The Faculty


Myosin molecular motors, single-molecule enzymology, actin cytoskeletal dynamics


B.S., Chemistry, University of Chicago, 1992

Ph.D., Chemistry, California Institute of Technology, 1999

Postdoc, Stanford University

Research Summary

Cells use an extensive toolkit of molecular motors to traffic materials, to anchor internal components in fixed positions, and to control their shape. Our major goals are to (1) understand how cells use molecular motors to organize their contents and change shape, and (2) to use this knowledge to control cellular architecture and cell motility. We focus on myosin motors moving along the actin cytoskeleton, and use advanced microscopy methods to visualize and manipulate single molecules in both purified systems and whole cells. We seek to address the following questions: How do motor proteins navigate the cytoskeleton, where an enormous number of tracks point in every direction? Can we uncover the cellular roadmap for motor traffic? How do motors force remodeling of their cytoskeletal tracks? How does an organized cytoskeleton arise from sets of simple molecular interactions? Together, this information will help us to identify molecular targets in efforts to prevent aberrant cell motility, such as cancer cell metastasis.

Selected Publications

Bryan DS, Stack M, Krysztofiak K, Cichoń U, Thomas DG, Surcel A, Schiffhauer ES, Beckett MA, Khodarev NN, Xue L, Poli EC, Pearson AT, Posner MC, Robinson DN, Rock RS*, Weichselbaum RR*. 4-Hydroxyacetophenone modulates the actomyosin cytoskeleton to reduce metastasis. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 117(36):22423-22429 (2020). PubMed

Santos A, Shauchuk Y, Cichoń U, Vavra KC, Rock RS. How actin tracks affect myosin motors. Adv Exp Med Biol. 1239:183-197 (2020). PubMed

Trejo CS, Rock RS, Stark WM, Boocock MR, Rice PA. Snapshots of a molecular swivel in action. Nucleic Acids Res. 46(10):5286-5296 (2018). PubMed

Zalisko BE, Chan C, Denic V, Rock RS, Keenan RJ. Tail-anchored protein insertion by a single Get1/2 heterodimer. Cell Rep. 20(10):2287-2293 (2017). PubMed

French AR, Sosnick TR, Rock RS. Investigations of human myosin VI targeting using optogenetically controlled cargo loading. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 114(9):E1607-E1616 (2017) PubMed

Alcala DB, Haldeman BD, Brizendine RK, Krenc AK, Baker JE, Rock RS, Cremo CR. Myosin light chain kinase steady-state kinetics: comparison of smooth muscle myosin II and nonmuscle myosin IIB as substrates. Cell Biochem Funct. 34(7):469-474 (2016). PubMed

Vavra KC, Xia Y, Rock RS. Competition between coiled-coil structures and the impact on myosin-10 bundle selection. Biophys J. 110(11):2517-27 (2016). PubMed

Zimmermann D, Santos A, Kovar DR, Rock RS. Actin age orchestrates myosin-5 and myosin-6 run lengths. Curr Biol. 25(15):2057-62 (2015). PubMed

Surcel A, Ng WP, West-Foyle H, Zhu Q, Ren Y, Avery LB, Krenc AK, Meyers DJ, Rock RS, Anders RA, Freel Meyers CL, Robinson DN. Pharmacological activation of myosin II paralogs to correct cell mechanics defects. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 112(5):1428-33 (2015). PubMed