R. Michael Roberts

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R. Michael Roberts (born 1940) is an American biologist and a Curators' Professor of animal science at the University of Missouri.

Birth and education[edit]

R. Michael Roberts was born in 1940 in the United Kingdom. He graduated with a BA in Botany and PhD in Plant Physiology/Biochemistry from the University of Oxford.

Academic career[edit]

After completing his PhD from Oxford University, he went to the United States and completed his post-doctorate at State University of New York-Buffalo. He is a Curators' Professor of Animal Science at the University of Missouri.

In 2006-2007 R. Michael Roberts was investigated by The University of Missouri for research misconduct based on images that had been altered in a 2006 Science paper where he was the principal investigator.[1] The paper was officially retracted by Roberts and an apology to the scientific community was issued in the form of a published letter.


R. Michael Roberts is known for his contributions in clarifying the biological mystery of embryo-maternal signaling, that leads to the maintenance of pregnancy and to the survival of the embryo in livestock species.

It was known that chemical communication between embryo and mother was essential for a successful pregnancy in mammals. However, little was known about the details of the process, before R. Michael Roberts and Fuller W. Bazer began a collaboration to elucidate on these relationships. After a period of intensive joint efforts, lasting 16 years, each has continued over the past several years, to make important independent contributions, at Texas A&M University and at the University of Missouri.

Among his key discoveries, R. Michael Roberts determined that uteroferrin was identical to a class of tartrate-resistant acid phosphatases (TRAPs), subsequently purified, sequenced and cloned in humans. This research led to the screening of postmenopausal women for TRAP, elevated in association with osteoporosis.

He cloned, identified, and characterized the temporal expression of trophoblast interferon-t in sheep and cattle. His studies related to differential transcriptional regulation of interferon-t by ETS-2 and Oct-4 transcription factors, led to the identification of a putative developmental switch that may lead to the formation of trophectoderm in early embryo development. He has also identified at least 100 expressed genes for pregnancy-associated proteins in the aspartyl proteinase gene family, some of which hold promise as a basis for an accurate and sensitive pregnancy test. His research on sexual dimorphism in embryos has led to the discovery that the mother’s diet, such as fat, close to the time of conception, may play a role in selecting the offspring’s sex.

Awards and honors[edit]

R. Michael Roberts has received several awards and honors for his research. In 2003, he was awarded the Wolf Prize in Agriculture along with Fuller W. Bazer "for discoveries of Interferon-t and other pregnancy-associated proteins, which clarified the biological mystery of signaling between embryo and mother to maintain pregnancy, with profound effects on the efficiency of animal production systems, as well as human health and well-being".[2] He also won Carl G. Hartman Award Recognition of a research career and scholarly activities in the field of reproductive biology in 2006