Ian Duncan

Ian Duncan

Professor of Biology

contact info:

mailing address:

  • Washington University
    CB 1137
    One Brookings Drive
    St. Louis, MO 63130-4899

​Ian Duncan's major research goal is to understand how body segments become different from one another in Drosophila. His lab is also very interested in how patterning occurs within body segments.

He is particularly interested in the antennal segment, since this develops independently of the Hox genes, which specify segmental identities in more posterior segments.

He has shown that the identity of the distal part of the antenna is specified by the spineless (ss) gene, which encodes the Drosophila homolog of the vertebrate aryl hydrocarbon receptor. In mammals, this protein mediates the toxicity of a variety of aryl hydrocarbons, including dioxin. Much of the current work is devoted to understanding how ss is regulated and how its apparently disparate functions have evolved in the arthropod and vertebrate lineages.

His lab is also very interested in how patterning occurs within body segments. For this work, his group has focused on the abdominal segments of the adult, which are much simpler than those in the thorax and head.

Image caption: Antennal specification by ss. (a)Normal antenna (b) Antenna from an ss mutant fly (c)The larval antennal primordium (imaginal disc) stained for expression of the ss gene.

recent courses

Developmental Biology

An introduction to the molecular and cell biology of animal development. The course is divided into three broad sections, which cover 1) an introduction to the major cell-cell signaling systems used during development and their study in model organisms, 2) molecular studies of early vertebrate development, and 3) the biology of stem cells. The focus is on molecular approaches applied to important model systems, but framed in classical concepts.

    Human Genetics

    Broad coverage of the role of genetics in medicine, with a focus on the application of genomic technologies to the understanding of human disease. Areas covered include genomics, the identification of human disease genes, genetic disease therapies, gene editing technologies, drug development, risk assessment and genetic counseling, biochemical genetics, imprinting, mitochondrial genetics, complex inheritance, assisted reproduction, prenatal diagnosis, immunity, cancer, clinical cytogenetics, and pharmacogenetics. The profound ethical and legal considerations raised by modern genetic technologies will also be discussed.

      Selected Publications

      Duncan DM, Kiefel P, Duncan I. Mutants for Drosophila Isocitrate Dehydrogenase 3b are defective in mitochondrial function and larval cell death. G3. 2017. 7(3): 789-799.

      Mou X, Duncan DM, Baehrecke EH, Duncan I.  Control of target gene specificity during metamorphosis by the steroid response gene E93.  Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA.  2012.  109(8):  2949-2954.

      Duncan D, Kiefel P, Duncan I. Control of the spineless antennal enhancer:  direct repression of antennal target genes by Antennapedia.  Dev. Biol.  2010.  347:  82-91.

      Emmons RB, Duncan D, Duncan I.  Regulation of the Drosophila distal antennal determinant spineless. Dev. Biol. 2007.  302(2): 412-426.

      Wernet MF, Mazzoni EO, Celik A, Duncan DM, Duncan I, Desplan C.  Stochastic Spineless expression creates the retinal mosaic for colour vision.  Nature.  2006.  440(7081):  174-180.

      Kankel MW, Duncan DM, Duncan I.  A screen for genes that interact with the Drosophila pair-rule segmentation gene fushi tarazu.  Genetics.  2004.  168(1):  161-180.

      Kopp A, Duncan I.  Anteroposterior patterning in adult abdominal segments of Drosophila.  Dev. Biol. 2002.  242(1): 15-30.

      Kopp, A., Duncan, I., Carroll, S.B. (2000) Genetic control and evolution of sexually dimorphic characters in Drosophila. Nature 408: 553-559.

      Emmons RB, Duncan D, Estes PA, Kiefel P, Mosher JT, Sonnenfeld M, Ward MP, Duncan I, Crews ST.  The Spineless-aristapedia and Tango bHLH-PAS proteins interact to control antennal and tarsal development in Drosophila.  Development.  1999.  126(17):  3937-3945.

      Kopp, A., Blackman, R.K., Duncan, I. (1999) Wingless. Decapentaplegic and EGF Receptor signaling pathways interact to specify dorso-ventral pattern in the adult abdomen of Drosophila. Development 126: 3495-3507.

      Duncan, D.M., Burgess, E.A., Duncan, I. (1998) Control of distal antennal identity and tarsal development in Drosophila by spineless-aristapedia, a homolog of the mammalian dioxin receptor. Genes Dev. 12:290-1303.

      Kopp, A., Duncan I. (1997) Control of cell fate and polarity in the adult abdominal segments of Drosophila by optomotor-blind. Development 124: 3715-3726.