Leonid S. Brown

Leonid Brown


Contact Information

Telephone: 519-824-4120 x53777

Email: lebrown@uoguelph.ca

Office: MacN 325

Online: Research Page


I obtained my M.Sc. with Honors in Biology (Biophysics) in 1988 from Moscow State University, Russia. After that, in summer of 1988, I spent several month as an exchange student at Dartmouth College, NH, USA, obtaining a certificate in Management and Environmental Protection as well as in English Language and American Culture. I returned to Moscow State University, Russia, to work on my Ph.D., which I obtained in 1991 in Biology (Biophysics). In 1992-1998 I did my posdoctoral training in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of California, Irvine, USA.

Professional Experience

I worked as a staff researcher in the Biophysics Department of Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia, in 1991-1992, then as a postgraduate researcher and assistant researcher (Research Assistant Professor equivalent) at the University of California, Irvine, USA, in 1992 – 2002. In 2002 I joined the Department of Physics at the University of Guelph, ON, Canada, as an Assistant Professor, and in 2006 I became an Associate Professor. In September 2008 - May 2009 I served as an Acting Chair of the Department, and served as a member of the Academic Senate of the University of Guelph in 2007-2009. I also spent time as a Visiting Researcher in Nagoya Institute of Technology, Japan, in May-June 2006, and as a Visiting Professor in Sogang University, Korea, in June-July 2007 and October-November 2009.

Professional Activities & Awards

I have been reviewing papers and grants for numerous international journals and granting agencies. Since July 2009, I am a member of the Editorial Board of the Biophysical Journal, the premiere international publication in the field. Since 2007, I am a member of a grant reviewing panel of NSERC. I am also a member of the international advisory committee of Biennial International Conference on Retinal Proteins (since 2006).

I am a recipient of PREA (Premier's Research Excellence Award) (2003) from the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of Ontario, Canada, and RIA (Research Innovation Award) (2003) from the Research Corporation, Tucson, AZ, USA. I also obtained short-term JSPS Invitation Fellowship (2006), from JSPS, Japan, which allowed me to spent two month in Japan doing research and giving lectures in several universities.

Present Research Activities

KEYWORDS: Photobiology, Biospectroscopy, Structure/Function of Membrane Proteins, Bioenergetics, Ion Transport, Photosensory Transduction, Retinal-binding Proteins (rhodopsins)

The research in my laboratory is focussed on the biophysical properties of a diverse family of photoactive membrane retinal-binding proteins, rhodopsins. Rhodopsins are found both in bacteria and higher organisms, and serve either as light-driven ion pumps (important in bioenergetics) or photosensors (important in microbial motility, animal vision, and circadian clocks).

We combine modern biophysical methods (including time-resolved spectroscopy in the visible, FTIR spectroscopy, SPR, NMR, and Raman spectroscopy) with molecular biology and biochemistry. Currently, we are working on three major themes.

  1. Fungal rhodopsins. A few years ago, we found that one of fungal rhodopsins can function as a light-driven transmembrane proton pump, first proven case of such rhodopsin in eucaryotes. The importance of this finding was recognized internationally with articles in Science on-line, PNAS highlights, The Scientist, and Faculty of 1000. We continue our exploration of other functional groups of fungal rhodopsins, which may have a photosensory role. This research has a fundamental importance for bioenergetics, as well as an applied significance for biology of agriculturally important fungal pests.
  2. Cyanobacterial rhodopsins. We study novel photosensory cyanobacterial rhodopsins and their phototransduction cascades involving DNA in collaboration with V. Ladizhansky and K.H. Jung (Sogang University). The research may discover new pathways of light-regulation of DNA transcription.
  3. Proteorhodopsin. In collaboration with Vladimir Ladizhansky, we explore the structure of this novel marine light-driven proton pump by solid-state NMR. About 1000 variants of proteorhodopsin are found around the world in marine and freshwater environments, making this research important for understanding new pathways of solar energy uptake in the global bioenergetics.

List of Publications