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Ryan Petrie, PhD

Ryan Petrie, PhD

Associate Professor
Director, Biology Graduate Program
Department of Biology
Office: PISB 419
Phone: 215.895.1476
Lab Location: PISB 401.m1
Lab Phone: 215.895.2626
Additional Sites: The Petrie Lab


  • BS, University of Victoria
  • MS, University of Calgary (Adviser: Julie Deans)
  • PhD, McGill University (Adviser: Nathalie Lamarche-Vane)
  • Research Fellow, National Institutes of Health (Adviser: Ken Yamada)

Curriculum Vitae:

Download CV (PDF)

Research Interests:

Even when we are standing still, the cells in our bodies are going places. It is now clear that an individual cell can change how it moves in response to the material surrounding it. My lab is interested in understanding how the structure of the three-dimensional (3D) extracellular matrix dictates the molecular and physical mechanisms driving cell motility. For example, we discovered human fibroblasts moving through a cross-linked 3D matrix pull their nucleus forward like a piston to increase intracellular pressure and drive protrusion of the leading edge.

Using a variety of biochemical, biophysical, and live cell imaging approaches, the Petrie lab aims to understand how intracellular pressure is controlled by actomyosin contractility in migrating cells in response to matrix structure. Further, we seek to establish if the intracellular pressure generation machinery in metastatic cells is abnormal compared to primary fibroblasts and test the hypothesis that defective pressure regulation promotes cancer cell invasion into 3D extracellular matrix.


Ryan Petrie, PhD, received a BS in biochemistry from the University of Victoria in 1997, a MS in immune cell signaling from the University of Calgary in 2002, and a PhD in cell biology from McGill University in 2008. Following a research fellowship at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), he opened his lab at Drexel in 2015. At the NIH, Petrie used a combination of live cell imaging and biophysical measurements in single cells to discover a new pressure-based mechanism of cell movement. His lab continues to refine this nuclear-piston model of pressure-driven cell migration in the Department of Biology.

Selected Publications:

  • Chengappa, P, Sao, K, Jones, TM, and Petrie, RJ. 2017. Intracellular pressure: a driver of cell morphology and movement. Int. Rev. Cell Mol. Biol. 337:185-211.
  • Petrie, RJ, Harlin, HM, Korsak, LT, and Yamada, KM. 2017. Activating the nuclear piston mechanism to generate intracellular pressure during tumor cell 3D migration. J. Cell Biol. 216: 93-100.
  • Petrie, RJ and Yamada, KM. 2016. Multiple mechanisms of 3D migration: the origins of plasticity. Curr. Opin. Cell Biol. 42: 7-12.
  • Petrie, RJ, Koo, H, and Yamada, KM. 2014. Generation of compartmentalized pressure by a nuclear piston governs cell motility in a 3D matrix. Science 345:1062-1065.
  • Petrie, RJ and Yamada, KM. 2012. At the leading edge of 3D cell migration. J. Cell Sci. 125:5917-5926.
  • Petrie, RJ, Gavara, N, Chadwick, RS, and Yamada, KM. 2012. Nonpolarized signaling reveals two distinct modes of 3D cell migration. J. Cell Biol. 197:439-455.
  • Petrie, RJ, Doyle, AD, and Yamada, KM. 2009. Random versus directionally persistent migration. Nat. Rev. Mol. Cell Biol. 10:538-549.