William McGinnis


One major research interest of our lab is the regulation of transcription patterns of Hox genes in animal embryos. Hox gene expression patterns determine the morphological features that develop on the anterior posterior axis of animal embryos, and how Hox expression patterns are regulated are critical to their developmental functions, as well as the evolutionary diversity in form that arises in different animal embryos. One current specific interest is how distant Hox enhancer-promoter interactions regulate transcriptional activation of Hox genes in Drosophila embryos. We have developed methods to detect transcriptional activation patterns of many genes simultaneously in individual nuclei, and at the same time detect mRNA molecules from individual genes, as well as the DNA regulatory sequences that activate transcription from those genes, in individual nuclei in which the genes are activated or repressed.

We are also exploring the genes underlying a signaling pathway that controls regeneration of animal epidermis after wounding, using Drosophila as a model system. This pathway, which involves the activation and repression of thousands of genes that regulate epidermal regeneration, can be activated by sterile puncture wounds of fly embryos. Genetic screens are identifying new components in the wound response pathway, including the extracellular signals and receptors that instruct cells around wounds to initiate epidermal barrier repair. New methods to visualize wound activated gene regulation are also being developed.


  • Juarez, M.T., Patterson, R.A., Li, W. and McGinnis, W. (2013) Microinjection wound assay and in vivo localization of epidermal wound response reporters in Drosophila embryos. Journal of Visualized Experiments, (81), e50750.
  • Patterson, R.A., Juarez, M.T., Hermann, A., Sasik, R., Hardiman, G., and McGinnis, W. (2013) Serine proteolytic pathway activation reveals an expanded ensemble of wound response genes in Drosophila. PLoS ONE, 8: e61773.
  • Paré, A., Kim, M., Brody, S. and McGinnis, W. (2012) The functions of Grainy head family proteins in Animals and Fungi and the evolution of apical extracellular barriers. PLoS ONE, 7, e36254.
  • Lemons, D., Paré, A. and McGinnis, W. (2012) Three Drosophila Hox complex miRNAs do not have major effects on expression of evolutionarily conserved Hox gene targets during embryogenesis, PLoS ONE 7, e31365.
  • Juarez, M. T. Patterson, R., Sandoval-Guillen, E. and McGinnis, W. (2011) Duox, Flotillin-2, and Src42A are Required to Activate or Delimit the Spread of the Transcriptional Response to Epidermal Wounds in Drosophila. PLoS Genetics 7, e1002424.
  • McHale, P., Mizutani, C.M., Kosman, D., MacKay, D.L., Belu. M., McGinnis. W., Ethan Bier, and Hwa, T. (2011) Gene length may contribute to graded transcriptional responses in the Drosophila embryo. Developmental Biology, 360, 230-240.
  • Kim, M. and McGinnis, W. (2011) Phosphorylation of Grainy head by ERK is essential for wound-dependent regeneration of an epidermal barrier but dispensable for embryonic barrier development. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 108, 650-655.