Harvard University - Department of Molecular & Cellular Biology


Herschel Smith Professor of Molecular Genetics
Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology
Director of FAS Center for Systems Biology

Email: amurray@mcb.harvard.edu
Phone: 617-496-1350

Mail: NW 469.20
Northwest Building
52 Oxford St
Cambridge, MA  02138

Murray Lab Website
FAS Center for Systems Biology
Members of the Murray Lab
List of Publications from PubMed


MCB 291. Genetics, Genomics and Evolutionary Biology
Catalog Number: 2833  View Course Website
Term: Fall Term 2013-2014.   Credit: Half course.
Instructors: Cassandra Extavour, Andrew Murray
Course Level: Primarily for Graduates
Description: This course covers the fundamentals of classical genetics, molecular genetics, macro- and microevolution, phylogenetics, and developmental evolution. The emphasis is on major concepts and terminology, reading landmark primary literature, and acquainting students with research techniques.
Note: Required for first year graduate students in the Molecules, Cells and Organisms (MCO) Training Program.
Meetings: M., W., 10:30-12, and a weekly section on F., 10-12
E&M-REASON 18. What are the odds?
Catalog Number: 54305  View Course Website
Term: [Spring Term 2014-2015.]   Credit: Half course.
Instructors: Edward Hall, Andrew Murray
Course Level: Primarily for Undergraduates
Description: There is the mathematics behind statistics, and then there are the concepts - without a proper grasp of which you will all too likely fall prey to confusion, error, and even outright deception. This course will teach you a bit about the math, and a lot about the concepts. Take it and achieve enlightenment about such topics as the difference between probability and risk, the nature of statistical inference, and the connections between correlation and causation.
Note: This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the Core area requirement for Quantitative Reasoning.
Meetings: M., W., F., at 11, and a weekly section to be arranged.
(View all MCB Courses)


We use budding yeast to look for general principles that underlie the function and evolution of cells, as revealed by studying the transmission of genetic information during cell division, mating, and how cells evolve in response to selective pressure.  We try to make quantitative measurements that discriminate amongst different classes of models and members of the lab come from both biology and physics backgrounds.  In general, we are more interested in using genetic and physiological perturbations to understand the “rules of the game” than understand the chemical functions of individual proteins.

How does mitosis segregate a cell's chromosomes into two identical sets before cell division? This question has fascinated biologists for over a century and is directly relevant to cancer and other important medical problems. We study two aspects of chromosome behavior: how chromosomes attach to the chromosome segregation machinery (the spindle) in mitosis and meiosis, and the spindle checkpoint, the control circuit that cells use to make sure that their chromosomes are properly lined up on the mitotic spindle before initiating chromosome segregation.

Budding yeast has two mating types and can exist stably as both haploids and diploids.  We use microfluidics, video microscopy, and genetic manipulation to ask how cells pick a single axis of polarization when they are exposed to mating pheromones, how this axis is aligned to pheromone gradients, and how pairs of cells efficiently court and then fuse with each other in dense mixtures of mating cells.  Our results suggest that cells use the cytoskeleton to integrate signaling from all parts of the cell surface in way that guarantees a single axis of polarity.

How does selective pressure induce the evolution of new traits and how predictable is the outcome of such experiments? We study both general and specific questions.  The general questions include attempting to use theory and experiment to determine how the rate of evolution depends on population sizes and the beneficial mutation rate, evolving altered mating preferences (a first step towards speciation), investigating the advantages of mutators, evolving cooperation, and determining the distribution of beneficial and deleterious mutations.  The more specific projects use the mating pathway and attempt to create connections to other signaling pathways and turn the pathway from a rapidly reversible and graded response into a stable switch that can be thrown by a single exposure to mating pheromone.


Hartwell, LH, Hopfield, JJ, Leibler, S, and Murray, AW. (1999) From molecular to modular cell biology. Nature, 402(6761 Suppl):C47-52. PMID: 10591225  

Murray, AW. (2004) Recycling the cell cycle: cyclins revisited. Cell, 116(2):221-34. PMID: 14744433  

Ingolia, NT, and Murray, AW. (2004) The ups and downs of modeling the cell cycle. Curr. Biol., 14(18):R771-7. PMID: 15380091  

Leu, JY, and Murray, AW. (2006) Experimental evolution of mating discrimination in budding yeast. Curr. Biol., 16(3):280-6. PMID: 16461281  

Palframan, WJ, Meehl, JB, Jaspersen, SL, Winey, M, and Murray, AW. (2006) Anaphase inactivation of the spindle checkpoint. Science, 313(5787):680-4. PMID: 16825537  

Thompson, DA, Desai, MM, and Murray, AW. (2006) Ploidy controls the success of mutators and nature of mutations during budding yeast evolution. Curr. Biol., 16(16):1581-90. PMID: 16920619  

Desai, MM, Fisher, DS, and Murray, AW. (2007) The speed of evolution and maintenance of variation in asexual populations. Curr. Biol., 17(5):385-94. PMID: 17331728  PMC2987722

Ingolia, NT, and Murray, AW. (2007) Positive-feedback loops as a flexible biological module. Curr. Biol., 17(8):668-77. PMID: 17398098  PMC1914375

Lacefield, S, and Murray, AW. (2007) The spindle checkpoint rescues the meiotic segregation of chromosomes whose crossovers are far from the centromere. Nat. Genet., 39(10):1273-7. PMID: 17828265  

Indjeian, VB, and Murray, AW. (2007) Budding yeast mitotic chromosomes have an intrinsic bias to biorient on the spindle. Curr. Biol., 17(21):1837-46. PMID: 17980598  

Lang, GI, and Murray, AW. (2008) Estimating the per-base-pair mutation rate in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Genetics, 178(1):67-82. PMID: 18202359  PMC2206112

Lang, GI, Murray, AW, and Botstein, D. (2009) The cost of gene expression underlies a fitness trade-off in yeast. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., 106(14):5755-60. PMID: 19299502  PMC2658138

Lacefield, S, Lau, DT, and Murray, AW. (2009) Recruiting a microtubule-binding complex to DNA directs chromosome segregation in budding yeast. Nat. Cell Biol., 11(9):1116-20. PMID: 19684576  PMC2752306

Lang, GI, and Murray, AW. (2011) Mutation rates across budding yeast chromosome VI are correlated with replication timing. Genome Biol Evol, 3:799-811. PMID: 21666225  PMC3170098

Gonçalves-Sá, J, and Murray, A. (2011) Asymmetry in sexual pheromones is not required for ascomycete mating. Curr. Biol., 21(16):1337-46. PMID: 21835624  PMC3159855

Koschwanez, JH, Foster, KR, and Murray, AW. (2011) Sucrose utilization in budding yeast as a model for the origin of undifferentiated multicellularity. PLoS Biol., 9(8):e1001122. PMID: 21857801  PMC3153487

Lau, DT, and Murray, AW. (2012) Mad2 and Mad3 cooperate to arrest budding yeast in mitosis. Curr. Biol., 22(3):180-90. PMID: 22209528  PMC3277655

Koschwanez, JH, Foster, KR, and Murray, AW. (2013) Improved use of a public good selects for the evolution of undifferentiated multicellularity. Elife, 2:e00367. PMID: 23577233  PMC3614033

updated: 04/22/2014