David Atkinson, PhD

Professor, Pharmacology, Physiology & Biophysics

David Atkinson
700 Albany St Ctr for Adv Biomed Res


The long standing objectives of my research are to provide the detailed structural and dynamic description of the plasma lipoproteins and apolipoproteins that is crucial to understanding the molecular mechanisms of such physiological processes as lipoprotein formation, receptor interactions, lipoprotein inter-conversions, and apoprotein exchange together with the changes in these characteristics that underlie the pathophysiology of atherosclerosis. Our research has been a component of a Program Project since its inception in 1980 and I have led the Program since 2001, taking over from Dr. Small. Building on initial training in diffraction methods and biophysics, I have maintained and expanded my expertise in state-of-the-art methods of molecular biophysics and structural biology including crystallography, electron microscopy/image processing, calorimetry and thermodynamics, circular dichroism, and molecular modeling/mechanics to probe the structure-function relationships of the lipoproteins and apolipoproteins. This includes a one year sabbatical at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, England developing electron microscopy.

My long standing research program has involved many collaborations with current and past Program Project investigators, particularly Drs. Gursky, Small, and McKnight. Our previous work over more than three decades has focused on the structural and thermodynamic properties of specific lipoproteins (HDL and LDL), and apolipoproteins, particularly apoA-1, together with studies of the LDL receptor. We derived the first structural description of HDL, nascent HDL and LDL using x-ray methods. Our mutation studies of the conformation, stability, and lipid binding properties have contributed to providing a framework for understanding the molecular properties of apoA-1. Furthermore, our studies of peptides representing segments of apoA-1, together with “idealized” sequence models, have provided information on the role of specific residues and domains, and their interactions in the structure and stability of apoA-1. For LDL, we pioneered the use of cryo-electron microscopy to study LDL structure and used mAb labeling to investigate the topology of apoB. In collaborations with Dr. Graham Shipley, a long standing collaborator and colleague, our approach for the LDL receptor has focused on structural studies of the functional extracellular domain of the receptor reconstituted into lipid vesicles.

Other Positions

  • Chair of Physiology & Biophysics, Pharmacology, Physiology & Biophysics, Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine
  • Research Professor, Biochemistry & Cell Biology, Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine
  • Member, Whitaker Cardiovascular Institute, Boston University
  • Graduate Faculty (Primary Mentor of Grad Students), Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine, Graduate Medical Sciences


  • Council for National Academic Awards, PhD
  • The City University, BSc


  • Published on 12/13/2022

    Gorshkova IN, Meyers NL, Herscovitz H, Mei X, Atkinson D. Human apoA-I[Lys107del] mutation affects lipid surface behavior of apoA-I and its ability to form large nascent HDL. J Lipid Res. 2023 Feb; 64(2):100319. PMID: 36525992.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 8/12/2022

    Abu-Shawareb H, Acree R, Adams P, Adams J, Addis B, Aden R, Adrian P, Afeyan BB, Aggleton M, Aghaian L, Aguirre A, Aikens D, Akre J, Albert F, Albrecht M, Albright BJ, Albritton J, Alcala J, Alday C, Alessi DA, Alexander N, Alfonso J, Alfonso N, Alger E, Ali SJ, Ali ZA, Alley WE, Amala P, Amendt PA, Amick P, Ammula S, Amorin C, Ampleford DJ, Anderson RW, Anklam T, Antipa N, Appelbe B, Aracne-Ruddle C, Araya E, Arend M, Arnold P, Arnold T, Asay J, Atherton LJ, Atkinson D, Atkinson R, Auerbach JM, Austin B, Auyang L, Awwal AS, Ayers J, Ayers S, Ayers T, Azevedo S, Bachmann B, Back CA, Bae J, Bailey DS, Bailey J, Baisden T, Baker KL, Baldis H, Barber D, Barberis M, Barker D, Barnes A, Barnes CW, Barrios MA, Barty C, Bass I, Batha SH, Baxamusa SH, Bazan G, Beagle JK, Beale R, Beck BR, Beck JB, Bedzyk M, Beeler RG, Beeler RG, Behrendt W, Belk L, Bell P, Belyaev M, Benage JF, Bennett G, Benedetti LR, Benedict LX, Berger R, Bernat T, Bernstein LA, Berry B, Bertolini L, Besenbruch G, Betcher J, Bettenhausen R, Betti R, Bezzerides B, Bhandarkar SD, Bickel R, Biener J, Biesiada T, Bigelow K, Bigelow-Granillo J, Bigman V, Bionta RM, Birge NW, Bitter M, Black AC, Bleile R, Bleuel DL, Bliss E, Bliss E, Blue B, Boehly T, Boehm K, Boley CD, Bonanno R, Bond EJ, Bond T, Bonino MJ, Borden M, Bourgade JL, Bousquet J, Bowers J, Bowers M, Boyd R, Bozek A, Bradley DK, Bradley KS, Bradley PA, Bradley L, Brannon L, Brantley PS, Braun D, Braun T, Brienza-Larsen K, Briggs TM, Britten J, Brooks ED, Browning D, Bruhn MW, Brunner TA, Bruns H, Brunton G, Bryant B, Buczek T, Bude J, Buitano L, Burkhart S, Burmark J, Burnham A, Burr R, Busby LE, Butlin B, Cabeltis R, Cable M, Cabot WH, Cagadas B, Caggiano J, Cahayag R, Caldwell SE, Calkins S, Callahan DA, Calleja-Aguirre J, Camara L, Camp D, Campbell EM, Campbell JH, Carey B, Carey R, Carlisle K, Carlson L, Carman L, Carmichael J, Carpenter A, Carr C, Carrera JA, Casavant D, Casey A, Casey DT, Castillo A, Castillo E, Castor JI, Castro C, Caughey W, Cavitt R, Celeste J, Celliers PM, Cerjan C, Chandler G, Chang B, Chang C, Chang J, Chang L, Chapman R, Chapman T, Chase L, Chen H, Chen H, Chen K, Chen LY, Cheng B, Chittenden J, Choate C, Chou J, Chrien RE, Chrisp M, Christensen K, Christensen M, Christopherson AR, Chung M, Church JA, Clark A, Clark DS, Clark K, Clark R, Claus L, Cline B, Cline JA, Cobble JA, Cochrane K, Cohen B, Cohen S, Collette MR, Collins G, Collins LA, Collins TJB, Conder A, Conrad B, Conyers M, Cook AW, Cook D, Cook R, Cooley JC, Cooper G, Cope T, Copeland SR, Coppari F, Cortez J, Cox J, Crandall DH, Crane J, Craxton RS, Cray M, Crilly A, Crippen JW, Cross D, Cuneo M, Cuotts G, Czajka CE, Czechowicz D, Daly T, Danforth P, Darbee R, Darlington B, Datte P, Dauffy L, Davalos G, Davidovits S, Davis P, Davis J, Dawson S, Day RD, Day TH, Dayton M, Deck C, Decker C, Deeney C, DeFriend KA, Deis G, Delamater ND, Delettrez JA, Demaret R, Demos S, Dempsey SM, Desjardin R, Desjardins T, Desjarlais MP, Dewald EL, DeYoreo J, Diaz S, Dimonte G, Dittrich TR, Divol L, Dixit SN, Dixon J, Dodd ES, Dolan D, Donovan A, Donovan M, Döppner T, Dorrer C, Dorsano N, Douglas MR, Dow D, Downie J, Downing E, Dozieres M, Draggoo V, Drake D, Drake RP, Drake T, Dreifuerst G, DuBois DF, DuBois PF, Dunham G, Dylla-Spears R, Dymoke-Bradshaw AKL, Dzenitis B, Ebbers C, Eckart M, Eddinger S, Eder D, Edgell D, Edwards MJ, Efthimion P, Eggert JH, Ehrlich B, Ehrmann P, Elhadj S, Ellerbee C, Elliott NS, Ellison CL, Elsner F, Emerich M, Engelhorn K, England T, English E, Epperson P, Epstein R, Erbert G, Erickson MA, Erskine DJ, Erlandson A, Espinosa RJ, Estes C, Estabrook KG, Evans S, Fabyan A, Fair J, Fallejo R, Farmer N, Farmer WA, Farrell M, Fatherley VE, Fedorov M, Feigenbaum E, Feit M, Ferguson W, Fernandez JC, Fernandez-Panella A, Fess S, Field JE, Filip CV, Fincke JR, Finn T, Finnegan SM, Finucane RG, Fischer M, Fisher A, Fisher J, Fishler B, Fittinghoff D, Fitzsimmons P, Flegel M, Flippo KA, Florio J, Folta J, et al. Lawson Criterion for Ignition Exceeded in an Inertial Fusion Experiment. Phys Rev Lett. 2022 Aug 12; 129(7):075001. PMID: 36018710.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 9/3/2020

    Shipley GG, Tall AR, Atkinson D. In Memoriam: Donald MacFarland Small (1931-2019). J Lipid Res. 2019 May; 60(5):911-912. PMID: 33722375.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 9/24/2018

    Liu M, Mei X, Herscovitz H, Atkinson D. N-terminal mutation of apoA-I and interaction with ABCA1 reveal mechanisms of nascent HDL biogenesis. J Lipid Res. 2019 01; 60(1):44-57. PMID: 30249788.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 12/5/2017

    Gorshkova IN, Mei X, Atkinson D. Arginine 123 of apolipoprotein A-I is essential for lecithin:cholesterol acyltransferase activity. J Lipid Res. 2018 02; 59(2):348-356. PMID: 29208698.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 11/13/2017

    Melchior JT, Walker RG, Cooke AL, Morris J, Castleberry M, Thompson TB, Jones MK, Song HD, Rye KA, Oda MN, Sorci-Thomas MG, Thomas MJ, Heinecke JW, Mei X, Atkinson D, Segrest JP, Lund-Katz S, Phillips MC, Davidson WS. A consensus model of human apolipoprotein A-I in its monomeric and lipid-free state. Nat Struct Mol Biol. 2017 Dec; 24(12):1093-1099. PMID: 29131142.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 2/13/2017

    Gorshkova IN, Atkinson D. Increased Binding of Apolipoproteins A-I and E4 to Triglyceride-Rich Lipoproteins is linked to Induction of Hypertriglyceridemia. JSM Atheroscler. 2017; 2(2). PMID: 28597004.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 6/17/2016

    Mei X, Liu M, Herscovitz H, Atkinson D. Probing the C-terminal domain of lipid-free apoA-I demonstrates the vital role of the H10B sequence repeat in HDL formation. J Lipid Res. 2016 Aug; 57(8):1507-17. PMID: 27317763.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 6/3/2015

    Mei X, Atkinson D. Lipid-free Apolipoprotein A-I Structure: Insights into HDL Formation and Atherosclerosis Development. Arch Med Res. 2015 Jul; 46(5):351-60. PMID: 26048453.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 6/11/2014

    Gorshkova IN, Mei X, Atkinson D. Binding of human apoA-I[K107del] variant to TG-rich particles: implications for mechanisms underlying hypertriglyceridemia. J Lipid Res. 2014 Sep; 55(9):1876-85. PMID: 24919401.

    Read at: PubMed

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