David R. Sherwood

Professor of Biology

Box 90338, Department Of Biology, Durham, NC 27708
Campus Box: 
Duke Box 90338, Durham, NC 27708-1000
(919) 613-8192
Our research is directed at elucidating mechanisms underlying morphogenetic processes in development. We primarily use the model system C. elegans in our research, and combine powerful genetic and systems biology approaches with live-cell imaging to address three main topics:   Tissue Remodeling and Connection A major focus of the lab is the understanding of mechanisms underlying uterine-vulval attachment. A key aspect of this process is the invasion of a single uterine cell, the anchor cell, through the uterine and vulval basement membranes, which initiates uterine-vulval connection. The ability of cells to invade through basement membrane is crucial for many developmental processes and remains one of the least understood aspects in the progression of cancer. We have begun to apply what we learn in the anchor cell to better understand how cancer cells become invasive. Our group also examines other aspects of uterine-vulval attachment, including control of cell division, cell-cell signaling, cell-cell attachments and basement membrane remodeling.  Stem Cell-Niche Interactions We are examining the cell biological aspects of cell-cell and cell-basement membrane establishment of the germ stem cell niche. We are particularly interested in how somatic and germ cells interact to maintain the germ stem cells. We have made the surprising discovery that germ cells that escape their niche appear capable of inducing naïve somatic cells to take on the role of the niche cells. We are conducting screens and performing live-cell imaging studies to understand this novel behavior.
Nutritional Regulation of Late Larval Development  In collaboration with Dr. Ryan Baugh's lab, we are examining the developmental response of late larvae to starvation. We have identified specific developmental checkpoints that larvae enter in response to the absence of food. These studies have many fascinating implications in our understanding of how cells arrest at specific developmental time-points, how an organism and cells enter and exit quiescent states, and how these impinge on life-span. 
Members of our group are trained in a diverse range of scientific approaches and join a vibrant scientific community at Duke University, the Research Triangle region and the worldwide group of worm researchers.


  • Ph.D., Duke University 1997

  • B.A., Wesleyan University 1990

Gordon, KL, Payne, SG, Linden-High, LM, Pani, AM, Goldstein, B, Hubbard, EJA, and Sherwood, DR. "Ectopic Germ Cells Can Induce Niche-like Enwrapment by Neighboring Body Wall Muscle." Current Biology : Cb 29, no. 5 (March 2019): 823-833.e5. Full Text

Kelley, LC, Chi, Q, Cáceres, R, Hastie, E, Schindler, AJ, Jiang, Y, Matus, DQ, Plastino, J, and Sherwood, DR. "Adaptive F-Actin Polymerization and Localized ATP Production Drive Basement Membrane Invasion in the Absence of MMPs." Developmental Cell 48, no. 3 (February 2019): 313-328.e8. Full Text

Keeley, DP, and Sherwood, DR. "Tissue linkage through adjoining basement membranes: The long and the short term of it." Matrix Biology : Journal of the International Society for Matrix Biology 75-76 (January 2019): 58-71. (Review) Full Text

Hibshman, JD, Leuthner, TC, Shoben, C, Mello, DF, Sherwood, DR, Meyer, JN, and Baugh, LR. "Nonselective autophagy reduces mitochondrial content during starvation in Caenorhabditis elegans." American Journal of Physiology. Cell Physiology 315, no. 6 (December 2018): C781-C792. Full Text

Cáceres, R, Bojanala, N, Kelley, LC, Dreier, J, Manzi, J, Di Federico, F, Chi, Q, Risler, T, Testa, I, Sherwood, DR, and Plastino, J. "Forces drive basement membrane invasion in Caenorhabditis elegans." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 115, no. 45 (November 2018): 11537-11542. Full Text

Hartman, JH, Smith, LL, Gordon, KL, Laranjeiro, R, Driscoll, M, Sherwood, DR, and Meyer, JN. "Swimming Exercise and Transient Food Deprivation in Caenorhabditis elegans Promote Mitochondrial Maintenance and Protect Against Chemical-Induced Mitotoxicity." Scientific Reports 8, no. 1 (May 29, 2018): 8359-null. Full Text Open Access Copy

Sherwood, DR, and Plastino, J. "Invading, Leading and Navigating Cells in Caenorhabditis elegans: Insights into Cell Movement in Vivo." Genetics 208, no. 1 (January 2018): 53-78. (Review) Full Text

Naegeli, KM, Hastie, E, Garde, A, Wang, Z, Keeley, DP, Gordon, KL, Pani, AM, Kelley, LC, Morrissey, MA, Chi, Q, Goldstein, B, and Sherwood, DR. "Cell Invasion In Vivo via Rapid Exocytosis of a Transient Lysosome-Derived Membrane Domain." Developmental cell 43, no. 4 (November 2017): 403-417.e10. Full Text

Kelley, LC, Wang, Z, Hagedorn, EJ, Wang, L, Shen, W, Lei, S, Johnson, SA, and Sherwood, DR. "Live-cell confocal microscopy and quantitative 4D image analysis of anchor-cell invasion through the basement membrane in Caenorhabditis elegans." Nature protocols 12, no. 10 (October 2017): 2081-2096. Full Text

Linden, LM, Gordon, KL, Pani, AM, Payne, SG, Garde, A, Burkholder, D, Chi, Q, Goldstein, B, and Sherwood, DR. "Identification of regulators of germ stem cell enwrapment by its niche in C. elegans." Developmental Biology 429, no. 1 (September 2017): 271-284. Full Text


Caceres, R, Bojanala, N, Kelley, LC, Dreier, J, Manzi, J, Di Federico, F, Chi, Q, Risler, T, Testa, I, Sherwood, DR, and Plastino, J. "WASP and WAVE activate the Arp2/3 complex for actin-based force production during basement membrane invasion." 2017.

Matus, DQ, Lohmer, LL, Kelley, LC, and Sherwood, DR. "Cell cycle arrest is required for cell invasive behavior." December 2014.

Keeley, DP, Morrissey, M, and Sherwood, DR. "Investigating the B-LINK: an adhesion system that links neighboring basement membranes." December 2014.

Chang, E, Yang, M, Sherwood, DR, and Matus, DQ. "The evolution of anchor cell invasion during rhabditid nematode vulval development." April 2013.


Selected Grants

Training Program in Developmental and Stem Cell Biology awarded by National Institutes of Health (PD/PI). 2001 to 2022

Understanding the role of the collagen receptor DDR-2 in germ stem cell niche formation awarded by National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator). 2019 to 2022

Understanding how cells invade through basement membrane in vivo awarded by National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator). 2016 to 2021

Genetics Training Grant awarded by National Institutes of Health (Mentor). 1979 to 2020

Organization and Function of Cellular Structure awarded by National Institutes of Health (Mentor). 1975 to 2020

Defining a Newly Identified Membrane Structure That Directs Cell Invasion awarded by American Cancer Society, Inc. (Principal Investigator). 2016 to 2019

Understanding how innexins direct stem cell niche morphology awarded by National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator). 2016 to 2018

Visualizing and Elucidating the Role of Force on Type IV Collagen in Development awarded by National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator). 2016 to 2018

Serial Block Face Scanning Electron Microscope awarded by National Institutes of Health (Major User). 2016 to 2018

Elucidating Key Mechanisms Regulating Cell Invasion In Vivo awarded by National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator). 2007 to 2017