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Faculty Biographies

Benjamin Geiger, Ph.D.

Erwin Neter Professor for Cell and Tumor Biology and Dean Faculty of Biology
Department of Molecular Cell Biology, Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel

Contact Information
Department of Molecular Cell Biology
Weizmann Institute of Science
Wolfson 617
Rehovot 76100, Israel
Tel: +972 8-934-3910/4069
Fax: +972 8-946-5607
Web site:
Web site:


Research Theme

The research in my lab focuses on the role of cell adhesion and migration in a wide range of physiological and pathological states. Our main achievements include the discovery of novel adhesion molecules and mechanisms, characterization of the involvement of adhesion in cancer development and progression, and the study of major mechanisms underlying adhesion-mediated signaling events. In my lab work we combine biochemical and molecular genetic work with advanced quantitative microscopy.

Our main research interests are directed towards systems-level understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying cell adhesion and migration. Working on integrin- and cadherin-mediated adhesion, my lab demonstrated that cells can sense and respond to multiple features of their environment. These include the chemical composition of the surface, the density of adhesive ligands, surface texture, and topography and surface compliance. Moreover, mechanical forces, generated by either external perturbations or by the cell's own contractile machinery, can play a major role in regulating the morphology, dynamics, and fate of integrin adhesions. Integrin-mediated adhesions are highly complex structures, consisting of multiple extracellular and cellular components, and associated with the actin cytoskeleton (figure 1, top and center panels). Based on their molecular composition and morphology, these adhesions fall into several categories, namely focal adhesions, focal complexes, fibrillar adhesions, and podosomes. Studies in collaboration with A. Bershadsky demonstrated that application of force to focal adhesions induces their growth and/or apparent migration.

Wide screens for genes involved in the regulation of cell migration and adhesion are carried using high-throughput microscopy. In collaboration with Z. Kam, an advanced system for automated quantitative microscopy was developed and applied for several screening projects, including discovery of novel adhesion proteins and search for modulators of p53 distribution and action, screening for cytoskeleton modulating genes and compounds, and establishment of automated morphometric scoring, migration screens, and examination of siRNA effects. In these screens a wide variety of reporter cells are used, and special image processing software is tailored for each project.

Background and Education

Benjamin Geiger is a member of the Department of Molecular Cell Biology of the Weizmann Institute, the incumbent of the Erwin Neter Professorial Chair in Cell and Tumor Biology, and the current dean of the faculty of biology. He received his M.S. degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and his Ph.D. from the Weizmann Institute of Science. Following postdoctoral training at the University of California, San Diego, he returned to the Weizmann institute, where he established his research group. He was promoted to associate professor in 1984 and to professor in 1988. Among his assignments at the Weizmann Institute, Dr. Geiger was the dean of the Feinberg Graduate School, first head of the Department of Molecular Cell Biology, director of the Clore Center for Biological physics and the director of the Kirk Center for Childhood Diseases. At the Israeli national arena, Dr. Geiger heads the life sciences branch of the Israel Science Foundation and is involved in central national programs in science education and cultural activities. He serves on several international editorial boards, is an elected EMBO member, and served on several EMBO committees.

Honors and Awards

1993-97 Fogarty Scholar in Residence Award, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.
1987-88 E. Roosevelt Cancer Research Fellow
1986 Erwin Neter Professorial Chair in Cell and Tumor Biology
1984 Annual FEBS Prize, Moscow
1983 Levinson Prize
1980-83 Charles Revson Chair in Biology
1977 Chaim Weizmann Fellow
1977 J. F. Kennedy Memorial Prize
1975 Michael Landau Prize
1972 Award of the Faculty of Medicine, Hebrew University

Selected Publications

Balaban NQ, Schwartz US, Riveline D, Goichberg P, Tzur G, Sabanay I, Mahalu D, Safran S, Bershadsky A, Addadi L, Geiger, B. Force at single focal adhesions determines their assembly: A study using elastic micro-patterned substrates. Nat Cell Biol. 2001;3:466-72.

Geiger B, Bershadsky A.
Exploring the neighborhood: Adhesion-coupled cell mechanosensors.
Cell. 2002;110:139-42.

Schwartz US, Balaban NQ, Riveline D, Bershadsky A, Geiger B, Safran S.
Calculation of forces at focal adhesions from elastic substrate data: the effect of localized force and the need for regularization.
Biophysical J. 2002; 83;1380-1394.

Small JV, Geiger B, Kaverina I, Bershadsky A.
Microtubules guide migrating cells by modulating adhesion site dynamics.
Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2002;3:957-964.

Kirchner J, Kam Z, Tzur G, Bershadsky AD, Geiger B.
Live cell monitoring of tyrosine-phosphorylation in focal adhesions following microtubule disruption.
J Cell Sci. 2003;116:957-986.

Zaidel-Bar R, Ballestrem C, Kam Z, Geiger B.
Early molecular events in the assembly of matrix adhesions at the leading edge of migrating cells.
J Cell Sci. 2003;116:4605-4613.

Schwartz US, Balaban NQ, Riveline D, Addadi L, Bershadsky A, Safran S, Geiger B.
Measurement of cellular forces at focal adhesions using elastic micro-patterned substrates.
Materials Sci and Engineering. 2003;C 23:387-394.

Kirchner J, Kam Z, Tzur G, Bershadsky AD, Geiger B.
Live cell monitoring of tyrosine-phosphorylation in focal adhesions following microtubule disruption.
J Cell Sci. 2003;116:957-986.

Lichtenstein N, Geiger B, Kam Z.
Quantitative analysis of cytoskeletal organization by Digital fluorescent Microscopy.
Cytometry. 2003;54:8-18.

Cohen M., Klein E., Geiger B. and Addadi L.
Organization and adhesive properties of the hyaluronan pericellular coat of chondrocytes and epithelial cells.
Biophys J. 2003;85:1996-2005.

Bershadsky AD, Balaban NQ, Geiger B. Adhesion-dependent cell mechanosensitivity.
Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 2003;19:677-95.

Cohen M, Joester D, Geiger B, Addadi L.
Spatial and temporal sequence of events in cell adhesion: from molecular recognition to focal adhesion assembly.
Chembiochem. 2004;5:1393-1399.

Cohen M, Kam Z, Addadi L, Geiger B.
Dynamic study of the transition from hyaluronan-mediated to integrin-mediated adhesion in chondrocytes.
EMBO J. 2006;25:302-311.

Zaidel-Bar R, Kam Z, Geiger B.
Polarized down-regulation of the paxillin-p130CAS-Rac1 pathway induced by shear flow.
J Cell Sci. 2005;118:3997-4007.

Ballestrem C, Erez N, Kirchner J, Kam Z, Bershadsky A, Geiger B. Molecular mapping of tyrosine-phosphorylated proteins in focal adhesions using fluorescence resonance energy transfer.
J Cell Sci. 2006;119:866-75.

Paran Y, Ilan M, Kashman Y, Goldstein S, Liron Y, Geiger B, Kam Z.
High-throughput automated microscopy for high-resolution profiling of drug effects on cell adhesions.
J Structural Biol. In press.

Liron Y, Paran Y, Zatorsky NG, Geiger B, Kam Z. Laser autofocusing system for high-resolution cell biological imaging.
J Microsc. 2006;221:145-51.

Paran P, Naffar-Abu-Amara S, Lavelin I, Winograd-Katz S, Liron Y, Geiger B, Kam Z.
Development and application of automatic high resolution light microscopy for cell-based screens. Methods in Enzymol.
In press.

Research Examples