Daniel P. Kiehart


Professor of Biology

Our intellectual focus is on identifying determinants of cell shape that function during development. Utilizing molecular genetic and reverse genetic approaches in Drosophila, we have shown that conventional nonmuscle myosin is necessary for driving both cell division and post-mitotic cell shape changes for morphogenesis. Currently, we are investigating how myosin elicits cell shape change and how its function is regulated through filament formation, phosphorylation, sub-cellular targeting, small GTP-binding proteins, kinase and phosphatase functions. In fly, we are using novel, near saturating screens to identify mutations that perturb dorsal closure, a model cell sheet movement that requires at least six different filamentous actin and/or actomyosin arrays for proper morphogenesis. Our screens show that nearly all aspects of closure a mutable -- by extrapolating our results, which have thus far screened approximately two-fifths of the fly genome, we project that the function of over 300 genes are required to drive this superficially simple, yet remarkably complex and sophisticated morphogenic process. We have also identified gene products that are necessary for myosin function by genetically recovering second site non-complementing loci and biochemically recovering proteins that bind to myosin. To date, our experiments identify ~30 loci that genetically interact with myosin and a kinase activity that phosphorylates myosin heavy chain and establish genetically, that the Rho signalling pathway is required in concert with nonmuscle myosin II for morphogenesis. Finally, we are using laser microsurgery and micro-manipulation studies to understand the forces that drive  morphogenesis. We show that both the amnioserosa and the leading edge of the lateral epidermis contribute to the movements of dorsal closure. Finally, we are examining the role these proteins play in movements that occur during wound healing.

Appointments and Affiliations

  • Professor of Biology
  • Chief, Division of Developmental Biology
  • Professor of Cell Biology
  • Affiliate of the Duke Regeneration Center
  • Associate of the Duke Initiative for Science & Society

Contact Information

  • Office Location: 4330 French Family Science Cen, Science Drive, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0338
  • Office Phone: +1 919 613 8157
  • Email Address: dkiehart@duke.edu
  • Websites:


  • University of Wisconsin, Madison, 2009
  • Marine Biological Laboratory, 1985
  • Johns Hopkins University, 1982
  • Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania, 1979
  • B.A. University of Pennsylvania, 1973

Research Interests

Utilizing biophysical, biochemical, genetic, molecular, and cell biological approaches, I delve into the realm of developmental biology and organismal homeostasis. My primary focus lies in the signals governing and the forces propelling cellular shape changes and movements throughout processes such as morphogenesis, wound healing, and cancer.

Awards, Honors, and Distinctions

  • Newcomb Cleveland Award for the Outstanding Paper in Science. American Association for the Advancement of Science. 2015
  • Fellow (Inaugural Class), American Society for Cell Biology. American Society for Cell Biology. 2015
  • Elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. American Association for the Advancement of Science Council. 2011
  • Sigma Xi Award for the Best Dissertation at the Unversity of Pennsylvania (1979). Sigma Xi, University of Pennsylvania. 1979

Courses Taught

  • UPGEN 716S: Genetics Student Research
  • BIOLOGY 792: Research
  • BIOLOGY 791T: Tutorial
  • BIOLOGY 733S: The Biology Nobels
  • BIOLOGY 493: Research Independent Study
  • BIOLOGY 433S: The Biology Nobels
  • BIOLOGY 424S: The Biological, Chemical, and Physical Bases of Cell Shape and Cell Shape Changes
  • BIOLOGY 293: Research Independent Study

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Sallee, JL; Crawford, JM; Singh, V; Kiehart, DP, Mutations in Drosophila crinkled/Myosin VIIA disrupt denticle morphogenesis., Developmental biology, vol 470 (2021), pp. 121-135 [10.1016/j.ydbio.2020.11.007] [abs].