Michael F Brown

Michael F Brown

Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry-Sci
Professor, Applied Mathematics - GIDP
Professor, BIO5 Institute
Primary Department
Department Affiliations
(520) 621-2163

Research Interest

Michael F. Brown is Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry at the University of Arizona. He is co-director of the Biological Physics Program and the Chemical Physics Program, and was a co-founder of the Biological Chemistry Program at the University of Arizona. He is internationally renowned for his work on the molecular basis of activation of G-protein-coupled receptors that are the targets for the majority of pharmaceuticals and medicines used by humans. The focus of his work is on biomembranes, with a particular emphasis on lipid-protein interactions in relation to potential drug targets involving membrane proteins. He is involved with investigation of the molecular basis of visual signaling involving rhodopsin. Moreover, Professor Brown is an expert in nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. His activities in the area of biomolecular NMR spectroscopy involve the devolvement and application of methods for studying the structure and dynamics of biomolecules. Michael Brown has authored over 130 original research papers, 10 book chapters, 4 book reviews, and has published more than 275 abstracts. His current H-index is 43. He numbers among his coworkers various prominent scientists worldwide. He presents his work frequently at national and international conferences, and is the recipient of a number of major awards. Professor Brown's many contributions have established him as a major voice in the area of biomembrane research and biomolecular spectroscopy. He is frequently a member of various review panels and exerts an influence on science policy at the national level. Among his accolades, he is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; American Physical Society; Japan Society for the Promotion of Science; and the Biophysical Society. He is a Fellow of the Galileo Circle of the University of Arizona. Most recently, he received the Avanti Award of the Biophysical Society. This premier honor recognizes his vast and innovative contributions to the field of membrane biophysics, and groundbreaking work in the development of NMR techniques to characterize lipid structure and dynamics. Most recently he presented the 2014 Avanti lecture of the Biophysical Society.


Leftin, A., & Brown, M. F. (2011). An NMR database for simulations of membrane dynamics. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, 1808(3), 818-839.

PMID: 21134351;Abstract:

Computational methods are powerful in capturing the results of experimental studies in terms of force fields that both explain and predict biological structures. Validation of molecular simulations requires comparison with experimental data to test and confirm computational predictions. Here we report a comprehensive database of NMR results for membrane phospholipids with interpretations intended to be accessible by non-NMR specialists. Experimental 13C-1H and 2H NMR segmental order parameters (SCH or SCD) and spin-lattice (Zeeman) relaxation times (T1Z) are summarized in convenient tabular form for various saturated, unsaturated, and biological membrane phospholipids. Segmental order parameters give direct information about bilayer structural properties, including the area per lipid and volumetric hydrocarbon thickness. In addition, relaxation rates provide complementary information about molecular dynamics. Particular attention is paid to the magnetic field dependence (frequency dispersion) of the NMR relaxation rates in terms of various simplified power laws. Model-free reduction of the T1Z studies in terms of a power-law formalism shows that the relaxation rates for saturated phosphatidylcholines follow a single frequency-dispersive trend within the MHz regime. We show how analytical models can guide the continued development of atomistic and coarse-grained force fields. Our interpretation suggests that lipid diffusion and collective order fluctuations are implicitly governed by the viscoelastic nature of the liquid-crystalline ensemble. Collective bilayer excitations are emergent over mesoscopic length scales that fall between the molecular and bilayer dimensions, and are important for lipid organization and lipid-protein interactions. Future conceptual advances and theoretical reductions will foster understanding of biomembrane structural dynamics through a synergy of NMR measurements and molecular simulations. © 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Zook, J. D., Molugu, T. D., Jacobsen, N. E., Lin, G., Soll, J., Cherry, B. R., Brown, M. F., & Fromme, P. (2013). High-resolution NMR reveals secondary structure and folding of amino acid transporter from outer chloroplast membrane. PLoS ONE, 8, e78116–e78116.
Chawla, U., Zheng, W., Kuang, L., Jiang, Y., Perera, S. M., Brown, M. F., & Liang, H. (2015). Spontaneous Reconstitution of Bovine Rhodopsin into Artificial Membranes. Biophysical Journal, 108, 500a-501a.
Brown, M. F. (1994). Modulation of rhodopsin function by properties of the membrane bilayer. Chemistry and Physics of Lipids, 73(1-2), 159-180.

PMID: 8001180;Abstract:

A prevalent model for the function of rhodopsin centers on the metarhodopsin I (MI) to metarhodopsin II (MII) conformational transition as the triggering event for the visual process. Flash photolysis techniques enable one to determine the [MII]/[MI] ratio for rhodopsin in various recombinant membranes, and thus investigate the roles of the phospholipid head groups and the lipid acyl chains systematically. The results obtained to date clearly show that the pK for the acid-base MI-MII equilibrium of rhodopsin is modulated by the lipid environment. In bilayers of phosphatidylcholines the MI-MII equilibrium is shifted to the left; whereas in the native rod outer segment membranes it is shifted to the right, i.e., at neutral pH near physiological temperature. The lipid mixtures sufficient to yield full photochemical function of rhodopsin include a native-like head group composition, viz, comprising phosphatidylcholine (PC), phosphatidylethanolamine (PE), and phosphatidylserine (PS), in combination with polyunsaturated docosahexaenoic acid (DHA; 22:6ω3) chains. Yet such a native-like lipid mixture is not necessary for the MI-MII conformational transition of rhodopsin; one can substitute other lipid compositions having similar properties. The MI-MII transition is favored by relatively small head groups which produce a condensed bilayer surface, viz, a comparatively small interfacial area as in the case of PE, together with bulky acyl chains such as DHA which prefer a relatively large cross sectional area. The resulting force imbalance across the layer gives rise to a curvature elastic stress of the lipid/water interface, such that the lipid mixtures yielding native-like behavior form reverse hexagonal (HII) phases at slightly higher temperatures. A relatively unstable membrane is needed; lipids tending to form the lamellar phase do not support full native-like photochemical function of rhodopsin. Thus chemically specific properties of the various lipids are not required, but rather average or material properties of the entire assembly, which may involve the curvature free energy of the membrane-lipid water interface. These findings reveal that the membrane lipid bilayer has a direct influence on the energetics of the conformational states of rhodopsin in visual excitation. © 1994.

Chawla, U., Jiang, Y., Zheng, W., Perera, S. M., Brown, M. F., & Liang, H. (2015). A Usual G-Protein-Coupled Receptor in Unusual Membranes. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 54, 1–6. doi:DOI: 10.1002/anie.201508648