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

Oliveri, P. E., H. Davidson, and D. R. McClay. “Activation of pmar1 controls specification of micromeres in the sea urchin embryo.” Dev. Biol 258 (2003): 25–38.

Davidson, Eric H., Jonathan P. Rast, Paola Oliveri, Andrew Ransick, Cristina Calestani, Chiou-Hwa Yuh, Takuya Minokawa, et al. “A provisional regulatory gene network for specification of endomesoderm in the sea urchin embryo.Developmental Biology 246, no. 1 (June 2002): 162–90. https://doi.org/10.1006/dbio.2002.0635. Full Text

Davidson, Eric H., Jonathan P. Rast, Paola Oliveri, Andrew Ransick, Cristina Calestani, Chiou-Hwa Yuh, Takuya Minokawa, et al. “A genomic regulatory network for development.Science (New York, N.Y.) 295, no. 5560 (March 2002): 1669–78. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1069883. Full Text

Gross, J. M., and D. R. McClay. “The role of Brachyury (T) during gastrulation movements in the sea urchin Lytechinus variegatus.Developmental Biology 239, no. 1 (November 2001): 132–47. https://doi.org/10.1006/dbio.2001.0426. Full Text

Sherwood, D. R., and D. R. McClay. “LvNotch signaling plays a dual role in regulating the position of the ectoderm-endoderm boundary in the sea urchin embryo.Development (Cambridge, England) 128, no. 12 (June 2001): 2221–32.

McClay, D. R., and P. L. Hertzler. “Quantitative measurement of cell adhesion using centrifugal force.Current Protocols in Cell Biology Chapter 9 (May 2001): Unit-9.2. https://doi.org/10.1002/0471143030.cb0902s00. Full Text

McClay, D. R., R. E. Peterson, R. C. Range, A. M. Winter-Vann, and M. J. Ferkowicz. “A micromere induction signal is activated by beta-catenin and acts through notch to initiate specification of secondary mesenchyme cells in the sea urchin embryo.Development (Cambridge, England) 127, no. 23 (December 2000): 5113–22.

Angerer, L. M., D. W. Oleksyn, C. Y. Logan, D. R. McClay, L. Dale, and R. C. Angerer. “A BMP pathway regulates cell fate allocation along the sea urchin animal-vegetal embryonic axis.Development (Cambridge, England) 127, no. 5 (March 2000): 1105–14.

McClay, D. R. “Specification of endoderm and mesoderm in the sea urchin.Zygote (Cambridge, England) 8 Suppl 1 (January 2000): S41.

McClay, D. R. “The role of thin filopodia in motility and morphogenesis.Experimental Cell Research 253, no. 2 (December 1999): 296–301. https://doi.org/10.1006/excr.1999.4723. Full Text