J., Nash, W.G., Wienberg, J., Stanyon, R., Copeland, N.G., Jenkins, N.A., Womack, J.E. and Graves, J.A.M. 1999.  The promise of comparative genomics in mammals.  Science  286: 458-481 (cover story). IF= 32.5 (citations 475) 

260. Grützner, F., Rens, W., Tsend-Ayush, E., El-Mogharbel, N., O’Brien, P.C.M., Jones, R.C., Ferguson-Smith, M.A. and Graves, J.A.M. 2004. In the platypus a meiotic chain of ten sex chromosomes shares genes with the bird Z and mammal X chromosomes. Nature 432: 913-917. IF= 38.6 (citations 169) 

314. Mikkelsen, T.S., Wakefield, M.J. …(150 authors) …Graves, J.A.M., Ponting, C.P. Breen, M., Samollow, P.B., Lander, E.S. and Lindblad-Toh, K. 2007. Genome of the marsupial Monodelphis domestica reveals innovation in non-coding sequences. Nature 447: 177 (cover story). IF= 38.6 (citations 343) 

333. Warren, W.C., Hillier, L.W., Graves, J.A.M. et al (100 authors) 2008. Genome analysis of the platypus reveals unique signatures of evolution. Nature 453:175-183 (cover story). IF= 38.6 (citations 345) 

342. Veyrunes, F., Waters, P.D., Miethke, P., Rens, W., McMillan, D., Alsop, A.E., Grützner, F., Deakin, J.E., Whittington, C.M., Schatzkamer, K., Kremitzky, C.L., Graves, T., Ferguson-Smith, M.A., Warren, W. and Graves, J.A.M. 2008. Bird-like sex chromosomes of platypus imply recent origin of mammal sex chromosomes. Genome Research 18: 965-973 (cover story). IF= 13.6 (citations 139) 


Research projects

 Current projects I am involved in include:

• Sequencing the genome of the dragon lizard in order to discover the genes on Z or W chromosomes that determine sex, and genes in the sex determining pathway that are influenced by temperature.

• Sequencing the genome of the echidna to discover how monotreme sex chromosomes (homologous to bird, not mammal sex chromosomes) evolved and how they work.

• Evolution of epigenetic silencing mechanisms in mammals.

• Induction of pluripotent stem cells in Australian mammals.

• Chromosome and genetic changes in the heritable tumour of Tasmanian Devil.