Michael Rust


  • Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology & Department of Physics, and the Committee on Microbiology.


Ph.D. Harvard University, 2006
B.S. Harvey Mudd College, 2001

Contact Information

The University of Chicago
900 E 57th Street
The Knapp Center for Biomedical Discovery, 10124
Chicago, IL 60637

Phone: Lab (773) 795-5650
         Office (773) 834-1463
Lab website: http://rustlab.uchicago.edu/

Research Summary

System-level studies of microbial cell metabolism and behavior

My lab is interested in understanding how the properties of living cells emerge from the stochastic reactions of molecular components. We use a mixture of biophysical, biochemical, genomic, mathematical modeling, and single-cell microscopy approaches to link the properties of molecules to the systems-level behavior of cells. Most of our attention is currently focused on an oscillatory protein network found in the cyanobacterium Synechococcus elongatus that the organism uses to predict the time of day. Remarkably, the biological rhythms generated by this circadian clock can be reconstituted in a test tube using three purified protein components - KaiA, KaiB, KaiC - making this the best-defined biological oscillator currently known. It is possible to reconstitute metabolic input signaling to this minimal clock by varying ATP and ADP concentrations.  We are actively pursuing a quantitative understanding of the reactions that generate oscillations and the robustness properties of this minimal circadian clock. We are also working outward to expand the functions that can be studied in a purified context and include additional components from the in vivo clock system. We seek to tie the biochemical and biophysical properties of these components back to physiologically relevant conclusions for the organism by making quantitative measurements of growth rate and single-cell behavior, including experiments that are uniquely possible in microbial model systems.