Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Roberts, R. Michael
Location University of Missouri-Columbia
Primary Field Animal, Nutritional and Applied Microbial Sciences
Secondary Field Medical Physiology and Metabolism
 Election Citation
Roberts' major contributions are to understanding embryo-maternal communication during early pregnancy and the role uterine secretions play in supporting the conceptus. The discovery that the early placenta produces a new interferon which mediates maternal recognition of the embryo in cattle and sheep transformed current thinking about maintenance of pregnancy.
 Research Interests
My interests lie in the events surrounding the establishment of a pregnancy and particularly in the biochemical signaling molecules of the early placenta (trophoblast). Pregnancy is a risky investment for the mother and for her existing and future progeny and barriers have been established to ensure that the quality of embryos is assessed as development proceeds. The uterine environment provides nurture to the embryo it harbors only as long as that embryo develops at the proper rate and signals its presence sufficiently robustly. Driven by such powerful fitness tests, the embryo has evolved responses that represent its own interests, possibly even to the point of relaying misleading information. The trophoblast/maternal interface thus represents a battleground that has shaped remarkable rates of evolutionary change, balancing maternal-fetal incompatibility with the necessity for procreation.

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