Cell & Molecular Biology
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Research Areas

Research in Cell and Molecular Biology affords students access to a rich diversity of research comprising major areas of modern biology. These broadly defined research areas are described below, and lists of the associated faculty highlight the various strengths and interconnections within and between these areas of research. In addition, more specific information is provided by links to the individual faculty web pages.

Biophysical and Structural Biology


The primary research focus of this group is the elucidation of the three-dimensional structures, functional properties, and assemblages of biological macromolecules by means of biophysical techniques (e.g., X-ray crystallography, cryoelectron microscopy, atomic force microscopy, electron diffraction, computational modeling, EPR and NMR spectroscopy). This research effort is part of the interdepartmental Structural Biology Program, which is based in the Institute of Molecular Biophysics. Additional research areas of faculty in this group include NMR imaging and cellular diffusion measurements, membrane biophysics, and molecular/cell biology. Students have access to a variety of superb research facilities housed in the Institute of Molecular Biophysics, Department of Biological Science, and nearby National High Magnetic Field Laboratory. The Department of Biological Science faculty listed in this group may also be members of a separately funded Molecular Biophysics Program, an interdepartmental graduate training program. (* indicates faculty not taking new students)

  • P. Bryant Chase

    Biomechanics of cardiac and skeletal muscle.

  • Jonathan H. Dennis

    Accessibility and organization of chromatin in the human nucleus.

  • W. Ross Ellington

    * Structure, function, and evolution of enzymes.

  • Debra A. Fadool

    Olfactory signal transduction; ion channel structure-function; neuromodulation.

  • Peter G. Fajer

    Muscle contraction; structure-function of proteins; cellular physiology.

  • Peter Fraser

    Dynamic changes in chromatin and chromosome architecture regulates patterns of cellular gene expression during differentiation and development, or in response to environmental signals.

  • Thomas C. S. Keller

    Cell and molecular biology of the cytoskeleton; cytoskeleton regulation and energetics.

  • Steven Lenhert

    Lipid nanotechnology; drug delivery; biosensors

  • M. Elizabeth Stroupe

    Enzymes involved in eukaryotic RNA and prokaryotic sulfur metabolism.

  • Kenneth A. Taylor

    Macromolecular structure determination by 3-D electron microscopy; structure of muscle and muscle proteins.

  • Paul Q. Trombley

    Olfaction; synaptic physiology and plasticity; ion channel modulation.

  • Qian Yin

    Biochemist and structural biologist dedicate to delineated individual proteins functions and their interactions in innate immunity, inflammation, pathogen-host interaction, and autophagy.

Cell Structure, Function, and Motility


Research groups in this area focus their research efforts on understanding the molecular morphology and dynamics of nuclei, flagella, muscle, and nonmuscle cell-motility systems. These groups use a variety of experimental approaches (e.g., sophisticated light, electron, and atomic force microscopy, molecular biology, genetics, protein biochemistry, NMR) to gain greater understanding of the structural components, molecular organization, assembly, and movement of dynamic systems in vertebrate and invertebrate animal cells, plant cells, and unicellular algae. Graduate students in this area benefit from use, for their research projects, of state-of-the-art equipment in the departmental Biological Science Imaging Resource (BSIR), Molecular Cloning Facility, and Hybridoma Facility and at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory. (* indicates faculty not taking new students)

  • Hank W. Bass

    Chromatin structure and nuclear architecture, meiosis, chromatin profiling, nuclear envelope, telomeres, G4-DNA, and 3D cytology of plant genomes.

  • Brian P. Chadwick

    Chromosome packaging into chromatin at interphase and metaphase.

  • P. Bryant Chase

    Biomechanics of cardiac and skeletal muscle.

  • Wu-Min Deng

    Drosophila model for cancer biology, Cell-cell communication, Cell Polarity, Genetics and development, Cell growth and proliferation, Cell competition, Notch signaling

  • Jonathan H. Dennis

    Accessibility and organization of chromatin in the human nucleus.

  • W. Ross Ellington

    * Biochemical adaptation; enzyme structure, function, and evolution.

  • Peter G. Fajer

    Muscle contraction; structure-function of proteins; cellular physiology.

  • Peter Fraser

    Dynamic changes in chromatin and chromosome architecture regulates patterns of cellular gene expression during differentiation and development, or in response to environmental signals.

  • David M. Gilbert

    Eukaryotic Chromosome Replication and Genome Plasticity.

  • Thomas C. S. Keller

    Cell and molecular biology of the cytoskeleton; cytoskeleton regulation and energetics.

  • M. Elizabeth Stroupe

    Enzymes involved in eukaryotic RNA and prokaryotic sulfur metabolism.

  • Kenneth A. Taylor

    Macromolecular structure determination by 3-D electron microscopy; structure of muscle and muscle proteins.

  • Qian Yin

    Biochemist and structural biologist dedicate to delineated individual proteins functions and their interactions in innate immunity, inflammation, pathogen-host interaction, and autophagy.

  • Hong-Guo Yu

    Chromosome structural formation, meiotic recombination and genomic integrity.

Cellular and Organismal Physiology


Cellular and organismal physiology focuses on the normal vital processes of organisms. Research is directed at identifying biochemical, biophysical, molecular, genetic, and behavioral correlates of normal functioning at the subcellular, cellular, or whole-organism level. Examples of research by this group include the study of muscle and nonmuscle motility systems (e.g., muscle energetics, structure/function of cytoskeletal proteins), cellular enzymatic processes (e.g., cellular energy metabolism, selective enzymatic oxidation of fatty acids), membrane protein trafficking, and stomatal-aperture regulation. Clarification of such processes provides insight into both normal physiology and host mechanisms that protect against pathological states. Other research is directed at clarifying means by which cells communicate by means of ion channels, signal transduction, synaptic transmission, and the regulation of hormone secretion. In addition, some laboratories investigate aspects of sensory systems, including neural encoding and integration of chemoreception, synaptic transmission in the olfactory bulb, and molecular, genetic, and behavioral correlates of taste aversion. (* indicates faculty not taking new students)

  • P. Bryant Chase

    Biomechanics of cardiac and skeletal muscle.

  • Wu-Min Deng

    Drosophila model for cancer biology, Cell-cell communication, Cell Polarity, Genetics and development, Cell growth and proliferation.

  • W. Ross Ellington

    * Cellular energy metabolism.

  • Debra A. Fadool

    Olfactory signal transduction; ion channel structure-function; neuromodulation.

  • Peter G. Fajer

    Muscle contraction; structure-function of proteins; cellular physiology.

  • Thomas A. Houpt

    Molecular neurobiology of learning and memory in food intake; conditioned taste aversion.

  • Thomas C. S. Keller

    Cell and molecular biology of the cytoskeleton; cytoskeleton regulation and energetics.

  • Michael Meredith

    Sensory physiology; chemical communication; computer modeling.

  • Paul Q. Trombley

    Olfaction; synaptic physiology and plasticity; ion channel modulation.

Developmental Biology and Gene Expression


This group's research focuses on the molecular bases of gene function and processes that control development. Its faculty use classical, modern, and unique model systems to analyze the mechanistic bases of gene expression and regulation, to establish relationships between the structure and function of gene products, and to investigate how organisms integrate multiple signals during development. Well-staffed core facilities in the Department of Biological Science, close work with associated departments/programs (e.g., the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, the Institute of Molecular Biophysics, the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory), and new initiatives in computational biology and medical sciences afford access to state-of-the-art research technologies. In addition to emphasizing day-to-day interactions between students and faculty advisors, joint lab meetings and topical seminar series allow faculty and students to present and critique the latest research. The group's laboratories provide excellent breadth and balance in graduate and postgraduate training. (* indicates faculty not taking new students)

  • Erdem Bangi

    Drosophila models of colorectal cancer, cancer drug discovery, technology development

  • Hank W. Bass

    Chromatin structure and nuclear architecture, meiosis, chromatin profiling, nuclear envelope, telomeres, G4-DNA, and 3D cytology of plant genomes.

  • Brian P. Chadwick

    Maintenance of gene silencing and chromatin structure post X chromosome inactivation; role of tandem repeat DNA on flanking gene expression.

  • Hongchang Cui

    Cell fate specification and reprogramming in plants; evolutionary and developmental biology; plant-environment interaction; genomics and epigenomics; proteomics; molecular genetics.

  • Wu-Min Deng

    Drosophila model for cancer biology, Cell-cell communication, Cell Polarity, Genetics and development, Cell growth and proliferation.

  • Jonathan H. Dennis

    Accessibility and organization of chromatin in the human nucleus.

  • James M. Fadool

    Developmental biology; cellular and genetic analysis of visual system development.

  • Jian Feng

    Epigenetic regulation of neuropsychiatric disorders.

  • Peter Fraser

    Dynamic changes in chromatin and chromosome architecture regulates patterns of cellular gene expression during differentiation and development, or in response to environmental signals.

  • David M. Gilbert

    Eukaryotic Chromosome Replication and Genome Plasticity.

  • Kathryn M. Jones

    Plant/rhizobial interactions; bacterial and plant genetics and cell biology; nitrogen fixation.

  • Thomas C. S. Keller

    Cell and molecular biology of the cytoskeleton; cytoskeleton regulation and energetics.

  • Karen M. McGinnis

    Epigenetic gene regulation in maize.

  • M. Elizabeth Stroupe

    Enzymes involved in eukaryotic RNA and prokaryotic sulfur metabolism.

  • Hengli Tang

    Virus-host cell interactions; Cell biology of HCV replication; Cellular co-factors for HIV and HCV infection.

  • Hong-Guo Yu

    Chromosome structural formation, meiotic recombination and genomic integrity.

Microbiology, Virology, and Immunology


The Microbiology, Virology, and Immunology group has widely ranging research interests. Microbiology studies are focuses on rhizobial/plant symbiotic interactions. Specifically, how do plants respond to rhizobial determinants to facilitate invasion by the rhizobium? Such studies can reveal fundamental insights into how bacteria invade and survive within eukaryotic cells, and modulate regulatory and signaling pathways to induce host cell morphological changes and differentiation. Several viruses are currently under investigation. Studies of hepatitis C virus (HCV) replication use cell culture models to show that this human pathogen has developed strategies to hijack resources from the host for its own reproduction. Interventions of these strategies may result in novel therapies that help circumvent drug resistance. Studies on Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), a human DNA tumor virus associated with several human malignancies, including Kaposi's sarcoma, are focused on the viral proteins that are localized in the tegument layer, a space between capsid and envelope in the virus particle. This research explores mechanisms by which the virus evades innate immune response and investigates how viral proteins are selectively assembled into the tegument. Research on the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1) is focused on the structural characterization of the virus, especially the envelope (Env) spike residing to the viral surface. These spikes foster viral fusion with target T-helpers cells and macrophages and are the targets for neutralizing antibodies. Several molecular forms of Env are being considered as vaccine candidates. Cryoelectron tomography microscopy is used to generate 3-D images of viruses and its components and can also be used to visualize antibodies attached to the Env spikes. Several diverse areas of immunology are being explored including immune resistance to the viruses listed above, the allergic response to foods, and the structure and immunochemistry of antibodies. (* indicates faculty not taking new students)

  • Jonathan H. Dennis

    Accessibility and organization of chromatin in the human nucleus.

  • Kathryn M. Jones

    Plant/rhizobial interactions; bacterial and plant genetics and cell biology; nitrogen fixation.

  • M. Elizabeth Stroupe

    Enzymes involved in eukaryotic RNA and prokaryotic sulfur metabolism.

  • Hengli Tang

    Virus-host cell interactions; Cell biology of HCV replication; Cellular co-factors for HIV and HCV infection.

  • Kenneth A. Taylor

    Macromolecular structure determination by 3-D electron microscopy; structure of muscle and muscle proteins.

  • Qian Yin

    Biochemist and structural biologist dedicated to delineate individual proteins functions and their interactions in innate immunity, inflammation, pathogen-host interaction, and autophagy.

  • Fanxiu Zhu

    Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV); cell and molecular biology of human DNA tumor virus; viral strategies of immune evasion.

Molecular Biology, Genetics, and Genomics


This group's research focuses on how genetic information is used and regulated at the molecular, cellular, and in some cases, whole-animal level. Its faculty use forward and reverse genetics to define gene function in organisms ranging from microbes to mammals. Experimental approaches include classical genetic screens, molecular analyses of gene structure and function, functional genomics, and microscopy. Interlaboratory activities (e.g., joint lab meetings, departmental seminars, topical seminar series) promote faculty and student interactions while enhancing close working relations with associated departments and programs (e.g., the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Institute of Molecular Biophysics, Structural Biology Program, the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, and the Department of Biomedical Sciences). Students gain direct access, for their research, to state-of-the-art technologies provided by the Department of Biological Science core facilities. The group also emphasizes high-quality, nationally competitive research and diversity of laboratories and research styles while providing balance and breadth in graduate and postdoctoral training.

  • Erdem Bangi

    Drosophila models of colorectal cancer, cancer drug discovery, technology development

  • Hank W. Bass

    Chromatin structure and nuclear architecture, meiosis, chromatin profiling, nuclear envelope, telomeres, G4-DNA, and 3D cytology of plant genomes.

  • Brian P. Chadwick

    Genomic elements and proteins involved in organizing and maintaining the epigenomic landscape of the inactive X chromosome; Tandem repeats and human disease susceptibility; Disease impacting chromatin structure.

  • Hongchang Cui

    Cell fate specification and reprogramming in plants; evolutionary and developmental biology; plant-environment interaction; genomics and epigenomics; proteomics; molecular genetics.

  • Wu-Min Deng

    Drosophila model for cancer biology, Cell-cell communication, Cell Polarity, Genetics and development, Cell growth and proliferation, Gene expression.

  • Jonathan H. Dennis

    Accessibility and organization of chromatin in the human nucleus.

  • Debra A. Fadool

    Olfactory signal transduction; ion channel structure-function; neuromodulation.

  • James M. Fadool

    Developmental biology; cellular and genetic analysis of visual system development

  • Jian Feng

    Epigenetic regulation of neuropsychiatric disorders.

  • Peter Fraser

    Dynamic changes in chromatin and chromosome architecture regulates patterns of cellular gene expression during differentiation and development, or in response to environmental signals.

  • David M. Gilbert

    Eukaryotic Chromosome Replication and Genome Plasticity.

  • David Houle

    Evolutionary and population genetics.

  • Kathryn M. Jones

    Plant/rhizobial interactions; bacterial and plant genetics and cell biology; nitrogen fixation.

  • Thomas C. S. Keller

    Cell and molecular biology of the cytoskeleton; cytoskeleton regulation and energetics.

  • Lisa C. Lyons

    Signaling and circadian modulation regulating associative memory

  • Karen M. McGinnis

    Epigenetic gene regulation in maize.

  • Hengli Tang

    Virus-host cell interactions; Cell biology of HCV replication; Cellular co-factors for HIV and HCV infection.

  • Hong-Guo Yu

    Chromosome structural formation, meiotic recombination and genomic integrity.

  • Fanxiu Zhu

    Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV); cell and molecular biology of human DNA tumor virus; viral strategies of immune evasion.

Neuroscience


Neuroscience, the study of brain and nervous-system function, encompasses many of the unanswered questions about the nature of humans and other species. The FSU neuroscience group has traditional strengths in sensory processes. The group is currently supplemented by research and instruction in the biophysics and electrophysiology of excitable cells, neurotransmitter and neurohormone action, neural development and plasticity, circadian rhythms, feeding and regulatory processes, and the genetic and molecular bases of neurobiology and behavior. The Department of Biological Science faculty listed in the neuroscience group are also members of a separately funded interdepartmental research and graduate training Program in Neuroscience. (* indicates faculty not taking new students)

  • Debra A. Fadool

    Olfactory signal transduction; ion channel structure-function; neuromodulation.

  • James M. Fadool

    Developmental biology; cellular and genetic analysis of visual system development.

  • Jian Feng

    Epigenetic regulation of neuropsychiatric disorders.

  • Thomas A. Houpt

    Molecular neurobiology of learning and memory in food intake; conditioned taste aversion.

  • Kimberly A. Hughes

    Evolutionary, ecological and behavioral genomics

  • Lisa C. Lyons

    Signaling and circadian modulation regulating associative memory

  • Michael Meredith

    Sensory physiology; chemical communication; computer modeling.

  • Paul Q. Trombley

    Olfaction; synaptic physiology and plasticity; ion channel modulation.

  • Roberto Vincis

    Gustation; Neuronal dynamics of taste sensation and taste-related decisions.

Plant Biology


Research opportunities in plant biology are diverse but focus on basic plant mechanisms. Research related to cell and molecular biology includes the study of water oxidation, stomatal-aperture regulation, signal transduction and gene expression, the molecular genetics of plant meiotic chromosomes, and hormonal regulation of plant growth and development. Special facilities (e.g., herbarium, greenhouse facilities, controlled-environment plant-growth facility, irrigated field) supplement departmental research facilities by enhancing research capabilities for plant biologists at FSU. Related plant research in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology includes the study of competition in plant population evolution, the genetics of environmental adaptation, and taxonomy and systematics of north Florida's rare and endangered plants. (* indicates faculty not taking new students)

  • Hank W. Bass

    Chromatin structure and nuclear architecture, meiosis, chromatin profiling, nuclear envelope, telomeres, G4-DNA, and 3D cytology of plant genomes.

  • Hongchang Cui

    Cell fate specification and reprogramming in plants; evolutionary and developmental biology; plant-environment interaction; genomics and epigenomics; proteomics; molecular genetics.

  • Kathryn M. Jones

    Plant/rhizobial interactions; bacterial and plant genetics and cell biology; nitrogen fixation.

  • Austin R. Mast

    Plant systematics, evolution, ecology, and biogeography.

  • Karen M. McGinnis

    Molecular genetics; genomics; epigenetic regulation of gene expression in plants.

  • Alice A. Winn

    Plant population ecology and evolution.