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Adam Avery, Ph.D.

Headshot - Adam Avery

Title: Assistant Professor
Office: 291 Mathematics and Science Center
Phone: (248) 370-3088
E-mail:  [email protected]


My lab studies the spectrin superfamily of cytoskeletal proteins that includes, among others, β-spectrin and α-actinin.  Mutations in β-spectrin and α-actinin cause disorders of the brain and heart, respectively.  One focus of my lab is to understand how human disease mutations impact β-spectrin and α-actinin at the molecular level.   An understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying disease is essential for development of therapeutic strategies.   Indeed, my lab is actively engaged in high throughput drug screening with collaborators at the University of Minnesota to identify small molecule modulators of mutant β-spectrin and α-actinin.     Further, we anticipate that characterization of disease mutations will lead to exciting new knowledge on the basic molecular biology of spectrin family proteins.  

An additional major interest is to understand the function of spectrin cytoskeleton in neurons, particularly in dendritic arbor formation and maintenance.    We employ numerous biochemical and biophysical tools to study spectrin function at the molecular level.  For example, we have developed new, highly quantitative, time-resolved FRET assays to monitor the binding of spectrin to interacting proteins.  We combine these in vitro approaches with genetic and live cell imaging approaches in Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies).  This model organism allows us to explore the significance of novel spectrin protein-protein interactions to neuron structure and function, in an intact organism. My lab provides an exciting training environment for undergraduate and graduate students, offering the unique opportunity to address important translational and biological questions at both the single molecule and whole organism level.

Education and Research Experience

  • 2012 – 2018 - Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN
  • 2006 – 2012 - Research Scientist, Originus, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI
  • 2001 – 2006 - Ph.D. in Biological Chemistry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
  • 1997 – 2001 - B.S. in Biochemistry, Oakland University, Rochester, MI

Honors and Awards

  • 2016 – 2018 - Minnesota Muscle Training Program Fellow, University of Minnesota
  • 2018 - Michael B. O'Connor Award, Outstanding Postdoc, Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Development, University of Minnesota
  • 2014 - Post-doctoral Fellow, National Ataxia Foundation and Bob Allison Ataxia Research Center, University of Minnesota
  • 2002-2005 - Pre-doctoral Fellow, Cellular Biotechnology Training Program, University of Michigan


  1. Amanda L. Neisch, Adam W. Avery, Min-gang Li, Thomas S. Hays. Drosophila cytoplasmic dynein: mutations, tools and developmental functions. 2017. In King, S.M., ed. Dyneins: Structure, Biology and Disease. 2nd
  2. Adam W. Avery, Michael E. Fealey, Fengbin Wang, Albina Orlova, Andrew Thompson, David D. Thomas, Thomas S. Hays, Edward H. Egelman. Structural basis for high-affinity actin binding revealed by a β-III-spectrin SCA5 missense mutation. 2017. Nature Communications. PMID: 29116080.
  3. Adam W. Avery, David. D. Thomas, Thomas. S. Hays. β-III-spectrin spinocerebellar ataxia type 5 mutation reveals a dominant cytoskeletal mechanism that underlies dendritic arborization. 2017. PNAS. PMID: 29078305
  4. Adam W. Avery, Jonathan Crain, David D. Thomas, Thomas S. Hays. A human β-III-spectrin spinocerebellar ataxia type 5 mutation causes high-affinity F-actin binding. 2016. Scientific Reports. 6: 21375. PMID: 26883385
  5. Amanda L. Neisch*, Adam W. Avery*, James B. Machamer, Min-gang Li, Thomas S. Hays Methods to identify and analyze gene products involved in neuronal intracellular transport using Drosophila. 2016. Methods in Cell Biology. 131: 277-309. PMID: 26794520 *Co-first authors.
  6. Jennifer Taylor, Kwan-Ho Chung, Claudia Figueroa, Jonathan Zurawski, Heather M. Dickson, E. J. Brace, Adam W. Avery, David L. Turner and Anne B. Vojtek. The scaffold protein POSH regulates axon outgrowth. 2008. Molecular Biology of the Cell. 19(12): 5181-5192. PMID: 18829867
  7. Adam W. Avery, Claudia Figueroa and Anne Vojtek. UNC-51-like kinase regulation of fibroblast growth factor receptor substrate 2/3. 2007. Cellular Signaling. 19(1): 177-184. PMID: 16887332
  8. Kwan-Ho Chung, Christopher C. Hart, Sarmad Al-Bassam, Adam Avery, Jennifer Taylor, Paresh D. Patel, Anne B. Vojtek, and David L. Turner. Polycistronic RNA polymerase II expression vectors for RNA interference based on BIC/miR-155. 2006. Nucleic Acids Research. 34(7): e53. PMID: 16614444

Department of Chemistry

Mathematics and Science Center, Room 260
146 Library Drive
Rochester, , MI 48309-4479
(location map)
(248) 370-2320
fax: 370-2321