One major research interest is the genetic control of architectural patterns in developing embryos. We focus principally on the Hox genes, which control morphology on the anterior-posterior body axis, and we are interested in how Hox genes and proteins have changed during evolution to alter animal shapes. As part of this analysis, we are developing new methods to map transcriptional activation patterns of many genes simultaneously in individual nuclei, count the number of mRNA molecules in individual cells, and detect DNA regulatory sequences and their protein regulators in individual nuclei.
We are also exploring the genes underlying an epidermal wound response pathway in Drosophila melanogaster. This evolutionarily conserved pathway can be activated by sterile puncture wounds, or by loss of Hox function. The transcription factors encoded by the grainy head and fos-D genes are critical components of this pathway. Genetic screens are identifying new components in the wound response pathway, including the extracellular signals and receptors that instruct cells surrounding wounds to initiate epidermal barrier repair.
Bill McGinnis received his Ph.D from UC Berkeley in 1982 and was a Jane Coffin Childs postdoctoral fellow at the University of Basel. From 1984 to 1995, he was on the faculty of Yale University. He received a Searle Scholar Award, a Presidential Young Investigator Award, and a Dreyfuss Teacher/Scholar Award.