David R. McClay

David R. McClay
Arthur S. Pearse Professor of Biology in Trinity College of Arts and Sciences
CMB - Biology
DSCB - Developmental Genetics
DSCB - Evolution and Development
Campus mail: 4102 French Science Center, Science Dr., Durham, NC 27708
Phone: (919) 613-8188

We ask how the embryo works. Prior to morphogenesis the
embryo specifies each cell through transcriptional regulation
and signaling. Our research builds gene regulatory networks to
understand how that early specification works. We then ask how
this specification programs cells for their morphogenetic
movements at gastrulation, and how the cells deploy patterning
Current projects examine 1) novel signal transduction
mechanisms that establish and maintain embryonic boundaries
mold the embryo at gastrulation; 2) specification of primary
mesenchyme cells in such a way that they are prepared to
execute an epithelial-mesenchymal transition, and then study
mechanistically the regulation of that transition; 3) the
specification of endoderm necessary for invagination of the
archenteron; 4) formation of the oral/aboral ectoderm and the
means by which patterning information is distributed three
dimensionally around the embryo. That information is necessary
for patterning and inducing skeletogenesis.
Other projects examine neural tube folding with the goal of
identifying genes associated with neural tube defects. Finally, a
large current effort in systems biology is being expended with
the goal of enlarging our knowledge of early networks and how
they interact.

Education and Training

  • Pennsylvania State University, B.S. 1963
  • University of Vermont, M.S. 1965
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ph.D. 1971

Selected Grants and Awards


A genomic regulatory network for development

Development of the body plan is controlled by large networks of regulatory genes. A gene regulatory network that controls the specification of endoderm and mesoderm in the sea urchin embryo is summarized here.

A kinetic study of embryonic cell adhesion

A new assay is described for measuring the kinetics of adhesion of cells to collecting aggregates. The parameter measured is the percentage of cells in suspension adhering to a large number of collecting aggregates per unit time.