Dr Euan Brown

Senior lecturer


Heriot-Watt University


EH14 4AS


Dr Euan Brown works on the biophysics of membrane ion channels. These tiny proteins are nanoscale molecular machines that permit membrane based signals such as secretion, neurotransmission and electrical conduction to occur. His projects have involved the study of ion channels in glial- neuronal interactions, EC coupling and neural network function. He has worked at the Marine Biological Association UK, Leicester University, UK , and most recently at the Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Naples, Italy.

During this time he has contributed to understanding the evolution of ion channels not just at the molecular, but also at the system level. He has developed both single cell and system techniques to study their real-time activity using voltage clamp and single channel measurement systems. Now he is now developing approaches/technologies to use them both as medium throughput biosensors in drug screening/toxicology and as real-time systems to study cellular function.


Ligand and voltage-gated ion channels as sensors

Current projects involve the use of heterologously expressed hERG (human Ether-à-go-go-Related Gene product ) cardiac (Kv 11.1) K+ channels in a medium throughput system for substance screening. This channel is key in stabilizing the regularity of heart beats. Drugs or substances that act on hERG have potential cardio active properties. We are currently  screening compounds from marine sponges and nanomaterials. We will be developing microfluidic devices to solve drug concentration problems where the is dynamic behaviour of substances in solution (e.g Nanomedicines).

(In collaboration with Will Shu)

Funded by the ENNSATOX programme FP7

Role of voltage gated Calcium channels in secretion and EC coupling

Both neurosecretion and excitation contraction (EC) coupling of muscle are triggered initially by the activation of voltage gated calcium channels (N-type in the former and L-type in the latter cases). Key to these processes are  the spatial- temporal organization of  calcium channels in relation to intracellular proteins.  In the case of secretion channels interact  with the proteins of the secretome, and in the case of EC coupling, channels interact  with intracellular Ca2+ release proteins. These mechanisms can only be understood  by combining high resolution imaging and advanced biophysical measurement of whole- cell and single calcium channel activity.

To the above  ends we will develop the technology to couple TIRFM imaging and electrophysiology of calcium channels in muscle and synaptic zones. The results will have an impact on understanding the role of calcium channels in both health and disease and will push forward the associated technology.

(In collaboration with Rory Duncan and Colin Rickman )

Ion channel function and phylogeny

Life originated in the marine environment and even today of all the extant animal phyla 13 are uniquely marine. Marine genomics has opened up the massive diversity of proteins and mechanisms in marine animals to scientific study and marine model organisms offer systems that are so simple that the function of single classes of ion channels can be determined directly by genetic interference and biophysics. The discovery of completely novel channel types is now having a significant impact in the field of biotechnology. We plan to use the diversity and function of ion channels to understand their evolution and physiology. This project will involve combining bioinformatics information with heterologous expression and biophysics.