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, and cellular locomotions. Currently, we are investigating how myosin elicits cell shape change and how its function is regulated through filament formation, phosphorylation, sub-cellular targeting and small GTP-binding protein function. We are characterizing myosin light chain kinase; a novel myosin VII heavy chain; and additional elements that participate in localizing myosin and transmitting the forces that it produces. We used screens for aberrant cell shape induced in the yeast S. pombe by expression of transfected Drosophila cDNAs. These experiments show that elements that define cell shape are conserved throughout phylogeny and that a screen in yeast is a valuable tool for recovering heterologous cDNAs that encode cytoskeletal elements and the proteins that regulate them. In fly, we are identifying 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. We are also using manipulation studies to understand the forces that drive cellularization and 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
  • Associate of the Duke Initiative for Science & Society
  • Affiliate of the Regeneration Next Initiative

Contact Information

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


  • Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania, 1979
  • B.A. University of Pennsylvania, 1973

Awards, Honors, and Distinctions

  • Elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. American Association for the Advancement of Science Council. 2011
  • AAAS Fellows. American Association for the Advancement of Science, The. 2011

Courses Taught

  • BIOLOGY 293: Research Independent Study
  • BIOLOGY 424S: The Biological, Chemical, and Physical Bases of Cell Shape and Cell Shape Changes
  • BIOLOGY 493: Research Independent Study
  • BIOLOGY 791T: Tutorial

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Kiehart, DP; Cooper, JA, Contractile protein biochemistry in the Pollard Lab in Baltimore., Biophysical Reviews, vol 10 no. 6 (2018), pp. 1483-1485 [10.1007/s12551-018-0477-5] [abs].
  • Guo, Y; Li, D; Zhang, S; Yang, Y; Liu, J-J; Wang, X; Liu, C; Milkie, DE; Moore, RP; Tulu, US; Kiehart, DP; Hu, J; Lippincott-Schwartz, J; Betzig, E; Li, D, Visualizing Intracellular Organelle and Cytoskeletal Interactions at Nanoscale Resolution on Millisecond Timescales., Cell, vol 175 no. 5 (2018), pp. 1430-1442.e17 [10.1016/j.cell.2018.09.057] [abs].
  • Aristotelous, AC; Crawford, JM; Edwards, GS; Kiehart, DP; Venakides, S, Mathematical models of dorsal closure., Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology, vol 137 (2018), pp. 111-131 [10.1016/j.pbiomolbio.2018.05.009] [abs].
  • Mortensen, RD; Moore, RP; Fogerson, SM; Chiou, HY; Obinero, CV; Prabhu, NK; Wei, AH; Crawford, JM; Kiehart, DP, Identifying Genetic Players in Cell Sheet Morphogenesis Using a Drosophila Deficiency Screen for Genes on Chromosome 2R Involved in Dorsal Closure., G3 (Bethesda, Md.), vol 8 no. 7 (2018), pp. 2361-2387 [10.1534/g3.118.200233] [abs].
  • Lo, W-C; Madrak, C; Kiehart, DP; Edwards, GS, Unified biophysical mechanism for cell-shape oscillations and cell ingression., Physical Review. E, vol 97 no. 6-1 (2018) [10.1103/physreve.97.062414] [abs].