Biological Chemistry & Molecular Pharmacology
The long-term goal of the Brown laboratory is to understand transport mechanisms in the cell.
In particular, we are interested in how molecules are transported into, out of, and within cilia. Cilia (also known as flagella) are finger-like organelles that project from the surface of almost all eukaryotic cells. Motile cilia produce a driving force for locomotion or fluid flow, whereas immotile cilia are involved in developmental signaling and sensory perception. Genetic disorders, collectively known as ciliopathies, can affect both types of cilia and lead to infertility, ectopic pregnancy, respiratory disease, blindness and polycystic kidney disease, among others. As treatment for ciliopathies is predominantly palliative, understanding how cilia are made and what goes wrong in ciliopathies is of vital importance.
To help understand cilia and their dedicated transport mechanisms, we use a combination of structural, biophysical and biochemical techniques with an emphasis on high-resolution electron microscopy (cryo-EM). In the past, we used similar methods to study ribosomes and translation. We are also interested in developing new methods to accelerate and improve cryo-EM structure determination. In particular how we can improve the interpretation of cryo-EM density maps with all-atom models and make these models as accurate as possible.
Alan Brown received his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in 2010 where he studied under Tom Blundell. He was then a postdoc for Matt Higgins (now Professor of Molecular Parasitology at the University of Oxford) while his laboratory was located at the University of Cambridge. He subsequently joined Venki Ramakrishnan’s group at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology (MRC-LMB) in 2012 as a Career Development Fellow, and was promoted to Senior Investigator Scientist in 2015. Alan Brown joined Harvard Medical School as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology on September 1st.
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