Professor Iain McEwan

Professor Iain McEwan
BSc (Hons), PhD

Personal Chair

Professor Iain McEwan
Professor Iain McEwan

Contact Details

work +44 (0)1224 437328
The University of Aberdeen Professor Iain J McEwan, Institute of Medical Sciences, Office 2.34, School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition, College of Life Sciences and Medicine, University of Aberdeen, Foresterhill Aberdeen, AB25 2ZD

Publications on Google Scholar




Iain McEwan graduated with a first in Biochemistry from the University of Strathclyde in 1983, and went on to gain a PhD in 1987 from the University of Glasgow.

From 1986-1989 he worked as a Postdoctoral research fellow at the Friedrich Meischer Institute in Basel, Switzerland. He then moved to Sweden where he gained experience working as a Postdoctoral research fellow at the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm and then as a Junior group leader in the Department of Biosciences at Novum, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.

In 1997 he moved south (!) to take up a lectureship at the University of Aberdeen and in 2003 was made a Senior Lecturer, Reader in 2005 and awarded a Personal Chair in 2009.


Research Interests

The research of my group focuses on investigating the molecular mechanisms of action of the human androgen receptor and translating fundametal descoveries to the clinic. The androgen receptor is an intracellular receptor protein that acts as the 'gatekeeper' for the actions of the male steroid hormones testosterone and dehydrotestosterone. The androgen receptor functions as a liganded-activated transcription factor that both up-and down-regulates networks of genes in target tissues. Mutations in the receptor can lead to a disruption of male development (androgen insensitivity) and a neuromuscular degenerative disorder (Kennedy's disease). Mutations have also been identified in patients with prostate cancer both before and after hormone therapy. It has been proposed that such mutations may influence the effectiveness of androgen ablation therapy and play a role in the progression to hormone-refractory disease.

The androgen receptor is organised into discrete structural and functional domains, consisting of a central DNA binding domain (DBD), flanked by a C-terminal ligand binding domain (LBD), and a structurally distinct N-terminal domain (NTD) important for receptor-dependent transactivation. The androgen receptor can regulate both the initiation and elongation steps of the transcription cycle and we have identified and characterised an interaction between the receptor and the general transcription factor TFIIF, which appears important for the transcription initiation steps (see model). We have also shown that the androgen receptor-transactivation domain folds into a more stable conformation, possibly involving alpha-helix formation, resistant to protease attack, in the presence of the target protein TFIIF or the structure stabilising solutes trimethylene N-oxide (TMAO) and trifluorethanol (TFE). Thus our working hypothesis is that the receptor-NTD is structurally flexible, permitting multiple protein-protein interactions with the transcriptional machinery. Specific protein-protein interactions will induce folding of the receptor-transactivation domain and provide a platform for the assembly of a transcriptionally competent complex, containing basal transcription factors and co-activator proteins (SRC, CBP).

Recently, we have extended these studies to investigate the structure-function of the human mineralocorticoid receptor N-terminal domain. The mineralocorticoid receptor is a risk factor in hypertension, cardiovascular disease and metabolic synodrome. This region has a complex transactivation function consisting of different sub-domains which exhibit different functional and/or structural properties. Current work aims to investigate the translational potential of these studies in the treatment of hormone-dependent diseases.

Several potential PhD project opportunities are available:

  • Therapeutic Targeting of the Structurally Plastic N-terminal Domain of Steroid Receptors
  • Tissue-selective regulation and expression of the human androgen receptor gene

Current Research

Current PhD positions:



My group collaborates with a number of colleagues in both the UK and abroad. We also have a collaboration with a local biopharmacetical company, called Elasmogen. 

Research Grants

Research in my laboratory is currently supported by:


Friends of Anchor

Medical Research Council (DPFS award)

Prostate Cancer Research Centre

Further Info


I served as the chair of the special interest Hormone Group (2000-2003) of the Biochemical Society ( and as the Honourary Membership secretary for the Society (2003-2008).

I am also a member of the Society of Endocrinology and serve on the Science Committee(