David R. McClay

Arthur S. Pearse Distinguished Professor of Biology

4102 French Science Center, Science Dr., Durham, NC 27708
Campus Box: 
Box 90338, Department of Biology, Durham, NC 27708-1000
(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 information. 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.


  • Ph.D., University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill 1971

  • M.S., University of Vermont 1965

  • B.S., Pennsylvania State University 1963

McClay, D. R., G. M. Wessel, and R. B. Marchase. “Intercellular recognition: quantitation of initial binding events.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 78, no. 8 (August 1981): 4975–79. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.78.8.4975. Full Text

Banzhaf, W. C., R. H. Warren, and D. R. McClay. “Cortical reorganization following fertilization of sea urchin eggs: sensitivity to cytochalasin B.Developmental Biology 80, no. 2 (December 1980): 506–15. https://doi.org/10.1016/0012-1606(80)90424-8. Full Text

McClay, D. R., and R. B. Marchase. “Separation of ectoderm and endoderm from sea urchin pluteus larvae and demonstration of germ layer-specific antigens.Developmental Biology 71, no. 2 (August 1979): 289–96. https://doi.org/10.1016/0012-1606(79)90170-2. Full Text

McClay, D. R. “Surface antigens involved in interactions of embryonic sea urchin cells.Current Topics in Developmental Biology 13 Pt 1 (January 1979): 199–214. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0070-2153(08)60695-x. Full Text

McClay, D. R., and L. R. Gooding. “Involvement of histocompatibility antigens in embryonic cell recognition events.Nature 274, no. 5669 (July 1978): 367–68. https://doi.org/10.1038/274367a0. Full Text

McClay, D. R., and A. F. Chambers. “Identification of four classes of cell surface antigens appearing at gastrulation in sea urchin embryos.Developmental Biology 63, no. 1 (March 1978): 179–86. https://doi.org/10.1016/0012-1606(78)90123-9. Full Text

McCLAY, D. R., L. R. Gooding, and M. E. Fransen. “A requirement for trypsin-sensitive cell-surface components for cell-cell interactions of embryonic neural retina cells.The Journal of Cell Biology 75, no. 1 (October 1977): 56–66. https://doi.org/10.1083/jcb.75.1.56. Full Text

McClay, D. R., A. F. Chambers, and R. H. Warren. “Specificity of cell-cell interactions in sea urchin embryos. Appearance of new cell-surface determinants at gastrulation.Developmental Biology 56, no. 2 (April 1977): 343–55. https://doi.org/10.1016/0012-1606(77)90275-5. Full Text

McClay, D. R., and R. E. Hausman. “Specificity of cell adhesion: differences between normal and hybrid sea urchin cells.Developmental Biology 47, no. 2 (December 1975): 454–60. https://doi.org/10.1016/0012-1606(75)90298-5. Full Text

McClay, D. R., and S. R. Baker. “A kinetic study of embryonic cell adhesion.Developmental Biology 43, no. 1 (March 1975): 109–22. https://doi.org/10.1016/0012-1606(75)90135-9. Full Text