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. Prereqs.: Principles of Biology II (Biol 2970); Cell Biology (Biol 334) and/or a course in biochemistry recommended. Small Class. Credit 3 units. 3 units. I. Duncan (Biology), S. K. Kornfeld, S. Imai, C. Micchelli, K. Monk, D. Ornitz, A. Yoo, J. Mills (WUMS).

    Selected Publications

    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.

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

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

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