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Alan Warren

Mechanisms of eukaryotic ribosome assembly

We are interested in the molecular mechanisms of eukaryotic ribosome assembly, an essential, highly conserved process that is tightly coupled to cell growth and proliferation. This fundamental process involves more than 200 assembly factors whose functions still remain poorly understood. Furthermore, mutations in multiple components of the ribosome assembly pathway characterise the 'ribosomopathies', an emerging new class of human developmental and cancer predisposition disorders. In particular, we discovered that the SBDS protein that is deficient in the leukaemia predisposition disorder Shwachman-Diamond syndrome (SDS) is critical for a late cytoplasmic step in maturation of the large ribosomal subunit.

Key questions that underpin our current research are: how are eukaryotic ribosomes assembled; how is this process regulated and monitored; what are the cellular consequences of defective ribosome biogenesis; how do defects in this process cause human disease? My laboratory uses a highly interdisciplinary approach that combines genetics, biochemistry and high-resolution structural studies using state-of-the-art NMR spectroscopy, X-ray crystallography and single-particle cryo-electron microscopy.

Warren lab
The Warren lab

Key papers

Weis F. et al. Mechanism of eIF6 release from the nascent 60S ribosomal subunit. Nature Struct. Mol. Biol. doi:10.1038/nsmb.3112 (2015).

Ban, N., Beckmann, R., Cate, J. H., Dinman, J. D., Dragon, F., Ellis, S. R., Lafontaine, D. L., Lindahl, L., Liljas, A., Lipton, J. M., McAlear, M. A., Moore, P. B., Noller, H. F., Ortega, J., Panse, V. G., Ramakrishnan, V., Spahn, C. M., Steitz, T. A., Tchorzewski, M., Tollervey, D., Warren, A. J., Williamson, J. R., Wilson, D., Yonath, A. and Yusupov, M. A new system for naming ribosomal proteins. Curr. Opin. Struct. Biol. 24, 165–169 (2014)

Wong, C. C., Traynor, D., Basse, N., Kay, R. R. and Warren, A. J. Defective ribosome assembly in Shwachman-Diamond syndrome. Blood 118, 4305–4312 (2011).

Finch, A. J., Hilcenko, C., Basse, N., Drynan, L. F., Goyenechea, B., Menne, T. F., González Fernández, Á., Simpson, P., D’Santos, C. S., Arends, M. J., Donadieu, J., Bellanné-Chantelot, C., Costanzo, M., Boone, C., McKenzie, A. N., Freund, S. M. and Warren, A. J. Uncoupling of GTP hydrolysis from eIF6 release on the ribosome causes Shwachman-Diamond syndrome. Genes Dev. 25, 917–929 (2011).

Menne, T. M., Goyenechea, B., Sánchez-Puig, N., Wong, C. C., Tonkin, L. M., Ancliff, P., Brost, R. L., Costanzo, M., Boone, C. and Warren, A. J. The Shwachman-Bodian-Diamond syndrome protein mediates translational activation of ribosomes in yeast. Nature Genet. 39, 486–495 (2007).

Alan J. Warren

Professor of Haematology

Department of Haematology


 01223 748488

Plain English

The origins of inherited and acquired forms of blood cancer have recently been linked to defects in so-called 'housekeeping' processes in our cells, specifically in the assembly of the machines (called ribosomes) that make proteins. A major focus of our work is to understand in detail how ribosomes are put together from their component parts. To do this, we are learning about the three-dimensional shape of some of the key proteins involved and how these proteins work together in large complexes. As well as experiments in the test tube, we also use model organisms such as yeast and flies to test the effects of manipulating ribosome assembly in living organisms. The fundamental insights that we hope to obtain will potentially provide a deeper understanding of disease mechanisms.

Group members

Maria Carvalho · Pablo Castro-Hartmann · Mark Churcher · Norberto Escudero · Alexandre Faille · Christine Hilcenko · Pekka Jaako · Shengjiang Tan · Leszek Wawiorka · Félix Weis




Medical Research Council

National Institutes of Health Research