Adam Kwiatkowski, PhD

Assistant Professor, Cell Biology


324 Biomedical Science Tower South
F: 412-648-8830


PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2005)


Regulation of actin network organization at cell-cell contacts.

Research Summary

Excitatory synapses of central nervous system (CNS) are specialized cell-cell contacts that mediate intercellular signal transmission from one neuron to another. The directional nature of signal requires synaptic contacts to be morphologically asymmetric with distinct protein components, while changes in synaptic communication during neural network formation require synapses to be plastic. Synapse morphology and plasticity require a dynamic actin cytoskeleton; however, the molecular mechanisms governing actin organization at the synapse are poorly understood. Cadherins are junctional proteins associated with the actin cytoskeleton that localize to synapses and regulate synaptic adhesion, stability and remodeling. The major intracellular components of cadherin junctions are the catenin proteins, and evidence suggests that cadherin_catenin complexes modulate an array of synaptic processes, including actin dynamics. A primary goal of the Kwiatkowski Lab is to understand how the cadherin-catenin complex organizes actin at cell-cell junctions, including synaptic contacts. We use a combination of protein biochemistry, cell biology, high-resolution microscopy and developmental biology to study actin dynamics at the molecular, cellular and organismal levels.

Summer Undergraduate Research Program



Hansen SD*, Kwiatkowski AV*, Ouyang C, Liu H, Pokutta S, Volkmann N, Hanein D, Weis WI, Mullins RD, Nelson WJ. Alpha-catenin actin binding domain alters actin filament conformation and regulates binding of nucleation and disassembly factors. Mol Biol Cell. Dec;24(23):3710-20. PMID: 24068324 *Co-first author
Miller PW, Pokutta S, Ghosh A, Almo SC, Weis WI, Nelson WJ, Kwiatkowski AV. Danio rerio αE-catenin is a monomeric F-actin binding protein with distinct properties from Mus musculus αE-catenin. J Biol Chem. 2013 Aug 2;288(31):22324-32. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M113.458406. Epub 2013 Jun 20. PubMed PMID: 23788645; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3829323.


Kwiatkowski, A.V.*, Maiden, S.L.*, Pokutta, S., Choi, H.J., Nelson, W.J., Weis, W.I. and Hardin, J. In vitro and in vivo reconstitution of the cadherin-catenin-actin complex from Caenorhabditis elegans. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 107, 14591-14596, 2010. *Co-first author

Benjamin, J.M.*, Kwiatkowski, A.V.*, Yang, C., Korobova, F., Pokutta, S., Svitkina, T., Weis, W.I. and Nelson, W.J. αE-Catenin regulates actin dynamics independently of cadherin-mediated cell-cell adhesion. J Cell Biol 189, 339-352, 2010.*Co-first author

Kwiatkowski, A.V., Garner, C.G., Nelson, W.J., and Gertler, F.B. Cell autonomous defects in cortical development revealed by two-color chimera analysis. Mol Cell Neurosci 41, 44 _50, 2009.

Dent, E. W., Kwiatkowski, A. V., Mebane, L., Philippar, U., Barzik, M., Rubinson, D. A., Furman, C., Burds, A. A., Alberts, A.S. and Gertler, F. B. Filopodia are required for cortical neurite formation. Nat Cell Biol 12, 1347-1359, 2007.

Kwiatkowski, A. V.*, Rubinson, D. A.*, Dent, E. W., van Veen, J. E., Leslie, J. D., Zhang, J., Mebane, L. M., Philippar, U., Pinheiro, E.M., Burds, A. A., Bronson, R. T., Mori, S., F_ssler, R., and Gertler, F. B. Ena/VASP is required for neuritogenesis in the developing cortex. Neuron 56, 441-455, 2007.*Co-first author