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David R. McClay Jr.

Arthur S. Pearse Distinguished Professor of Biology
Box 90338, Department of Biology, Durham, NC 27708-1000
4102 French Science Center, Science Dr., Durham, NC 27708


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.

Current Appointments & Affiliations

Arthur S. Pearse Distinguished Professor of Biology · 2004 - Present Biology, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
Professor Emeritus of Biology · 2023 - Present Biology, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
Professor of Neurobiology · 2000 - Present Neurobiology, Basic Science Departments
Professor of Cell Biology · 2022 - Present Cell Biology, Basic Science Departments
Affiliate of the Duke Regeneration Center · 2021 - Present Duke Regeneration Center, Basic Science Departments

Education, Training & Certifications

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