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Professor Robert Cross



Professor of Mechanochemical Cell Biology


WMS - Cell and Development Biology
University of Warwick
Tel: +44 (0)2476 151165

Research Interests

My lab focuses on the force generating mechanisms of kinesins and their microtubule tracks. We are trying to understand the molecular mechanisms of mechanochemical coupling. These mechanisms drive much of the self-organisation behaviour of eukaryotic cells and understanding them is important both for fundamental science and for the development of improved chemical biology approaches to a range of important medical and agricultural problems. My Google Scholar profile is here:


I did my PhD work at Nottingham and my postdoctoral training as an EMBO fellow with Vic Small in Salzburg and as an MDA Fellow with John Kendrick Jones at MRC-LMB, working on the myosin II mechanism. In 1991 I left MRC-LMB to set up a lab at MCRI to work on kinesin molecular motors. We showed that backwards kinesins have the same kinetic cycle as forwards kinesins, that both bind to the same site on microtubules and that both alternate between weak and strong binding states. With Linda Amos and Keiko Hirose we obtained the first cryoEM views of the structural cycle of kinesins. In 2005, with Nick Carter, we published single molecule optical trapping experiments showing that kinesin-1 can be driven to walk backwards. In 2007 we described an ATP-gating mechanism that controls the walking action of kinesin-1. In 2010 I moved with a group of younger colleagues to Warwick Medical School and began a new initiative in mechanochemical cell biology, aiming to integrate biophysical and cell biological approaches to study mechanisms of motorised self-organisation in eukaryotes. In 2011, with Barry Grant, we reported supercomputed Brownian dynamics simulations and protein engineering experiments showing that kinesin can move directionally by biasing its choice of microtubule binding site. In 2012, Andrew McAinsh and I showed that mitosis can occur by either a slow or a fast pathway, with the slower pathway providing greater fidelity. We demonstrated that cells blend these two pathways to optimise the speed and fidelity of chromosome segregation. Also in 2012 we showed that S. pombe kinesin-8 can drive both microtubule catastrophe and microtubule nucleation/rescue. In 2013, with Andrew Turberfield, we developed a new generation of synthetic biology motility assays that uses DNA nanotechnology to instruct kinesins. In Oct 2014, I became a Wellcome Investigator, and have used this opportunity to focus the lab more tightly around its core long-term interest of kinesin-microtubule interaction mechanisms. We continue to build our own microscopes, and have an innovative open hardware project in super resolution microscopy and optical trapping, the WOSM (

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