HomeOur ScientistsMichael K. Rosen

Our Scientists

Michael K. Rosen, PhD
Investigator / 2000–Present

Scientific Discipline

Biophysics, Cell Biology

Host Institution

The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Current Position

Dr. Rosen is also professor and chair of the Department of Biophysics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, where he holds the Mar Nell and F. Andrew Bell Distinguished Chair.

Current Research

Molecular Mechanisms of Cell Organization on Micron Length Scales

Cells are organized on length scales of angstroms to microns, and on timescales of picoseconds to hours. Organization at the shortest and longest ends of these scales is increasingly well understood through work in structural biology/biophysics and cell biology, respectively. However, the mechanisms by which the properties of individual molecules give rise to cellular architecture and function remain poorly understood. Research in the Rosen lab is focused on understanding the physical mechanisms of cell organization across scales, primarily through studies of the signaling pathways that control the actin cytoskeleton. Our work is directed toward both understanding the structure and dynamics of individual proteins and their signaling complexes, as well as discovering how and why these discrete entities produce cellular organization and activities at longer length and time scales.

Biography

Just as steel girders support modern skyscrapers, actin filaments give cells their shape and strength. But actin has many other roles: it drives cells to migrate and change shape, and its regulation is crucial in preventing cancer, tumor…

Just as steel girders support modern skyscrapers, actin filaments give cells their shape and strength. But actin has many other roles: it drives cells to migrate and change shape, and its regulation is crucial in preventing cancer, tumor metastasis, and immunodeficiency disorders.

When Michael Rosen started his lab at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, in 1996, he wanted to learn how signals from outside the cell regulate the actin cytoskeleton. A chemist by training, he studied the physical basis of that information flow by examining the three-dimensional arrangements of atoms in individual actin molecules and how the atoms interact with their binding partners. Rosen’s broad technical expertise and ability to complement his structural studies with an array of biophysical and biochemical techniques quickly brought him to the forefront of the field.

In 2002, Rosen moved his lab to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. There, he continued to study actin, looking at how individual actin filaments are formed and destroyed in response to upstream signaling networks, and how molecules in these pathways fluctuate on picosecond to millisecond timescales in order to receive and transmit information, often through allosteric changes.

More recently, Rosen’s team has focused on what happens structurally and functionally when thousands to millions of individual molecules assemble to create micron-scale structures that are involved in gene regulation, signal transduction, and RNA metabolism. Many of these structures constantly rearrange and exchange their constituent parts with the surrounding medium. As a result, it’s much less clear how their physical properties relate to their molecular features, and how those physical properties define biochemical and biological functions that can be regulated in vivo.

Because some of these micron-scale structures go awry in neurodegenerative diseases and cancer, Rosen hopes that by deciphering their normal biology, he can better understand the diseases, and ultimately suggest new treatments.

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Education

  • BS, chemistry, University of Michigan
  • BS, chemical engineering, University of Michigan
  • PhD, organic chemistry, Harvard University