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Sean Morrison Lab

Research Focus

Stems cells persist throughout life in our tissues by undergoing self-renewing divisions in which stem cells divide to form more stem cells. Research from our laboratory and others suggests that many cancers arise from the inappropriate activation of these self-renewal mechanisms, causing cells to proliferate out of control.

Our goal is to better understand the mechanisms that maintain adult tissues and how cancer cells hijack these mechanisms to enable the formation of tumors. To do this, we compare the processes by which stem cells and cancer cells replicate themselves. A better understanding of these mechanisms offers the potential for new regenerative medicine and cancer therapies. By promoting these mechanisms in the context of tissue injury, we can stimulate regeneration. By inhibiting these mechanisms in the context of cancer, we hope to develop anticancer therapies

Sean J. Morrison is the founding director of Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI) and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. He holds the Mary McDermott Cook…
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Research Projects

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Kara, N., Xue, Y., Zhao, Z., Murphy, M.M., Comazzetto, S., Lesser, A., Du, L., and S.J. Morrison. (2023). Endothelial and Leptin Receptor+ cells promote the maintenance of stem cells and hematopoiesis in early postnatal murine bone marrow. Developmental Cell 58, 348-360. (PubMed)


Jeffery, E.C., Mann, T.L.A, Pool, J.A,. Zhao, Z., and S.J. Morrison. (2022). Bone marrow and periosteal skeletal stem/progenitor cells make distinct contributions to bone maintenance and repair. Cell Stem Cell 29, 1547-1561. (PubMed)


Shen, B., Tasdogan, A., Ubellacker, J.M., Zhang, J., Nosyreva, E.D., Du, L., Murphy, M.M., Hu, S., Yi, Y., Kara, N., Liu, X., Guela, S., Jia, Y., Ramesh, V., Embree, C., Mitchell, E.C., Zhao, Y.C., Ju, L.A., Zhao, H., Crane, G.M., Zhao, Z., Syeda, R., and S.J. Morrison. (2021). A mechanosensitive peri-arteriolar niche for osteogenesis and lymphopoiesis. Nature 591, 438-444. (PubMed)


Ubellacker, J.M., Tasdogan, A., Ramesh, V., Shen, B., Mitchell, E.C., Martin, M.S., McCormick, M.L., Durham, A.B., Spitz, D.R., Zhao, Z., Mathews, T.P., and S.J. Morrison. (2020). Lymph protects metastasizing melanoma cells from ferroptosis. Nature 585, 113-118. (PubMed)

Tasdogan, A., Faubert, B., Ramesh, V., Ubellacker, J.M., Shen, B., Solmonson, A., Murphy, M.M., Gu, Z., Gu, W., Martin, M., Kasitinon, S.Y., Vandergriff, T., Mathews, T.P., Zhao, Z., Schadendorf, D., DeBerardinis, R.J., and S.J. Morrison. (2020). Metabolic heterogeneity confers differences in melanoma metastatic potential. Nature 577, 115-120. (PubMed)


Shen, B., Vardy, K., Hughes, P., Tasdogan, A., Zhao, Z., Yue, R., Crane, G.M., and S.J. Morrison. (2019). Integrin alpha11 is an Osteolectin receptor and is required for the maintenance of adult skeletal bone mass. eLife pii: e42274. (PubMed)


Comazzetto, S., Murphy, M.M., Berto, S., Jeffery, E., Zhao, Z., and S.J. Morrison. (2018). Restricted Hematopoietic Progenitors and Erythropoiesis Require SCF from Leptin Receptor+ Niche Cells in the Bone Marrow. Cell Stem Cell 24, 477-486. (PubMed)


Agathocleous, M., Meecham, C.E., Burgess, R.J., Piskounova, E., Zhao, Z., Crane, G.M., Cowin, B.L., Bruner, E., Murphy, M.M., Chen, W., Spangrude, G.J., Hu, Z., DeBerardinis, R.J., and S.J. Morrison. (2017). Ascorbate regulates haematopoietic stem cell function and leukaemogenesis. Nature 549, 476-481. (PubMed)


Yue, R., Zhou, B.O., and S.J. Morrison. (2016). Clec11a/osteolectin is an osteogenic growth factor that promotes the maintenance of the adult skeleton. eLife pii:e18782. (PubMed)


Acar, M., Kocherlakota, K.S., Murphy, M.M., Peyer, J.G., Oguro, H., Inra, C.N., Jaiyeola, C.J., Zhao, Z., Luby-Phelps, K., and S.J. Morrison. (2015). Deep imaging of bone marrow shows non-dividing stem cells are mainly perisinusoidal. Nature 526, 126-130. (PubMed)

Piskounova, E., Agathocleous, M., Murphy, M.M., Hu, Z., Mann, S., Zhao, Z., Leitch, A.M., Johnson, T.M., DeBerardinis, R.J., and S.J. Morrison.(2015). Oxidative stress inhibits distant metastasis by human melanoma cells. Nature 527, 186-191. (PubMed)

Inra, C., Zhou, B.O., Acar, M., Murphy, M.M., Zhao, Z., and S.J. Morrison. (2015). A perisinusoidal niche for extramedullary hematopoiesis in the spleen. Nature 527, 466-471. (PubMed)


Zhou, B.O., Yue, R., Murphy, M.M., Peyer, J.G., and S.J. Morrison. (2014). Leptin-receptor-expressing mesenchymal stromal cells represent the main source of bone formed by adult bone marrow. Cell Stem Cell 15, 154-168. (PubMed)

Signer, R.A.J., Magee, J.A., Salic, A., and S.J. Morrison. (2014). Haematopoietic stem cells require a highly regulate protein synthesis rate. Nature 509, 49-54. (PubMed)

Nakada, D., Oguro, H., Levi, B., Ryan, N., Kitano, A., Saitoh, Y., Takeichi, M., Wendt, G., and S.J. Morrison. (2014). Oestrogen increases haematopoietic stem-cell self-renewal in females and during pregnancy. Nature 505, 555-558. (PubMed)

Morrison, S.J., and D.T. Scadden. (2014). The bone marrow niche for haematopoietic stem cells. Nature 505, 327-334. (PubMed)


Li, Q., Bohin, N., Wen, T., Ng, V., Magee, J., Chen, S.C., Shannon, K., and S.J. Morrison. (2013). Oncogenic Nras has bimodal effects on stem cells that sustainably increase competitiveness. Nature 504, 143-147. (PubMed)

Meacham, C.E., and S.J. Morrison. (2013). Tumor heterogeneity and cancer cell plasticity. Nature 501, 328-337. (PubMed)

Ding, L., and S.J. Morrison. (2013). Haematopoietic stem cells and early lymphoid progenitors occupy distinct bone marrow niches. Nature 495, 231-235. (PubMed)


Ding, L., Saunders, T.L., Enikolopov, G., and S.J. Morrison. (2012). Endothelial and perivascular cells maintain hematopoietic stem cells. Nature 481, 457-462. (PubMed)


Nakada, D., Saunders, T.L., and S.J. Morrison. (2010). Lkb1 regulates cell cycle and energy metabolism in haematopoietic stem cells. Nature 468, 653-658. (PubMed)

Chuikov, S., Levi, B.P., Smith, M.L., and S.J. Morrison. (2010). Prdm16 promotes stem cell maintenance in multiple tissues, partly by regulating oxidative stress. Nature Cell Biology 12, 999-1006. (PubMed)


Shackleton, M., Quintana, E., Fearon, E., and S.J. Morrison. (2009). Heterogeneity in cancer: cancer stem cells versus clonal evolution. Cell 138, 822-829. (PubMed)


Quintana, E., Shackleton, M., Sabel, M., Fullen, D., Johnson, T.M., and S.J. Morrison. (2008). Efficient tumor formation by single human melanoma cells. Nature 456, 593-598. (PubMed)

Nishino, J., Kim, I., Chada, K., and S.J. Morrison. (2008). Hmga2 promotes neural stem cell self-renewal in young, but not old, mice by reducing p16 Ink4a and p19Arf expression. Cell 135, 227-239. (PubMed)

Morrison, S.J., and A. Spradling. (2008). Stem cells and niches: mechanisms that promote stem cell maintenance throughout life. Cell 132, 598-611. (PubMed)


Kiel, M.J., He, S., Ashkenazi, R., Gentry, S.N., Teta, M., Kushner, J.A., Jackson, T.L., and S.J. Morrison. (2007). Hematopoietic stem cells do not asymmetrically segregate chromosomes or retain bromodeoxyuridine. Nature 449, 238-242. (PubMed)

Kim, I., Saunders, T.L., and S.J. Morrison. (2007). Sox17 dependence distinguishes the transcriptional regulation of fetal from adult hematopoietic stem cells. Cell 130, 470-483. (PubMed)


Molofsky, A.V., Slutsky, S.G., Joseph, N.M., He, S., Pardal, R., Krishnamurthy, J., Sharpless, N., and S.J. Morrison. (2006). Increasing p16 Ink4a expression decreases forebrain progenitor function and neurogenesis during ageing. Nature 443, 448-452. (PubMed)

Morrison, S.J., and J. Kimble. (2006). Asymmetric and symmetric stem-cell divisions in development and cancer. Nature 441, 1068-1074. (PubMed)

Yilmaz, O.H., Valdez, R., Theisen, B., Guo, W., Ferguson, D., Wu, H., and S.J. Morrison. (2006). Pten dependence distinguishes haematopoietic stem cells from leukaemia-initiating cells. Nature 441, 475-482. (PubMed)


Kiel, M.J., Yilmaz, O.H., Iwashita, T., Terhorst, C., and S.J. Morrison. (2005). SLAM family receptors distinguish hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells and reveal endothelial niches for stem cells. Cell 121, 1109-1121. (PubMed)


Molofsky, A.V., Pardal, R., Iwashita, T., Park, I.K., Clarke, M.F., and S.J. Morrison. (2003). Bmi-1 dependence distinguishes neural stem cell self-renewal from progenitor proliferation. Nature 425, 962-967. (PubMed)

Lab Members

Michalis Agathocleous, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern
Postdoctoral Fellow (2011-2017)

Kati Ahlqvist, Ph.D.

Clinical Microbiologist, University of Helsinki
Postdoctoral Fellow (2016-2018)

Arin Aurora, Ph.D.

Director, Research, DOSE Therapeutics
Assistant Professor, Research (2014-2022)

Johanna Buchstaller, Ph.D.

Data Scientist, Vienna University of Technology, Austria
Postdoctoral Fellow (2004-2011)

Rebecca Burgess, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine
Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA Fellow (2013 – 2023)

Stefano Comazzetto, Ph.D.

Chancellor’s Fellow, Centre for Regenerative Medicine at University of Edinburgh
EMBO Fellow (2015-2024)

Genevieve Crane, M.D., Ph.D.

Staff Hematopathologist, Cleveland Clinic
Postdoctoral Fellow (2004-2011)

Andrew DeVilbiss, Ph.D.

Instructor, Department of Internal Medicine, Hematology and Oncology Division, UT Southwestern Medical Center
Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA Fellow (2015-2024)

Lei Ding, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Regeneration and Rehabilitative Medicine, Columbia University
Postdoctoral Fellow (2007-2013)

Liming Du, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow (2020-2024)

Ugur Eskiocak, Ph.D.

Entrepreneur in Residence, Alloy Therapeutics, Inc.
Postdoctoral Fellow (2011-2016)

Shay Geula, Ph.D.

Head of Biology, Renewal Bio
Gruss Lipper Israeli Fellow (2017-2022)

Jennifer Gill, M.D., Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Dermatology, UT Southwestern Medical Center
Clinical Fellow (2015-2020)

Shenghui He, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Genetics, University of North Carolina
UM Cellular and Molecular Biology Program (2004-2013)

Christopher Inra, M.D., Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Medicine, Johns Hopkins University
UTSW Medical Scientist Training Program (2010-2015)

Toshihide Iwashita, Ph.D.

Professor, Hamamatsu University School of Medicine, Japan
Postdoctoral Fellow (2000-2005)

Nancy Joseph, M.D., Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Pathology & Associate Director of Clinical Cancer Genomics Laboratory, UCSF
UM Medical Scientist Training Program (2001-2006)

Nergis Kara-Takar, Ph.D.

Scientist II, Ensoma
Postdoctoral Fellow (2018-2022)

Mark Kiel, M.D., Ph.D.

Chief Scientific Officer at GENOMENON
UM Medical Scientist Training Program (2002-2008)

Injune Kim, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology
Postdoctoral Fellow (2002-2008)

Jae Lee, M.D., Ph.D.

Radiation Oncologist, Princeton Radiation Oncology, NJ
UM Medical Scientist Training Program (2006-2010)

Boaz Levi, Ph.D.

Associate Investigator, Human Cell Types, Allen Institute for Brain Research, Seattle
Postdoctoral Fellow (2006-2011)

Qing Li, M.D., Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan
Postdoctoral Fellow (2009-2011)

Jeffrey Magee, M.D., Ph.D.

Professor of Pediatrics, Washington University
Pediatrics Fellow (2008-2013)

Corbin Meacham, Ph.D.

Senior Scientist, Research and Development, Garuda Therapeutics
American Cancer Society Fellow (2013-2022)

Salma Merchant, Ph.D.

Scientist & Discovery Research, Generation Bio
Postdoctoral Fellow (2014-2024)

John Mich, Ph.D.

Senior Scientist, Allen Institute for Brain Research
Postdoctoral Fellow (2010-2015)

Anna Molofsky, M.D., Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Psychiatry, University of California at San Francisco
UM Medical Scientist Training Program (2001-2005)

Jack Mosher, Ph.D.

Scientific Affairs Senior Manager, International Society for Stem Cell Research
Postdoctoral Fellow (2001-2006)

Malea Murphy, Ph.D.

Manager Integrated Microscopy & Imaging Laboratory Medical Physiology, Texas A&M University College of Medicine
Postdoctoral Fellow (2012-2019)

Daisuke Nakada, M.D., Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine
Postdoctoral Fellow (2006-2011)

Hideyuki Oguro, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Cell Biology, University of Connecticut Health Center
Postdoctoral Fellow (2009 – 2017)

Ricardo Pardal, Ph.D.

Professor, University of Seville, Spain
Postdoctoral Fellow (2001-2004)

Michel Perron, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Discovery Biology, Assembly Biosciences, Inc.
Postdoctoral Fellow (2007-2008)

James Peyer, Ph.D.

CEO and Co-Founder, Cambrian BioPharma
UTSW Genetics and Development Graduate Program (2010-2015)

Elena Piskounova, Ph.D

Assistant Professor of Dermatology, Weill Cornell Medical College
Postdoctoral Fellow (2011-2017)

Le Qi , Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow, Dan Geschwind Lab, University of California, Los Angeles
UTSW Cancer Biology (2014 -2021)

Elsa Quintana, Ph.D.

Vice President, Head of Cancer Immunology, REVOLUTION Medicines
Postdoctoral Fellow (2005-2011)

Mick Savona, Ph.D.

Professor of Medicine and Cancer Biology, Director of Hematology Early Therapeutics Program, Vanderbilt University, Nashville
Postdoctoral Fellow (2006-2008)

Mark Shackleton, Ph.D.

Director of Oncology, Alfred Health and Professor of Oncology, Monash University (Melbourne, Australia)
Postdoctoral Fellow (2006-2009)

Issei Shimada, Ph.D.

Junior Associate Professor, Department of Cell Biology, Graduate School of Medicine Sciences, Nagoya City University in Japan
Postdoctoral Fellow (2011-2015)

Robert Signer, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, UC San Diego
Postdoctoral Fellow (2009 – 2015)

Bo Shen, Ph.D.

Assistant Investigator, National Institute of Biological Sciences, Beijing, China
Postdoctoral Fellow (2015-2021)

Shalom Guy Slutsky, Ph.D.

Clinical Trial Manager, Kadimastem Ltd
Postdoctoral Fellow (2005-2007)

Alpaslan Tasdogan, M.D., Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Dermatology, University Hospital Essen
Postdoctoral Fellow (2016-2021)

Merritt Taylor, Ph.D.

Professor, Grand Valley State University
Postdoctoral Fellow (2001-2007)

Jessalyn Ubellacker, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Molecular Metabolism, Harvard School of Public Health
Postdoctoral Fellow (2018-2020)

Omer Yilmaz, M.D., Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Koch Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
UM Medical Scientist Training Program (2001-2006)

Stacy Yuan Kastinon, M.D., Ph.D.

Dermatology Residency at UT Southwestern Medical Center
UTSW Medical Scientist Training Program (2014-2019)

Rui Yue, Ph.D.

Professor, Tongji University, Shanghai, China
Postdoctoral Fellow (2011-2017)

Jingzhu (Michael) Zhang, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow (2018-2024)

Bo Zhou, Ph.D.

Professor, Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Postdoctoral Fellow (2011-2016)

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