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Aaron PutzkeAaron Putzke

300 W. Hawthorne Road
Spokane, WA 99251
Phone: 509.777.4822
Fax: 509.777.4943
Office Location: Robinson Science Hall 106

I am interested in how cells communicate with each other during embryogenesis to determine cellular identity, timing of cell divisions and spatial relationships that ultimately form different tissues and organs. To investigate each of these areas of study, my lab uses two model organisms: Caenorhabditis elegans (invertebrate) and the zebrafish, Danio rerio (vertebrate).

I am also interested in comparing similarities and differences in cellular communication between invertebrate and vertebrate development. In doing so, we can cross an important evolutionary bridge spanning development between invertebrates and vertebrates; a crucial comparison that can yield vital information about protein function as organisms evolve more complex morphologies throughout history.

Finally, with many similarities in cellular signaling between development and cancer, we have the unique opportunity to apply the evidence we gather in basic science to human disease. In our studies, we test hypotheses in the lab that might also apply to human cancer biology, with the intention of making contributions to the larger goals of learning more about how cancer grows and invades human tissues.


Ph.D., Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of California, Santa Barbara, 2003

M.S., Biochemistry, DePaul University, 1996

B.S., Chemistry, Pepperdine University, 1994

Year Joined Whitworth Faculty


Areas of Specialization / Expertise

Developmental biology and cancer biology

Selected Publications / Presentations / Honors


(Names of undergraduate authors underlined.)

Elizabeth Billquist, Amy VanderStoep, Laura Westrate, Lisa McLellan, Shelby Peterson, Jessica Kozack, Jeff MacKeigan, Aaron Putzke.  Dual roles of Fer kinase are required for proper hematopoiesis and vascular endothelium organization during zebrafish development. Dev Biol (in review)

Wei Wang, Samantha Terkowski, Rachel Ekaireb, Kristin Runkle, Elizabeth Billquist, Aaron Putzke, Eric Witze. Wnt5a induced protein depalmitoylation regulates developmental cell movement and tumor cell invasion. EMBO Journal (in review)

Putzke, A.P., Ventura AP, Bailey AM, Akture C, Opoku-Ansah J, Celiktas M, Hwang MS, Darling DS, Coleman IM, Nelson PS, Nguyen HM, Corey E, Tewari M, Morrissey C, Vessella RL, Knudsen BS. Metastatic progression of prostate cancer and e-cadherin regulation by zeb1 and SRC family kinases. Am J Pathol. Jul;179(1):400-10. (2011)

Putzke, A.P. and Rothman, J.H., Repression of Wnt signaling by a Fer-type nonreceptor tyrosine kinase. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 107, 16154-9. (2010)

Hernandez, R.*, Putzke, A.P.*, Myers, J., Margaretha, L., and Moens, C.B., Cyp26 enzymes shape the pattern of retinoic acid responsiveness required for hindbrain patterning. Development 134, 177-87. (2007) (*authors contributed equally to this work)

Putzke, A.P., Hikita, S., Clegg, D., Rothman, J.H. Kinase-independent role of a Fer-like non-receptor tyrosine kinase in C. elegans morphogenesis. Development 132, 3185-3195. (2005)

Putzke, A.P., and Rothman, J.H. Gastrulation: PARtaking of the Bottle. Curr Biol 13, R223-225. (2003)

Derry, W.B., Putzke, A.P., and Rothman, J.H. Caenorhabditis elegans p53: role in apoptosis, meiosis, and stress resistance. Science 294, 591-595. (2001)

Bitter, G.A., Tsai, M.M., Putzke, A.P., and Leong, K. Intergenic complementation truncation mutants of cyclin-dependent kinase. Mol Gen Genet 263, 222-231. (2000)

Polaczek, P., Putzke, A.P., Leong, K., and Bitter, G.A. Functional genetic tests of DNA mismatch repair protein activity in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Gene 213, 159-167. (1998)



• Towsley Research Scholar, 2012-2014

• HHMI Faculty Development Award, 2012

• Travel Award: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories, 2008

• Travel Award: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, 2006

• Outstanding Graduate Student Speaker Award, UC Santa Barbara, 2003

• Travel Award: Society for Developmental Biology, 2003

• Amgen Graduate Research Fellowship, 1998