Richard B. Dickinson
Ph.D., 1992, University of Minnesota
Professor and Chair
Ph : 352-392-0898
Biomolecular Motors and Cell Motility
Biomedical Device-Centered Infections
Adhesion-Mediated Cell Migration
We apply engineering principles to study the behavior of living cells. That is, we use a combination of mathematical modeling, quantitative experimentation, together with the tools of biochemistry and molecular cell biology to better understand the relationship between cell function and the physical and molecular properties of cells and their surroundings. The field is often called cellular bioengineering or cellular engineering.
Actin-Based Motility

Keywords: Biomolecular/Biomedical, Nanosciences

We are studying the mechanisms of actin-based cell motility using a combination of mathematical modeling, biophysical measurements, biochemistry, and molecular biology. We have defined and are investigating a class of biomolecular motors, called "filament end-tracking motors", that are responsible for force generation by actin polymerization. Filament end-tracking motors have wide-ranging relevance in cell biology and microbiology, including plasmid segregation in prokaryotes, actin assembly in yeast-cell division, protrusions at the leading edge of migrating cells, as well as the intracellular transport of vesicles and some invasive pathogenic microorganisms such as Listeria monocytogenes, and Rickettsia.

Fibroblast Cells Figure 1 Fibroblast cells with actin labeled red, myosin green, and cell nuclei blue.
Mechanics of nucleus deformation and positioning

Keywords: Biomolecular/Biomedical, Soft Matter

Cells sense and respond to the mechanical properties of their environment using cytoskeletal linkages between the cell membrane and the nucleus surface. Stem cell differentiation and several disease states including cancer are associated with altered mechanical communication between the cell's nucleus and its extracellular environment. Our work focuses on developing and validating mechanistic multi-scale computational models that can predict and explain the role of the cytoskeletal filaments and their associated molecular motors in generating forces necessary to reshape and position the cell nucleus. These models are used to test hypotheses regarding mechanisms of force generation and to interpret measurements, ultimately to quantitatively understand forces on the nucleus in terms of measureable molecular and mechanical properties.
Recent Publications
1. Shekhar N*, Wu J*, Dickinson RB and Lele TP. "Cytoplasmic dynein: tension generation on microtubules and the nucleus." Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering, Cell Mol Bioeng. Mar 1; 6(1):74-81 (2013).
2. Wu J, Misra G, Russell RJ, Ladd AJ, Lele TP, Dickinson RB. "Effects of Dynein on Microtubule Mechanics and Centrosome Positioning." Molecular Biology of the Cell. 22(24):4834-41 (2011).
3 Russell, R., Grubbs, A., Mangroo, S., Nakasone, S., Dickinson. R. B. and T P. Lele. "Sarcomere length fluctuations and flow in living cells." Cytoskeleton. 68(3):150-6. (2011).
4. Wu, J., Lee, K. C., Dickinson, R. B. and T. P. Lele. "How dynein and microtubules rotate the nucleus." J. Cell Physiol 226(10):2666-74. (2011).
5. 5. Breitsprecher, D., Kiesewetter, A. K., Linkner, J., Vinzenz, M., Stradal, T.E.B., Small, J.V., Curth, U., Dickinson, R. B. and J. Faix. "Molecular mechanism of Ena/VASP-mediated actin filament elongation". EMBO J. Feb 2; 30(3):456-67. (2011).