Saurabh Kulkarni

Assistant Professor, Cell Biology, Center for Membrane and Cell Physiology (Courtesy Appointment)
3027 Pinn Hall
(434) 297-6833


  • University of Cincinnati: Ph.D. in Biology, August 2007- July 2012
  • Yale University School of Medicine: Postdoctoral Associate, August 2012 - September 2019

Research Interests

a) Cilia are hairlike organelles that project out from the cell membrane into extracellular space. Cilia are either sensory, that they sense the extracellular signals or motile, that they beat to create extracellular fluid flow. Virtually every human cell is ciliated, and therefore they are critical in many developmental and physiological processes. Despite 50 years of research, how a cell assembles a cilium is still an unanswered question. We use novel approaches to understand the mechanisms driving the construction of cilia.

b) A cell is a highly organized entity with a dynamic regulation of its organelles. Cells appear to not only regulate the assembly and spatiotemporal positioning of centrioles but also their geometric parameters like the size and number. However, underlying molecular mechanisms are not well understood. My lab seeks to answer two central questions: 1) how cells count centrioles?; and 2) how cells spatiotemporally position centrioles? We use a unique model system, multiciliated cells (MCCs) of frog (Xenopus) embryonic epithelium, to answer these questions. 

c) We utilize frogs (Xenopus) to model human birth defects (BDs). We focus on BDs that represent ciliopathies, e.g., hydrocephalus, respiratory disorders, and congenital heart disease. The primary goal of the lab is to uncover the molecular mechanisms of these gene variants that can explain the patient's ciliopathy phenotype and bolster the evidence that these variants are disease-causing.

Our research utilizes number of approaches including super-resolution imaging, CRSIPR-Cas9 mutagenesis, biomechanics, and electron microscopy. For more information please visit our website

Representative Publications

  • Kulkarni, S.S., Griffin, J.N., Date P.P., Liem, K.F., and Khokha, M.K. 2018. WDR5 stabilizes actin architecture to promote multiciliated cell formation. Developmental Cell 46 (5), 595-610.
    # F1000 Recommended
  • Kulkarni, S.S., and Khokha, M.K. 2018. WDR5 regulates left-right patterning via chromatin dependent and independent functions. Development 145(23). 
    # Selected for Research Highlight
  • Griffin, J.N., Sondalle, B.S., Robson, A., Mis, K.E., Griffin, G., Kulkarni, S.S., Deniz, E., Baserga, S., and Khokha, M.K. 2018. RPSA, a candidate gene for isolated congenital asplenia, is required for pre-rRNA processing and spleen formation in Xenopus.  Development 145(20)
  • Griffin, J.N., Del Viso, F., Duncan, A., Robson, A., Kulkarni, S.S., Liu, K., and Khokha, M.K. 2017. RAPGEF5 regulates nuclear translocation of β-catenin. Developmental Cell 44 (2), 248-260.
  • Kulkarni, S.S., Denver, R.J., Gomez-Mestre, I., and Buchholz, D.R. 2017. Genetic accommodation via modified endocrine signaling explains phenotypic divergence among spadefoot toad species. Nature Communications 8 (1), 993.
    # Media coverage:,,, University of Michigan news, AAAS