R. Michael Roberts

Roberts, Mike-CAFNR150x224


Chancellor's Professor Emeritus

Animal Sciences


BA Botany Oxford University Oxford, England
PhD Plant Physiology/Biochemistry Oxford University Oxford, England

Research Area

Reproductive biology: signaling between conceptus and uterus; stem cells.

Research Description

Dr. Roberts’ laboratory conducts research in four main areas.

A first area of interest is a study of the transcriptional control of expression of the interferon-tau genes (IFNT), whose protein products play a crucial role in establishing communication between the conceptus and mother during early pregnancy of cattle. With Angela Walker, a postdoctoral fellow, we have also recently initiated research on the evolution of the IFNT and the entire type 1 interferon locus in ruminant species and discovered an entirely new sub-family of interferon genes.

A second research area is utilizing human embryonic stem cells (hESC) as models for trophoblast differentiation. These cells can be directed to form colonies with many features of trophoblast when they are exposed to the growth factor BMP4. We are using this model system to explore the initial events that specify trophoblast, the progressive conversion of these cells to more differentiated lineages (especially one with the invasive phenotype of extra-villous trophoblast), and the role of oxygen in the differentiation process.

In a third area with Toshihiko Ezashi, a Research Assistant Professor, the laboratory has created induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) from porcine embryonic fibroblasts by re-programming. We are attempting to improve the efficiency of this process and exploring the possible use of such cells for tissue grafts of pigs. Reprogramming also led to the production of cell lines with the properties of trophoblast, thereby providing a potential source of trophoblast stem cells and a means for studying trophoblast specification.

Our fourth interest is in the manner by which maternal diet can influence the sex of offspring in mice and livestock species, and particularly why in mice a diet high in saturated fats can skew sex ratio of pups towards sons while a diet very low in fat favors the birth of daughters.

Honors and Service

  • Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 2015
  • Founding Inventor Member of the Mizzou Chapter of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI), 2015
  • Sadler Lecture, National Institutesof Child and Human Development (NICHD), 2013
  • Trainee-Mentoring Award, Society for the Study of Reproduction (SSR), 2012
  • Honorary Bingzhi Forum Professorship, Institute of Zoology, China Academy of Sciences, 2011
  • AddGene Innovation Award (2010) to fund innovative ideas and projects in the life sciences
  • Senior Investigator Award, International Federation of Placenta Associations, 2007
  • Carl G. Hartman Award, Recognition of a research career and scholarly activities in the field of reproductive biology, 2006
  • Patent Recipient Awardee, University of Missouri Technology Transfer Showcase, 2006
  • Scientific American “Top 50” list for accomplishments in research and technological leadership, 2005
  • University of Missouri Faculty/Alumni Award, 2004-05
  • Larry Ewing Memorial Lecturer, John Hopkins University School of Public Health, 2003
  • Wolf Prize for Agriculture, 2003
  • A. Nalbandov Memorial Lecturer, University of Illinois, 2000
  • Docteur Honoris Causa (Honorary Doctorate) from the University of Liege, Belgium, 1998
  • Presidential Award (University of Missouri) for Research and Creativity, 1997
  • Alexander von Humboldt Award for Agriculture, 1996
  • Curators’ Distinguished Professor, University of Missouri-Columbia, 1996
  • Member, National Academy of Sciences, 1996
  • Milstein Award, International Society for Interferon and Cytokine Research, 1995
  • Researcher of the Year, CAFNR, University of Missouri-Columbia, 1995

Selected Publications

Yuan Y, Park J, Tian Y, Choi J, Pasquariello R, Alexenko AP, Dai A, Behura SK, Roberts RM, Ezashi T. (2019). A six-inhibitor culture medium for improving naïve-type pluripotency of porcine pluripotent stem cells. Cell Death Discov. 5:104. doi: 10.1038/s41420-019-0184-4. eCollection 2019. [PubMed]

Sheridan MA, Yang Y, Jain A, Lyons AS, Yang P, Brahmasani SR, Dai A, Tian Y, Ellersieck MR, Tuteja G, Schust DJ, Schulz LC, Ezashi T, Roberts RM. (2019). Early onset preeclampsia in a model for human placental trophoblast. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Feb 20. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1816150116. Epub ahead of print. [PubMed]

Karvas RM, Yang Y, Ezashi T, Schust DJ, Roberts RM, Schulz LC. (2018). ITGA1 is upregulated in response to oxygen over time in a BMP4 model of trophoblast. Mol Reprod Dev. 85(8-9):738-739. doi: 10.1002/mrd.23047. [PubMed]

Sheridan MA, Balaraman V, Schust DJ, Ezashi T, Roberts RM, Franz AWE. (2018). African and Asian strains of Zika virus differ in their ability to infect and lyse primitive human placental trophoblast. PLoS One. 13(7):e0200086. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0200086. eCollection 2018. [PubMed]

Roberts RM, Ezashi T, Sheridan MA, Yang Y. (2018). Specification of trophoblast from embryonic stem cells exposed to BMP4. Biol Reprod. 99(1):212-224. doi: 10.1093/biolre/ioy070. [PubMed]

Bayer A, Lennemann NJ, Ouyang Y, Sadovsky E, Sheridan MA, Roberts RM, Coyne CB, Sadovsky Y. (2018). Chromosome 19 microRNAs exert antiviral activity independent from type III interferon signaling. Placenta. 61:33-38. doi: 10.1016/j.placenta.2017.11.004. [PubMed]

Jain A, Ezashi T, Roberts RM, Tuteja G. (2017). Deciphering transcriptional regulation in human embryonic stem cells specified towards a trophoblast fate. Sci Rep. 7(1):17257. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-17614-5. [PubMed]

Roberts RM. (2017). 30 years on from the molecular cloning of interferon-tau. Reproduction. 154(5):E1-E2. doi: 10.1530/REP-17-0585. [PubMed]

Yuan Y, Spate LD, Redel BK, Tian Y, Zhou J, Prather RS, Roberts RM. (2017). Quadrupling efficiency in production of genetically modified pigs through improved oocyte maturation. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 114(29):E5796-E5804. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1703998114. [PubMed]

Sheridan MA, Yunusov D, Balaraman V, Alexenko AP, Yabe S, Verjovski-Almeida S, Schust DJ, Franz AW, Sadovsky Y, Ezashi T, Roberts RM. (2017). Vulnerability of primitive human placental trophoblast to Zika virus. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 114(9):E1587-E1596. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1616097114. [PubMed]

Genovese NJ, Domeier TL, Telugu BP, Roberts RM. (2017). Enhanced Development of Skeletal Myotubes from Porcine Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells. Sci Rep. 7:41833. doi: 10.1038/srep41833. [PubMed]