Paul S. Cooke

Professor and Chair

Department of Physiological Sciences
Box 100144
1333 Center Drive
Gainesville, FL  32610-0144
Office: 352-294-4008
Fax: 352-392-5145


  • BS Biology, Westminster College, Fulton, MO, 1978
  • PhD Physiology, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, 1983
    Post-doctoral training, Reproductive biology, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, 1984-1987

Honors and Awards

  • Class of 2021 Teacher of the Year, 2018
  • UF Research Foundation Professorship, 2018
  • SCAVMA Teacher of the Year Award for Biological Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida 2017
  • Billie A. Field Endowed Chair in Reproductive Biology, Univ. of Illinois, 2004-2011
  • Dr. Gordon and Mrs. Helen Kruger All-Around Excellence Award, Univ. of Illinois, 2004
  • Pfizer Animal Health Award for Research Excellence, Univ. of Illinois, 2001
  • Research Excellence Award, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois, 2000
  • University Scholar, Univ. of Illinois, 1997-2000
  • Young Andrologist Award, Am. Soc. of Andrology, 1996, Presented annually by Am. Soc. of Andrology to the outstanding U.S. scientist in male reproductive biology under 40 years old.
  • The Levine Award for research excellence, Univ. of Illinois, 1993
  • List of Teachers Ranked Excellent, Univ. of Illinois, 1988, 1989, 1991-1995, 1999-2001, 2005, 2007-2010
  • National Research Service Award, National Institute of Health, 1984-1987

Research Interests

Dr. Cooke’s laboratory works in several areas of male and female reproductive biology. Our current major research interest is in the role of membrane estrogen receptor 1 (ESR1) in male and female reproductive biology. Most ESR1 in target tissues/cells is nuclear/cytoplasmic and signals through the canonical nuclear estrogen receptor pathway, which is essential for major reproductive effects of 17 beta-estradiol (E2). This involves E2 binding to nuclear ESR1, which is then phosphorylated and dimerizes, leading to translocation of ligand-receptor complexes to DNA, where they bind estrogen-response elements (EREs) in target genes. However, a small fraction (5-10%) of ESR1 protein produced is post-translationally palmitoylated and inserted into cell membranes; this mESR1 activates phosphoinositide 3-kinase/AKT (PI3K/AKT) and mitogen-activated protein kinase/extracellular signal regulated kinase (MAPK/ERK) pathways in the cell membrane, and induces other effects.

Work in our laboratory currently centers on a powerful new transgenic mouse that we use to study the role of membrane ESR1 (mESR1) in E2 signaling.  This new transgenic nuclear-only estrogen receptor 1 (NOER) mouse lacks mESR1 but still expresses nESR1.  This mouse provides a unique tool to establish relative roles of mESR1 and nuclear ESR1 (nESR1) in E2 signaling. Critically, we have recently shown that male mice lacking mESR1 are infertile and have extensive endocrine and reproductive abnormalities, for the first time establishing a key role for mESR1 in E2 physiology.  We are using these unique mice as one of our major tools to try to understand the role of mESR1 in E2 signaling.

Our laboratory has also developed a uterine-specific conditional knockout of the histone methyltransferase EZH2. Knockout of EZH2 in the uterus leads to constitutive luminal epithelial proliferation even in ovariectomized mice lacking estrogen. This new model will provide important insights into epigenetic regulation of estrogen response by EZH2 in the uterus, and the role of steroid hormones such as estrogen in uterine gene imprinting through epigenetic mechanisms.

Grant Support

  1. P. Cooke, PI
    Source: NIH (R01 PR015540)
    Title: Estrogen receptor-mediated reprogramming of prostate in BPH
    Period: 8/01/18-7/31/23
  2. P. Cooke, PI
    Source: NIH (R21 HD088006)
    Title: Role of membrane estrogen receptor 1 in uterine epithelial response to estrogen
    Period: 3/15/17-3/30/19
  3. P. Cooke, PI
    Source: NIH (R03 HD087528)
    Title: Membrane estrogen receptor 1 mediation of epigenetic effects of estrogen
    Period: 9/01/16-8/30/19
  4. P. Cooke, PI
    Source: University of Florida Opportunity Grant
    Title: Mechanisms of sex-dependent reduction in resilience to adverse life events after anesthesia early in life
    Period: 6/01/18-5/30/20

Recent Publications

Estrogen in the male: a historical perspective.
Hess RA, Cooke PS.
Biol Reprod. 2018 Jul 1;99(1):27-44. doi: 10.1093/biolre/ioy043.

Cunha GR, Kurita T, Cao M, Shen J, Cooke PS, Robboy S, Baskin L (2018) Tissue interactions and estrogenic response during human female fetal reproductive tract development. Differentiation 101:39–45.

*Nanjappa MK, Hess RA, Medrano TI, Locker SH, Levin ER, Cooke PS.
Membrane-Localized Estrogen Receptor 1 Is Required for Normal Male Reproductive Development and Function in Mice
Endocrinology. 2016 Jul;157(7):2909-19. doi: 10.1210/en.2016-1085. Epub 2016 May 4
*This paper was selected as one of the Top Endocrine Discoveries for 2016 by a consortium of Endocrinology journals.

Cooke PS, Nanjappa MK, Ko C, Prins GS, Hess RA.
Estrogens in Male Physiology
Physiol Rev. 2017 Jul 1;97(3):995-1043. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00018.2016.

Additional publications here



Updated 19 Nov 2018