Cell Signaling & Cell/Environment Interactions

It is an essential requirement of life that cells interact with their local environment. Cells need to respond to diverse cues, be they physical interactions with neighboring cells or chemical interactions with the environment. MCB faculty take a wide variety of approaches to understand the broad scope of cell signaling and adaptation.

Area Directors

Area Directors help advise students about classes and rotations in their interest area. They also provide a listing of suggested courses for those interested in Cell Signaling & Cell/Environment Interactions.

Faculty Area Directors

Student Area Directors

Suggested Curriculum

The suggested curriculum outlined below is meant to guide you in choosing classes, they are not requirements. We highly encourage you to take the Foundational courses, while the Electives are more specialized and often cross between Areas of Interest. Remember to review the UW Time Schedule for the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding whether a course is currently being offered.

2023-2024 Suggested Curriculum (document download)

CONJ 531 – Signaling Mechanisms in Excitable Cells

Mechanisms of cellular signaling, particularly in nerve and muscle. Electrical, chemical, and mechanical signaling in the cell that led to processes such as electrical excitability, action potentials, and muscle contraction.
Note: this course only covers the first 5-weeks of a quarter-long course, NEURO504. If your main interest is in neurobiological research, we recommend enrolling in the full course (NEURO504).
Offered AUT, 1.5 credits, Weeks 1-5

CONJ 532 – Signal Transduction: From the cell membrane to the nucleus

Intracellular signaling pathways leading from cell membrane receptors to nucleus. Pathways activated by seven transmembrane receptors and G-proteins, insulin/PI3 kinase, nitric oxide and WNTs and mechanisms of signal termination. Cytokine/Jak/Stat signaling and role of subcellular localization in signal transduction.
Offered WIN, 1.5 credits, Weeks 6-10

PHCOL 531 – Genetic Analysis of Signaling Systems

Introduction to classic model organisms including plants, yeast, slime mold, flies, worms, fish, mice, and humans and a discussion of their use in current signal transduction research.
Offered SPR, 3.0 credits, Weeks 1-10, Offered in odd-numbered years, Will be offered in SPR 2025

Signaling occurs in all cells. Because the field of cell signaling is relevant to all aspects of cell and molecular biology, students choosing this area of interest will usually find their work overlaps with at least one of the other areas of interest. Therefore, we advise students who choose this area to identify a secondary (minor) area of interest and include electives from that area in their course plans.

MCB 529 – Cell Migration

Explores mechanisms of cell migration in vivo and in cell culture. Discusses the cell biology of different forms of cell migration, the extracellular cues that direct migration, and how these cues are integrated by the migrating cell. Offered jointly with CONJ 529.
Offered WIN, 1.5 credits, Course is not currently being offered

MCB 539 – Biological Basis of Neoplasia

Introduces the major themes in research in the biology of neoplastic change. Covers principle molecular mechanisms responsible for tumor initiation and progression, with a specific emphasis on intracellular signaling, DNA repair, cell cycle checkpoints, and loss of normal tissue homeostasis. The latest state of the art research in Cancer Biology will be presented by invited scientists, experts in their relevant field. The discussion meetings will concentrate on selected major papers in cancer biology and be presented and discussed by the students with help and guidance of the instructors.
Offered SPR, 3.0 credits, Weeks 1-10, Will be offered in SPR 2024

NEURO 504 – Biophysics of Nerve, Muscle, and Synapse

Introduces biophysical properties of nerve and muscle cells. Topics include intrinsic electrical properties of neurons, ion channels, receptor signaling, calcium signaling, contraction of muscles, and synaptic function. Offered jointly with PBIO 504.
Offered AUT, 3.0 credits, Weeks 1-10, Will be offered in AUT 2023

NEURO 557 – Ion Channel Gating

Compares and contrasts mechanisms of gating in ligand-gated and voltage-gated ion channels. Covers basics of ligand gating and voltage gating, kinetic schemes, inactivation and desensitization, gating currents and partial agonists, and ion channel structure. Offered jointly with PBIO 557.
Offered SPR, 1.5 credits, Weeks 6-10, Course is not currently being offered (check with the department for more information about when this course will be offered next)

PBIO 555 – Sensory Receptors

Five-lecture mini-course examines how different kinds of sensory receptors detect and respond to different modalities of sensory stimuli. Discussion focuses on the cellular and molecular mechanisms of the underlying transduction processes and the experimental evidence that they are based on. Offered jointly with NEURO 555.
Course is not currently being offered (check with the department for more information about when this course will be offered next)

PHCOL 505 – Endocrine Pharmacology

Consideration of the pharmacology of endocrine systems including the hypothalamic/pituitary regulatory peptides, glycoprotein hormones/growth factors, peptide and steroid hormones. Lecture, group discussion, and analysis of recent research.
Prerequisite(s): Organic chemistry, biochemistry, and introductory anatomy and physiology.
Offered SPR, 1.5 credits, Weeks 1-5, Course is not currently being offered (check with the department for more information about when this course will be offered next)


Understanding Signals

Dr. Hannele Ruohola-Baker works with students to understand the cellular signals for development

From interpreting signals at the plasma membrane, to transducing them through the cytoplasm, to responding to them in the nucleus and other key organelles, Seattle MCB faculty are leading the way to understand cell signaling and interactions. Seattle MCB students are on the cutting-edge using innovative approaches to explore the wide gamut of physiological processes involved in the integration of signals and the subsequent cellular responses.