Michael Petronek, PhD

Research Assistant Professor
Carver College of Medicine profile


The primary focus of my research is the role of iron metabolism in pathologic processes.  My research strategy has three fundamental pillars:

  1. Develop a holistic understanding of enzymatic and non-enzymatic iron metabolic processes in human pathology with a primary focus on cancer progression and neurodegeneration;
  2. Develop strategies to target aberrant iron metabolic processes in diseased states that can be translated into clinical practice to enhance patient care;
  3. Investigate medical imaging modalities to evaluate iron metabolic status and predict clinical responses to therapy. 

The overall goal of this approach is to leverage a fundamental understanding of iron metabolism to develop strategies that can be rapidly translated into a clinical setting and efficiently improve global health outcomes. 

My work is interested in the role of mitochondrial iron metabolism with a particular focus on iron-sulfur cluster biogenesis.  Because iron exists as a redox-active metal, its frequently considered for its damaging properties (i.e., Fenton chemistry).  However, iron is also necessary for the maintenance of cellular homeostasis.  Overall, we are interested in determining the role of iron in the development and progression of diseases through the lens of its damaging redox properties and it’s requirements for maintaining genomic integrity.  While working to understand the effects of iron metabolic regulation on disease, we also employ iron-based medical imaging strategies including quantitative MRI (T2* mapping and Quantitative Susceptibility Mapping) and gallium-based imaging (67Ga SPECT and 68Ga PET).   My work utilizes a wide array of innovative strategies including basic chemical approaches (Electron Paramagnetic Resonance Spectroscopy), cell-based approaches, and translational modeling.  In this manner, we can answer a wide array of fundamental and translational questions to advance our understanding of iron metabolism in disease.

Selected publications:

  1. Nahom Teferi, Meron Challa, Timothy Woodiwiss, Bryan Allen, and Michael Petronek*. "Mitochondrial dysfunction, iron accumulation, and ferroptosis in Parkinson’s disease", Redox Experimental Medicine 2023, 1 (2023), e230004, DOI:10.1530/REM-23-0004
  2. Petronek MS*, Teferi N, Caster JM, Stolwijk JM, Zaher A, Buatti JM, Hasan D, Wafa EI, Salem AK, Gillan EG, St-Aubin JJ, Buettner GR, Spitz DR, Magnotta VA, Allen BG*. Magnetite nanoparticles as a kinetically favorable source of iron to enhance GBM response to chemoradiosensitization with pharmacological ascorbate. Redox Biol. 2023 Mar 7;62:102651. doi: 10.1016/j.redox.2023.102651. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 36924683; PMCID: PMC10025281.
  3. Petronek MS*, Allen BG. Maintenance of genome integrity by the late-acting cytoplasmic iron-sulfur assembly (CIA) complex. Front Genet. 2023 Mar 8;14:1152398. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2023.1152398. PMID: 36968611; PMCID: PMC10031043.
  4. MS Petronek*, M. Li, JN Sarkaria, MK Schultz, and BG Allen*. Ascorbate preferentially stimulates gallium-67 uptake in glioblastoma cells. Nuclear Medicine & Radiation Therapy. 2022; 13(6). DOI: 10.37421/2155-9619.2022.13.491
  5. Petronek MS*, Allen BG, Luthe G, Stolwijk JM*. Polyoxometalate Nanoparticles as a Potential Glioblastoma Therapeutic via Lipid-Mediated Cell Death. Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Jul 27;23(15):8263. PMID: 35897839; PMCID: PMC9332768.
  6. MS Petronek*, DR Spitz, GR Buettner, BG Allen*. Oxidation of ferumoxytol by ionizing radiation releases iron. An electron paramagnetic resonance study. Journal of Radiation Research, 2022 Mar 17; DOI: 10.1093/jrr/rrac008. PMID: 35301531. PMCID: PMC9124617.
  7. Petronek MS*, St-Aubin JJ, Lee CY, Spitz DR, Gillan EG, Allen BG, Magnotta VA*. Quantum chemical insight into the effects of the local electron environment on T2*-based MRI. Scientific Reports. 2021 Oct 21;11(1):20817. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-00305-7. PMID: 34675308. PMCID: PMC8531323.
  8. Petronek MS*, Spitz DR, Allen BG*. Iron–Sulfur Cluster Biogenesis as a Critical Target in Cancer. Antioxidants. 2021; 10(9):1458. PMID: 34573089; PMCID: PMC8465902.
  9. Cushing CMƗ, Petronek MSƗ, Bodeker KL, Vollstedt S, Brown HA, Opat E, Hollenbeck NJ, Shanks T, Berg DJ, Smith BJ, Smith MC, Monga V, Furqan M, Howard MA, Greenlee JD, Mapuskar KA, St-Aubin J, Flynn RT, Cullen JJ, Buettner GR, Spitz DR, Buatti JM, Allen BG, Magnotta VA. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of pharmacological ascorbate-induced iron redox state as a biomarker in subjects undergoing radio-chemotherapy. Redox Biology. 2021 Jan; 38:101804. Epub 2020 Nov 19. PMID: 33260088. PMCID: PMC7708874.
  10. MS Petronek, DR Spitz, GR Buettner, BG Allen. Linking Cancer Metabolic Dysfunction and Genetic Instability through the Lens of Iron Metabolism. Cancers. 2019, 11, 1077. PMID: 31366108.


Research areas
  • Primary Faculty