Research Faculty

630 West 168th Street
PH15 West 1564
New York, NY 10032

Richard H. Kessin, Ph.D.
Professor of Pathology and Cell Biology
Research Summary

For many years the Kessin laboratory studied the evolution and development of Dictyostelium discoideum, which is a soil amoeba that is capable of extraordinary multi-cellular development. These amoebae remain solitary as they feed on bacteria in the soil, but when the food is removed, they shut down their cell cycle and initiate a complex series of gene inductions that leads to the aggregation of the amoebae and eventually, to the formation of a fruiting body. The genetic and biochemical advantages of the organism make it attractive for a number of problems in cell and developmental biology as well as in evolutionary biology. This work resulted in a book and many articles, but has been brought to a close. Dr. Kessin continues to write commentary and reviews on Dictyostelium and the various problems it presents.

Dr. Kessin now focuses on graduate and medical student education. He teaches the Responsible Conduct of Research Course to all Ph.D students and new NIH grant awardees at CUMC. He chairs the Basic Science Track of the final year in the new medical school curriculum.

In addition, Dr. Kessin writes about science for the popular press - particularly for several newspapers in Connecticut. The articles, a defense of the scientific approach, are listed below.

Selected Publications

R. H. Kessin, Sex and Sacrifice-A single genetic locus determines the three sexes of slime mold amoebae. Science 330, 1487-1488, December 2010 (Perspective) PMID: 21148379

R. H Kessin, Two different genomes that produce the same result. Genome Biology 2010, 11:114 (Perspective) PMID: 21148379

J. Zucko, N. Skunka, T. Curk, P.F. Long, J. Cullum, R. H. Kessin and D. Hranueli Polyketide synthase genes and the natural products potential of Dictyostelium discoideum. Bioinformatics July 27, 2007. PMID: 17660200

Gadi Shaulsky and Richard H. Kessin. The Cold War of the Social Amoebae. Current Biology 17:R684-R692 (2007). PMID: 17714662

C. Nizak, R. J. Fitzhenry, and R. H. Kessin Exploitation of other social amoebae by Dictyostelium caveatum. (2007) PLoS One, 2(2) e212. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.000212

T. Tekinay, M. Y. Wu, G. P.Otto, O. R. Anderson and R. H. Kessin, The function of the Dictyostelium Atg1 kinase during autophagy and development. Eukaryotic Cell, 5, 1797-1806, (2006). PMID: 17031001


R.H. Kessin. Dictyostelium: Evolution, Cell Biology, and the Development of Multicellularity. Cambridge University Press, 294 pages (2001). Reissued 2010

Popular Science Writings:

The Body Scientific, Dr. Kessin's science column in The Lakeville Journal, Lakeville CT, is available at:

His novel, The Famine of Men, a novel about a virus that only women can study, is available from or

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