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Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

Professor Steven West

Professor Steven West

Professor, Molecular Biology


 +44 (0)1392 727458

 Living Systems Institute T05.12


Living Systems Institute, University of Exeter, Stocker Road, Exeter, EX4 4QD


Following completion of my BSc at the University of Manchester, I went to Oxford University to carry out a PhD with Prof Nick Proudfoot.  There I studied mechanisms of transcription and RNA degradation - in particular the mechanism of transcriptional termination.  I had such a good time in Nick's lab that I remained there as a post-doc during which time I was also the Hayward Junior Research Fellow at Oriel College.  Following my time in Oxford, I was awarded a Wellcome Trust Research Career Development Fellowship to stary my independent lab at The University of Edinburgh.  This was also a very enjoyable time and culminated in my election into the EMBO Young Investigator Programme and my first open-ended academic post - a Senior Lectureship at the University of Sheffield.  I was then awarded both a Lister Institute Fellowship and a Wellcome Trust Investigator Award to continue pursuing my long-term interest in RNA biogenesis mechanisms.  I moved to The Living Systems Institute in Exeter as soon as it opened early in 2017.


2006 DPhil (PhD) University of Oxford

2002 Bsc Hons (first class) University of Manchester Institute for Science and Technology

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Research interests

My lab has a general interest in RNA biology and transcription by RNA polymerase II.  This is one of the most fundamental processes in life and is often disrupted in disease.  We seek to understand how the extent of transcription is controlled on a gene.  We are also interested in mechanisms that control non-coding transcription and the degradation of these poorly characterised transcripts.  We perform these studies in human cell lines that we manipulate using CRISPR-Cas9 engineering that allows us to control these processes with precision.

Research networks

Lister Institute

Wellcome Trust 

EMBO Young Investigator

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Journal articles

Estell C, Davidson L, Eaton JD, Kimura H, Gold VAM, West S (2023). A restrictor complex of ZC3H4, WDR82, and ARS2 integrates with PNUTS to control unproductive transcription. Mol Cell, 83(13), 2222-2239.e5. Abstract.  Author URL.
Rodríguez-Molina JB, West S, Passmore LA (2023). Knowing when to stop: Transcription termination on protein-coding genes by eukaryotic RNAPII. Mol Cell, 83(3), 404-415. Abstract.  Author URL.
Jenkins BH, Maguire F, Leonard G, Eaton JD, West S, Housden BE, Milner DS, Richards TA (2021). Characterization of the RNA-interference pathway as a tool for reverse genetic analysis in the nascent phototrophic endosymbiosis, <i>Paramecium bursaria</i>. ROYAL SOCIETY OPEN SCIENCE, 8(4).  Author URL.
Jenkins BH, Maguire F, Leonard G, Eaton JD, West S, Housden BE, Milner DS, Richards TA (2021). Emergent RNA–RNA interactions can promote stability in a facultative phototrophic endosymbiosis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(38). Abstract.
Estell C, Davidson L, Steketee PC, Monier A, West S (2021). ZC3H4 restricts non-coding transcription in human cells. Abstract.
Estell C, Davidson L, Steketee PC, Monier A, West S (2021). ZC3H4 restricts non-coding transcription in human cells. Elife, 10 Abstract.  Author URL.
Eaton JD, Francis L, Davidson L, West S (2020). A unified allosteric/torpedo mechanism for transcriptional termination on human protein-coding genes. Genes Dev, 34(1-2), 132-145. Abstract.  Author URL.
Davidson L, Francis L, Eaton JD, West S (2020). Integrator-Dependent and Allosteric/Intrinsic Mechanisms Ensure Efficient Termination of snRNA Transcription. Cell Rep, 33(4). Abstract.  Author URL.
Eaton JD, West S (2020). Termination of Transcription by RNA Polymerase II: BOOM!. Trends in Genetics, 36(9), 664-675. Abstract.
Davidson L, Francis L, Cordiner RA, Eaton JD, Estell C, Macias S, Cáceres JF, West S (2019). Rapid Depletion of DIS3, EXOSC10, or XRN2 Reveals the Immediate Impact of Exoribonucleolysis on Nuclear RNA Metabolism and Transcriptional Control. Cell Reports, 26(10), 2779-2791.e5. Abstract.
Eaton JD, West S (2018). An end in sight? Xrn2 and transcriptional termination by RNA polymerase II. Transcription, 9(5), 321-326. Abstract.  Author URL.
Eaton JD, Davidson L, Bauer DLV, Natsume T, Kanemaki MT, West S (2018). Xrn2 accelerates termination by RNA polymerase II, which is underpinned by CPSF73 activity. Genes Dev, 32(2), 127-139. Abstract.  Author URL.
Muniz L, Davidson L, West S (2015). Poly(A) Polymerase and the Nuclear Poly(A) Binding Protein, PABPN1, Coordinate the Splicing and Degradation of a Subset of Human Pre-mRNAs. MOLECULAR AND CELLULAR BIOLOGY, 35(13), 2218-2230.  Author URL.
Davidson L, Muniz L, West S (2014). 3′ end formation of pre-mRNA and phosphorylation of Ser2 on the RNA polymerase II CTD are reciprocally coupled in human cells. GENES & DEVELOPMENT, 28(4), 342-356.  Author URL.
Hett A, West S (2014). Inhibition of U4 snRNA in Human Cells Causes the Stable Retention of Polyadenylated Pre-mRNA in the Nucleus. PLOS ONE, 9(5).  Author URL.
Davidson L, West S (2013). Splicing-coupled 3' end formation requires a terminal splice acceptor site, but not intron excision. NUCLEIC ACIDS RESEARCH, 41(14), 7101-7114.  Author URL.
Davidson L, Kerr A, West S (2012). Co-transcriptional degradation of aberrant pre-mRNA by Xrn2. EMBO JOURNAL, 31(11), 2566-2578.  Author URL.
West S (2012). The increasing functional repertoire of U1 snRNA. BIOCHEMICAL SOCIETY TRANSACTIONS, 40, 846-849.  Author URL.
Schmidt M-J, West S, Norbury CJ (2011). The human cytoplasmic RNA terminal U-transferase ZCCHC11 targets histone mRNAs for degradation. RNA, 17(1), 39-44.  Author URL.
West S, Proudfoot NJ (2009). Transcriptional Termination Enhances Protein Expression in Human Cells. MOLECULAR CELL, 33(3), 354-364.  Author URL.
West S, Proudfoot NJ (2008). Human Pcf11 enhances degradation of RNA polymerase II-associated nascent RNA and transcriptional termination. NUCLEIC ACIDS RESEARCH, 36(3), 905-914.  Author URL.
West S, Proudfoot NJ, Dye MJ (2008). Molecular dissection of mammalian RNA polymerase II transcriptional termination. MOLECULAR CELL, 29(5), 600-610.  Author URL.
West S, Gromak N, Norbury CJ, Proudfoot NJ (2006). Adenylation and exosome-mediated degradation of cotranscriptionally cleaved pre-messenger RNA in human cells. MOLECULAR CELL, 21(3), 437-443.  Author URL.
Gromak N, West S, Proudfoot NJ (2006). Pause sites promote transcriptional termination of mammalian RNA polymerase II. MOLECULAR AND CELLULAR BIOLOGY, 26(10), 3986-3996.  Author URL.
West S, Zaret K, Proudfoot NJ (2006). Transcriptional termination sequences in the mouse serum albumin gene. RNA, 12(4), 655-665. Abstract.  Author URL.
Dye MJ, Gromak N, Haussecker D, West S, Proudfoot NJ (2006). Turnover and function of noncoding RNA polymerase II transcripts. Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol, 71, 275-284. Abstract.  Author URL.
Teixeira A, Tahiri-Alaoui A, West S, Thomas B, Ramadass A, Martianov I, Dye M, James W, Proudfoot NJ, Akoulitchev A, et al (2004). Autocatalytic RNA cleavage in the human beta-globin pre-mRNA promotes transcription termination. Nature, 432(7016), 526-530. Abstract.  Author URL.
West S, Gromak N, Proudfoot NJ (2004). Human 5′→3′ exonuclease Xrn2 promotes transcription termination at co-transcriptional cleavage sites. NATURE, 432(7016), 522-525.  Author URL.

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I teach undergraduates about cutting edge research in transcription.



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Supervision / Group

Postgraduate researchers

  • Francesca Carlisle
  • Lee Davidson
  • Joshua Eaton
  • Christopher Estell
  • Evelina Lucinskaite

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