Faculty Profiles

Kim McCall

Kim McCall

Professor of Biology

PhD, Harvard University, 1995
Areas of interest: Drosophila developmental biology, cell death, oogenesis
(617) 358-0442

Current Research

Cell death plays a central role in development and in many diseases. The research in my laboratory is focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms of programmed cell death and cell clearance. The model that we are using is the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster, an organism with unique advantages in genetics and cell biology. A major interest of the lab is germline cell death, which can occur at several distinct stages in the fly ovary. The death of nurse cells in late oogenesis is developmentally programmed and occurs rapidly and synchronously in clusters as each oocyte develops. Germline cell death can also occur in response to starvation or other insults. While apoptosis is the major form of cell death occurring in response to starvation, a novel non-apoptotic type of cell death occurs during developmental nurse cell death.

The final step in programmed cell death is the removal of the corpse.  Defective dead cell clearance is associated with auto-immune and neurodegenerative diseases in humans.  In the fly ovary, “professional” phagocytes like macophages are limited, and most of the cell clearance is carried out by epithelial follicle cells.  Follicle cells synchronously engulf dying nurse cells, providing a powerful in vivo model system for investigating the genetics and cell biology of engulfment.

We are currently using genetic and molecular approaches to identify components of the cell death and cell clearance pathways in the ovary. Given the high degree of evolutionary conservation of known cell death mechanisms, we expect that pathways that we uncover in the Drosophila ovary will be conserved in humans.

Courses Taught

  • BI 572 Advanced Genetics
  • BI 576 Carcinogenesis

Selected Publications

  • Peterson JS, McCall K (2013). Combined inhibition of autophagy and caspases fails to prevent developmental nurse cell death in the Drosophila melanogaster ovary, PLoS ONE, 8(9):e76046.
  • Jenkins VJ, Timmons AK, McCall K.  (2013). Diversity of cell death pathways: insight from the Drosophila ovary, Trends in Cell Biology, 23: 567-574.
  • Etchegaray JI, Timmons A, Klein AP, Pritchett TL, Welch E, Meehan TL, Li C, McCall K. (2012). Draper acts through the JNK pathway to control synchronous engulfment of dying germline cells by follicular epithelial cells, Development, 139:4029-4039.
  • Pritchett TL, McCall K. (2012). Role of the insulin/Tor signaling network in starvation induced programmed cell death during Drosophila oogenesis. Cell Death and Differentiation, 19: 1069-79.
  • Tanner EA, Blute TA, Brachmann CB, McCall K. (2011). Bcl-2 proteins and autophagy regulate mitochondrial dynamics during programmed cell death in the Drosophila ovary, Development 138: 327-338.
  • Bass, BP, Tanner, EA, Mateos San Martín, D, Blute, T, Kinser, RD, Dolph, PJ and McCall, K. (2009). Cell-autonomous requirement for DNaseII in non-apoptotic cell death, Cell Death and Differentiation,16:1362-71.
  • Hou YC, Chittaranjan S, Gonzalez Barbosa S, McCall K, Gorski S. (2008). Effector caspase Dcp-1 and IAP protein Bruce regulate starvation-induced autophagy during Drosophila oogenesis, Journal of Cell Biology 182, 1127-1139.