Alyson Sujkowski

Alyson Sujkowski

Research Assistant Professor

Alyson Sujkowski

Office Address

540 E. Canfield, Ste 3108 Scott Hall
Detroit, MI 48201


Endurance exercise has emerged as a low-cost, powerful, and largely accessible way to improve long-term health and prevent a variety of diseases. Chronic exercise improves function in heart, skeletal muscle and brain while reducing obesity, heart disease and cognitive decline, benefits associated with adaptive changes to gene expression and metabolism. Nonetheless, these benefits are inaccessible to much of the population that are unable to perform an endurance exercise regimen because of injury, illness, advanced age, or lifestyle. My lab focuses on dissecting the mechanisms underlying exercise adaptations in order to better understand its therapeutic potential and identify exercise mimetics that may be able to produce the healthful effects of exercise in individuals unable to perform a traditional training program.

While other exercise models demonstrate improved exercise capacity with environmental, genetic and pharmaceutical interventions, our discoveries in Drosophila uncovered the provocative idea that improved muscle performance and metabolic remodeling might be achieved without any exercise at all. Perhaps the most compelling evidence for this theory comes from the identification of octopamine, the fly homolog of norepinephrine, as necessary and sufficient for global exercise benefits. Periodic activation of specific adrenergic cell populations— in a way that exercise actually does —successfully produced exercise adaptations throughout the fly, even if movement is restricted to prevent normal activity. A second exercise mimicking gene discovered in the lab, Sestrin, was sufficient to confer exercise adaptations in sedentary flies, and reduce early mortality and rescue mobility in a Drosophila model of progressive neurodegeneration. These findings are being used to discover new pharmaceutical interventions that have the potential to extend healthy longevity and prevent disease in individuals for whom exercise is not easily accessible.


B.S., Biology, The University of Toledo, Toledo, OH, USA, 2006
M.S., Biology, The University of Toledo, Toledo, OH, USA, 2010
Ph.D., Physiology, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, USA, 2022


Postdoc, Pharmacology, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, 2022-2023

Areas of Research

Our current work focuses on:

  • Disease-specific exercise timing and programming for maximum therapeutic benefit.
  • The intra- and trans-generational molecular mechanisms activated by exercise that determine long-term health in individuals and their descendants.
  • How we may safely provide exercise-like benefits to aging populations without any negative effects.

Awards and Honors

2023 Postdoctoral Research Award, Wayne State University
2023 Waite-Griffin Memorial Fellowship, Kennedy's Disease Association
2020 Marian L. Barnhart Graduate Student Award, Department of Physiology (Wayne State University)

Links of Interest

Learn more about the Sujkowski lab here


  1. Patel N, Alam N, Libohova K, Dulay R, Todi SV*, Sujkowski A*. Phenotypic defects from the expression of wild-type and pathogenic TATA-Binding Proteins in new Drosophila models of Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 17. G3 (Bethesda). 2023 Aug 8; PubMed PMID: 37551423
  2. Blount JR, Patel NC, Libohova K, Harris AL, Tsou WL, Sujkowski A*, Todi SV*. Lysine 117 on ataxin-3 modulates toxicity in Drosophila models of Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type [Preprint]. 2023 June 01. DOI: 10.1101/2023.05.30.542896
  3. Richardson K, Sengupta M, Sujkowski A, Libohova K, Harris AL, Wessells R, Merry DE, Todi SV. A phenotypically robust model of Spinal and Bulbar Muscular Atrophy in Drosophila. bioRxiv [Preprint]. 2023 March 27. Available from: DOI:
  4. Sujkowski A, Richardson K, Prifti M, Wessells R, Todi S. Endurance exercise ameliorates phenotypes in Drosophila models of spinocerebellar ataxias. eLife. 2022 February 16; 11:-. Available from: DOI: 10.7554/eLife.75389
  5. Sujkowski A, Gretzinger A, Soave N, Todi SV, Wessells R. Alpha- and beta-adrenergic octopamine receptors in muscle and heart are required for Drosophila exercise adaptations. PLoS Genet. 2020 Jun;16(6):e1008778. PubMed Central PMCID: PMC7351206.
  6. Kim M*, Sujkowski A*, Namkoong S, Gu B, Cobb T, Kim B, Kowalsky A, Cho C, Semple I, Ro S, Davis C, Brooks S, Karin M, Wessells R, Lee J. Sestrins are evolutionarily conserved mediators of exercise benefits. Nature Communications. 2020 January 13; 11(1):-. Available from: DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-13442-5
  7. Sujkowski A, Ramesh D, Brockmann A, Wessells R. Octopamine Drives Endurance Exercise Adaptations in Drosophila. Cell Reports. 2017 November; 21(7):1809-1823. Available from: DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2017.10.065

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