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Melissa Rolls

Paul Berg Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Chair of the Molecular, Cellular and Integrative Biosciences Graduate Program
Melissa Rolls

About Me

Yale University, New Haven, CT B.S. 1995 Biology
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA Ph.D. 2001 Biological and Biomedical Sciences
University of Oregon, Eugene, OR  Postdoctoral 2007 Neuroscience and Molecular Biology




Program or Departmental Affiliations

The BMMB Graduate Program Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Biosciences Graduate Program Neuroscience Graduate Program



Center for Cellular Dynamics
Penn State Medical Scientist Training Program
Associate Director
Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Biosciences
Program Chair


Research Summary

We use model organisms to understand neuronal polarity and neuronal injury responses. We are interested in how machinery found in all cells is adapted in neurons to generate extremely long cells that have two different types of compartments: axons and dendrites. We are particularly interested in the microtubule cytoskeleton as it forms the tracks that are used for long-range directional transport in neurons. While microtubules must maintain stable polarized tracks for a lifetime, individual microtubules are dynamic and constantly rebuild themselves. This balance between stability and dynamics is essential for neurons to be healthy for a lifetime, and adaptable enough to respond to injury and stress. We are studying regulators of microtubule stability and dynamics and how they allow neurons to remain healthy in normal conditions, and also facilitate neuroprotection and regeneration after injury.


Honors and Awards


2021 Graduate Program Chair Leadership Award

2019 - Paul Berg Professorship in Biochemistry
2016 - 2018 Shaffer Career Development Professorship in Science, Penn State
2017 Dean’s Climate and Diversity Award, Eberly College of Science, Penn State
2009 - 2013 Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences
2012 Tershak Outstanding Faculty Teaching Award, Penn State 

Junior Career Award, American Society for Cell Biology, Women in Cell Biology Committee

Selected Publications

  • Hertzler, J. I., Bernard, A. R., Rolls, M. M. (2023) Dendrite regeneration mediates functional recovery after complete dendrite removal. Developmental Biology 497: 18-25.

  • Hertzler, J. I., Rolls M. M. (2023) Out with the old, in with the new: dendrite degeneration and regeneration. Wiring the nervous system: mechanisms of axonal and dendritic remodelling in health and disease. Book chapter in press.

  • Stone, M. C., Seebold, D. Y., Shorey, M., Kothe, G. O., Rolls, M. M. (2022) Dendrite regeneration in the vertebrate spinal cord. Developmental Biology 488:114-119.

  • Thyagarajan, P., Feng, C., Lee, D., Shorey, M., Rolls, M. M. (2022) Microtubule polarity is instructive for many aspects of neuronal polarity. Developmental Biology 486:56-70.

  • Shorey, M., Rao, K., Stone, M. C., Mattie, F. J., Sagasti, A., Rolls, M. M. (2021) Microtubule organization of vertebrate sensory neurons in vivo. Developmental Biology 478:1-12.

  • Feng, C., Cleary, J. M., Kothe, G. O., Stone, M. C., Weiner, A. T., Hertzler, J. I., Hancock, W. O., Rolls, M. M. (2021) Trim9 and Klp61F promote polymerization of new dendritic microtubules along parallel microtubules. Journal of Cell Science 134(11):jcs258437.

  • Rolls, M. M. (2022) Principles of microtubule polarity in linear cells. Developmental Biology. 483: 112-117.

  • Weiner, A. T., Thyagarajan, P., Shen, Y., Rolls, M. M. (2021) To nucleate or not, that is the question in neurons. Neuroscience Letters 751:135806.

  • Rolls, M. M., Thyagarajan, P., Feng, C. (2020) Microtubule dynamics in healthy and injured neurons. Developmental Neurobiology doi: 10.1002/dneu.22746.
  • Stone, M. C., Kothe, G. O., Rolls, M. M., Jegla, T. J. (2020) Cytoskeletal and synaptic polarity of LWamide-like+ ganglion neurons in the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis. Journal of Experimental Biology doi: 10.1242/jeb.233197.
  • Hertzler, J. I., Simonovitch, S. I., Albertson, R. M., Weiner, A. T., Nye, D. M. R., Rolls, M. M. (2020) Kinetochore proteins suppress neuronal microtubule dynamics and promote dendrite regeneration. Molecular Biology of the Cell 31: 2125-2138.
  • Shorey, M., Stone, M. C., Mandel, J., Rolls, M. M. (2020) Neurons survive simultaneous injury to axons and dendrites and regrow both types of processes in vivo. Developmental Biology 465: 108-118.
  • Weiner, A. T., Seebold, D. Y., Torres-Gutierrez, P., Folker, C., Swope, R. D., Kothe, G. O., Stoltz, J. G., Zalenski, Kozlowski, K., Barbera, D. J., Patel, M. A., Thyagarajan, P., Shorey, M., Nye, D. M., Keegan, M., Behari, K., Song, S., Axelrod, J. D., Rolls, M. M. (2020) Endosomal Wnt signaling proteins control microtubule nucleation in dendrites. PLOS Biology 18: e3000647.
  • Nye, D. M. R., Albertson, R. M., Weiner, A. T., Hertzler, J. I., Shorey, M., Goberdhan, D. C. I, Wilson, C., Janes, K. A., Rolls, M. M. (2020) The receptor tyrosine kinase Ror is required for dendrite regeneration in Drosophila neurons. PLOS Biology 18: e3000657.
  • Feng, C., Thyagarajan, P., Shorey, M., Seebold, D. Y., Weiner, A. T., Albertson, R. M., Rao, K. S., Sagasti, A., Goetschius, D. J., Rolls, M. M. (2019) Patronin-mediated minus end growth is required for dendritic microtubule polarity. Journal of Cell Biology 218: 2309-2328.
  • Weiner, A. T., Seebold, D. Y., Michael, N. L., Guignet, M. L., Feng, C., Follick, B., Yusko, B. A., Wasilko, N. P., Torres-Gutierrez, P., Rolls, M. M. (2018) Identification of proteins required for precise positioning of Apc2 in dendrites. G3 8:1841-533.
  • Rao, K. S., Rolls, M. M. (2017) Two Drosophila model neurons can regenerate axons from the stump or a converted dendrite, with feedback between the two sites. Neural Development 12:15.
  • Chen, L., Nye, D. M., Stone, M. C., Weiner, A. T., Gheres, K. W., Xiong, X., Collins, C. A., Rolls, M. M. (2016) Mitochondria and caspases tune Nmnat-mediated stabilization to promote axon regeneration. PLOS Genetics 12:e1006503.
  • Jegla, T., Nguyen M.M., Feng, C., Goetschius, D.J., Luna, E., van Rossum, D.B., Kamel, B., Pisupati, A., Milner, E.S., Rolls, M.M. (2016) Bilaterian giant ankyrins have a common evolutionary origin and play a conserved role in the formation of a diffusion barrier at the axon initial segment. PLOS Genetics, 12:e1006457.
  • Rao, K., Stone, M. C. Weiner, A. T., Gheres, K. W., Zhou, C., Deitcher, D. L., Levitan, E. S., Rolls, M. M. (2016) Spastin, atlastin, and ER relocalization are involved in axon but not dendrite regeneration. Molecular Biology of the Cell 27: 3245-56.
  • Tao, J., Feng, C. Rolls, M. M. (2016) The microtubule-severing protein fidgetin acts after dendrite injury to promote their degeneration. Journal of Cell Science 129: 3274-81.
  • Weiner, A. T., Lanz, M. C., Goetschius, D. J., Hancock, W. O., Rolls, M. M. (2016) Kinesin-2 and Apc function at dendrite branch points to resolve microtubule collisions. Cytoskeleton 73: 35-44.