Alan Yu, M.B., B.Chir.

Professor and Director
Kidney Institute Director
School of Medicine, Internal Medicine

University of Cambridge, England, B.A. (Honors, Class I), Medical Sciences
University of Cambridge, England, M.B., B.Chir. (Distinction), Medicine
Research Fellow in Nephrology, Brigham & Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School
Residency in Internal Medicine, Physician-Scientist Track, Brigham & Women's Hospital
Clinical Fellow in Nephrology, Brigham & Women's Hospital

Dr. Yu directs a laboratory-based research program that investigates renal tubule physiology and diseases. A current focus is on understanding the molecular and structural basis of paracellular epithelial transport and its regulation. Paracellular transport, which refers to transport in between cells, is known to be mediated by a family of 27 tight junction membrane proteins known as claudins. The Yu laboratory works on the structural biology and cellular physiology of claudin function. Investigation of claudin physiology promises to reveal novel fundamental insights into the pathogenesis of many diseases, including acute kidney injury, salt-sensitive hypertension and polycystic kidney disease.

Clinical Focus

Dr. Yu is a general nephrologist who sees the full spectrum of kidney diseases. He has a special interest in fluid, electrolyte and acid-base disorders, including hypo- and hypernatremia, hypo- and hyperkalemia, hypomagnesemia, renal tubular acidoses, and inherited tubulopathies.

Yu Lab web site

We currently have four major projects in the lab:

1. Elucidation of claudin protein structure by X-ray crystallography
We are a Partner Center of the NIH/NIGMS Protein Structure Initiative: Biology. We collaborate on the expression and crystallography of claudin proteins. Concurrently, we study structure-function relationships using site-directed mutagenesis and functionally characterize wild-type and mutant claudin proteins by electrophysiology and cell biology techniques.

2. Functional role of claudins in the kidney proximal tubule
We are testing the hypotheses that proximal tubule claudins are needed for maximal renal reabsorption of NaCl and other electrolytes, and water and for optimal transport efficiency, using mouse knockout models.

3. Hormonal regulation of renal tubule paracellular permeability
While much is known about the mechanisms by which hormones regulate renal tubule transcellular salt transport, the possibility that these hormones might act via the paracellular route is only just beginning to be recognized and is an understudied area. We use cell culture and animal models to examine the effects of vasopressin, aldosterone and ATP on claudin expression and function.

4. Claudins and cyst growth in polycystic kidney disease
Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease is the most common life-threatening genetic disease and is characterized by inexorable growth of kidney cysts due to secretion of chloride and water. We are identifying claudins that uniquely facilitate cyst fluid secretion and could be potential therapeutic targets.

Last modified: May 01, 2013


Alan Yu, M.B., B.Chir.
Professor and Director
Kidney Institute Director