BBS Faculty Member - Alan Brown

Alan Brown

Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology

Harvard Medical School
BCMP, Bldg. C1 Room 240
240 Longwood Ave.
Boston, MA 02115
Tel: 617-432-5289
Visit my lab page here.

We are interested in understanding 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.

Last Update: 1/18/2019


For a complete listing of publications click here.



Desai N, Brown A, Amunts A, Ramakrishnan V. 2017. The structure of the yeast mitochondrial ribosome. Science 355, 528-531.

Brown A, Fernandez IS, Gordiyenko Y, Ramakrishnan V. 2016. Ribosome-dependent activation of stringent control.
Nature 534, 277–280.

Brown A, Shao S, Murray J, Hegde RS, Ramakrishnan V. 2015. Structural basis for stop codon recognition in eukaryotes.
Nature 524, 493–496.

Brown A,
et al. 2015. Tools for macromolecular model building and refinement into electron cryo- microscopy reconstructions. Acta Crystallogr. D Biol. Crystallogr. 71, 136–153.

Brown A, et al. 2014. Structure of the large ribosomal subunit from human mitochondria.
Science, 346, 718–722.

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of Harvard College