Ronald Wek, Ph.D., is the Showalter Professor of Biochemistry and is internationally recognized for his research on eIF2 phosphorylation and translational control in cellular adaptation to stresses, including perturbations in the endoplasmic reticulum and nutritional deficiencies. Since 1992, Dr. Wek has led a research laboratory at Indiana University School of Medicine that focuses on cellular stress response pathways and gene expression and their roles in health and disease. Dr. Wek’s research group contributed to the discovery and characterization of the eIF2 kinases PERK (EIF2AK3) in the Unfolded Protein Response and GCN2 (EIF2AK4) during nutritional deficiency. Because multiple eIF2 kinases respond to different stress conditions, this pathway is referred to as the Integrated Stress Response. Dysregulation of the eIF2 kinases and their associated stress response pathways have far-reaching biomedical significance for understanding the etiology and treatment of cancers, diabetes and related metabolic disorders, neuropathologies and infectious diseases. Dr. Wek’s research defined many of these translational control mechanisms and contributed to the understanding of the regulation and function of key target genes downstream of PERK and GCN2, including the transcription factors, ATF4 and CHOP (DDIT3), and feedback regulator GADD34 (PP1R15A).
Dr. Wek’s research has involved extensive collaborations at Indiana University and many other laboratories nationally and internationally. Dr. Wek has published over 130 research articles, reviews and commentaries, with over 12,000 citations and a current h-index of 56. He is supported by numerous grants from National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other support agencies and has served on numerous and diverse review panels for the NIH and other granting agents. Dr. Wek is an Associate Editor of the Journal of Biological Chemistry and an active member of the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB).
Wek received his Ph.D. from University of California, Irvine where he trained in molecular genetics. He then did a postdoctoral fellowship at the NIH with Dr. Alan Hinnebusch. This early training provided the groundwork for Dr. Wek’s pioneering research in the roles that eIF2 phosphorylation plays in adaptation to external and internal stresses encountered by cells and tissues.