The Marine Biological Association

Promoting marine scientific excellence and representing the marine biological community since 1884

Facebook Logo Twitter Logo RSS Logo Marine Science Events Calendar LinkedIn


Professor Colin Brownlee

Director,  Marine Biological Association, The Laboratory Citadel Hill, PlymouthPL1 2PB

Tel +44(0)1752 426274 Email:


My research addresses the cell biology of key marine organisms that are of critical importance in global carbon and nutrient cycling.  I also use algal cells as experimental models for understanding fundamental aspects of cell biology, including cellular transport, homeostasis and signalling.  I study environmentally important groups, such as the calcifying coccolithophores and silicifying diatoms, applying a multidisciplinary approach to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying major biogeochemical processes.  A key strategic driver of much of this research is to provide a better understanding of how phytoplankton populations may respond or adapt to changing conditions in the oceans.  Model algal systems such as Fucus and Chlamydomonas are also studied to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying intracellular signalling.  Along with comparative physiological and genomic studies this research is shedding new light on the evolution of signalling mechanisms in eukaryote organisms.

Current major projects:


Coccolithophore calcification

 Postdoc and PhD positions available

Visit the Lab

Recent key publications

Durak GM, Taylor, AR, Walker CE, Probert I, DeVargas C, Audic S, Schroeder DC,  Brownlee C, Wheeler GW (2016) A role for diatom-like silicon transporters in coccolithophore calcification.  Nature Communications. 7: 10543 doi:10.1038/ncomms10543

Monteiro FMBach LTBrownlee C, Bown P, Rickaby REM, Poulton AJ, Tyrrell T, Beaufort L, Dutkiewicz S, Gibbs S, Gutowska MA, Lee R, Riebesell U, Young J, Ridgwell A (2016) Why marine phytoplankton calcify.  Science Advances 2, e1501822.

Rickaby REM,  Hermoso M,   Lee RBY,   Rae BD,   Heureux AMC,  Balestreri C,   Chakravarti L,  Schroeder DC, Brownlee, C (2016) Environmental carbonate chemistry selects for phenotype of recently isolated strains of Emiliania huxleyi .  Deep Sea Research Part II – Topical Studies in Oceanography 127, 28-40

Koester J, Brownlee C, Taylor AR (2016) Algal calcification and silicification. Encyclopedia of Life Sciences. Nature Publishing Group doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0000313.pub2

Taylor A, Brownlee C (2016) Calcification. In: The Physiology of Microalgae, Developments in Applied Phycology Vol 6., Michael Borowitzka, John Beardall & John Raven (eds), Springer. pp301-308.

Brownlee C, Wheeler GL, Taylor AR (2015) Coccolithophore biomineralization: New questions, new answers.  Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology 46, 11-16.

Flynn KJ, Clark DR, Mitra A, Fabian H, Hansen PJ, Glibert PM, Wheeler GL, Stoecker DK, Blackford JC, Brownlee C (2015) Ocean acidification with (de)eutrophication will alter future phytoplankton growth and succession. Proceedings of the Royal Society (B) 282, 20142604.

Krueger-Hadfield SA, Balestreri C, Schroeder J, Highfield A, Helaouet P, Allum J,  Moate R, Lohbeck KT, Miller PI, Riebesell U, Reusch TBH,  Rickaby REM, Young J , Hallegraeff G, Brownlee C, Schroeder DC (2014) Genotyping an Emiliania huxleyi (prymnesiophyceae) bloom event in the North Sea reveals evidence of asexual reproduction. Biogeosciences 11, 5215-5234

Collingridge P, Brownlee C, Wheeler GL (2013) Compartmentalized calcium signalling in cilia regulates intraflagellar transport.  Current Biology 23, 2311-2318.

Read BA et al. (2013) Pan genome of the phytoplankton Emiliania underpins its global distribution. Nature 499, 209-213.

Farnham G, Strittmatter M, Coelho S, Cock JM, Brownlee C (2013) Gene silencing in Fucus embryos: Developmental consequences of RNAi-mediated cytoskeletal disruption. Journal of Phycology 49, 819-829

Bach LT,  Mackinder CM, Schulz KG, Wheeler G, Schroeder DC,  Brownlee C, Riebesell U (2013) Dissecting the impact of CO2 and pH on the mechanisms of photosynthesis and calcification in the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi. New Phytologist 199, 121-134.

Johnson VR, Brownlee C, Rickaby REM, Graziano M, Milazzo M, Hall-Spencer JM. (2013) Responses of marine benthic microalgae to elevated CO2. Marine Biology 160, 1813-1824.

Taylor AR, Brownlee C, Wheeler GL (2012) Proton channels in algae: reasons to be excited. Trends in Plant Science 17, 675-684.

Johnson VR, Russell B, Fabricus K, Brownlee C, Hall-Spencer JM (2012)  Temperate and tropical brown macroalgae thrive, despite decalcification, along natural CO2 gradients. Global Change Biology 18, 2792–2803.

Flynn KJ, Blackford JC, Baird ME, Raven JA, Clarke DR, Beardall J, Brownlee C, Wheeler GL (2012) Changes in pH at the exterior surface of plankton with ocean acidification.  Nature Climate Change 2, 510-513.

Mackinder L, Wheeler G, Schroeder D,  von Dassow P,  Riebesell U, Brownlee C (2011) Expression of biomineralisation related ion transport genes in Emiliania huxleyi.  Enivronmental Microbiology 13, 3250-3265.

Taylor AR, Chrachri  A, Wheeler GL, Goddard H, Brownlee C  (2011) A voltage-gated proton channel underlying pH homeostasis in calcifying coccolithophores. PLoS Biology 9(6): e1001085.

Cock JM, et al, (2010) The Ectocarpus genome and the independent evolution of multicellularity in the brown algae. Nature 465, 617-621

Mackinder L, Wheeler, GL, Schroeder DC, Riebesell U, Brownlee C. (2010) Molecular mechanisms underlying calcification in coccolithophores. Geomicrobiology Journal 27, 585-595

Verret FJ, Wheeler GL, Taylor AR, Farnham G, Brownlee C (2010) Calcium channels and their implications for evolution of calcium signalling in photosynthetic eukaryotes.  New Phytologist  187, 23-43.


Full publications list: 2010-present     2005-2009    2000-2004     pre-2000    book chapters etc