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John S. (Sandy) Parkinson

Distinguished Professor

Ph.D. California Institute of Technology


Graduate Program Membership:

Office/Building: ASB 322A
Phone: 801-581-7639
Email: parkinson@biology.utah.edu
Parkinson Lab: https://chemotaxis.biology.utah.edu/

Research Statement


Motile bacteria can sense and track chemical gradients with extraordinary precision. We study the chemotactic behavior of E. coli to elucidate the molecular mechanisms that cells use to detect and process information about their chemical environment: How they detect chemical gradients, adapt to persistent stimuli, transduce ligand-binding information across the cell membrane, and amplify and integrate signals to control their rotary motors. Our experimental approaches use genetic, biochemical, biophysical, and behavioral methods.

Research Interests


General Interests
Specific Interests
  • Motility and chemotactic behavior
  • Chemoreceptors and transmembrane signaling
  • Receptor arrays and signal amplification

Selected Publications


  • Flack, C.E. & J.S. Parkinson (2018) A zipped-helix cap potentiates HAMP domain control of chemoreceptor signaling. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 115:E3519-E3528. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1721554115].
  • Gao, Q., A. Cheng & J.S. Parkinson (2019) Conformational shifts in a chemoreceptor helical hairpin control kinase signaling in Escherichia coli. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 116:15651-15660. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1902521116.
  • Piñas G.E. & J.S. Parkinson (2019) Identification of a kinase-active CheA conformation in Escherichia coli chemoreceptor signaling complexes. J Bacteriol. 201:e00543-19 doi:10.1128/JB.00543-19.
  • Burt A., Cassidy C.K., Ames P., Bacla-Verloop M., Baulard M., Huard K., Luthey-Schulten Z., Desfosses A., Stansfeld P.J., Margolin W., Parkinson J.S. & I. Gutsche (2020) Complete structure of the core signalling unit of the E. coli chemosensory array in an optimised minicell strain. Nature Communications, 11:743 doi:10.1038/s41467-020-14350-9.
  • Piñas G.E., DeSantis M.D., Cassidy C.K. & J.S. Parkinson (2022) Hexameric rings of the CheW protein enhance response sensitivity and cooperativity in Escherichia coli chemoreceptor arrays. Sci. Signaling, 15: DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.abj1737.

Courses Taught


  • Biol 1005: Experimental Biology Lab
  • Biol 2030: Principles of Genetics
  • Biol 5255: Prokaryotic Genetics Lab