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

Byrum, C. A., K. D. Walton, A. J. Robertson, S. Carbonneau, R. T. Thomason, J. A. Coffman, and D. R. McClay. “Protein tyrosine and serine-threonine phosphatases in the sea urchin, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus: identification and potential functions.Developmental Biology 300, no. 1 (December 2006): 194–218. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ydbio.2006.08.050. Full Text

Lapraz, François, Eric Röttinger, Véronique Duboc, Ryan Range, Louise Duloquin, Katherine Walton, Shu-Yu Wu, et al. “RTK and TGF-beta signaling pathways genes in the sea urchin genome.Developmental Biology 300, no. 1 (December 2006): 132–52. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ydbio.2006.08.048. Full Text

Croce, Jenifer C., Shu-Yu Wu, Christine Byrum, Ronghui Xu, Louise Duloquin, Athula H. Wikramanayake, Christian Gache, and David R. McClay. “A genome-wide survey of the evolutionarily conserved Wnt pathways in the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus.Developmental Biology 300, no. 1 (December 2006): 121–31. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ydbio.2006.08.045. Full Text

Walton, Katherine D., Jenifer C. Croce, Thomas D. Glenn, Shu-Yu Wu, and David R. McClay. “Genomics and expression profiles of the Hedgehog and Notch signaling pathways in sea urchin development.Developmental Biology 300, no. 1 (December 2006): 153–64. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ydbio.2006.08.064. Full Text

Bradham, Cynthia A., Kathy R. Foltz, Wendy S. Beane, Maria I. Arnone, Francesca Rizzo, James A. Coffman, Arcady Mushegian, et al. “The sea urchin kinome: a first look.Developmental Biology 300, no. 1 (December 2006): 180–93. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ydbio.2006.08.074. Full Text

Beane, Wendy S., Ekaterina Voronina, Gary M. Wessel, and David R. McClay. “Lineage-specific expansions provide genomic complexity among sea urchin GTPases.Developmental Biology 300, no. 1 (December 2006): 165–79. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ydbio.2006.08.046. Full Text

Robertson, Anthony J., Jenifer Croce, Seth Carbonneau, Ekaterina Voronina, Esther Miranda, David R. McClay, and James A. Coffman. “The genomic underpinnings of apoptosis in Strongylocentrotus purpuratus.Developmental Biology 300, no. 1 (December 2006): 321–34. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ydbio.2006.08.053. Full Text

Oliveri, Paola, Katherine D. Walton, Eric H. Davidson, and David R. McClay. “Repression of mesodermal fate by foxa, a key endoderm regulator of the sea urchin embryo.Development (Cambridge, England) 133, no. 21 (November 2006): 4173–81. https://doi.org/10.1242/dev.02577. Full Text

Sea Urchin Genome Sequencing Consortium, The Sea Urchin Genome Sequencing, Erica Sodergren, George M. Weinstock, Eric H. Davidson, R Andrew Cameron, Richard A. Gibbs, Robert C. Angerer, et al. “The genome of the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus.Science (New York, N.Y.) 314, no. 5801 (November 2006): 941–52. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1133609. Full Text

Croce, Jenifer C., and David R. McClay. “The canonical Wnt pathway in embryonic axis polarity.Seminars in Cell & Developmental Biology 17, no. 2 (April 25, 2006): 168–74. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.semcdb.2006.04.004. Full Text