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Eric H. Davidson

Prof. Eric H. Davidson
Born 1937
Residence Pasadena, CA
Nationality American
Fields Developmental biology
Institutions California Institute of Technology
Alma mater University of Pennsylvania (BA, 1958) and Rockefeller University (Ph.D., 1963)
Doctoral advisor Alfred Mirsky
Known for Gene regulatory networks, Sea Urchin Developmental biology
Notable awards Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Awardee, A.O Kowalevsky Medal (2002), International Prize for Biology (2011)
Member of the National Academy of Sciences (1985) and Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1980)

Eric H. Davidson (born 1937) is a developmental biologist at the California Institute of Technology.[1] Davidson is best known for his pioneering work on the role of gene regulation in evolution, on embryonic specification and for spearheading the effort to sequence the genome of the purple sea urchin, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus.[2][3] He has devoted a large part of his professional career to developing an understanding of embryogenesis at the genetic level. He has written many academic works describing his work, including a textbook on early animal development.[4]


  • Early career 1
  • From Rockefeller to Caltech 2
  • Career in biology 3
  • Selected bibliography 4
  • Notes 5
  • External links 6

Early career

Davidson began conducting research as a teenager at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.[5] After graduating from high school, he matriculated to the University of Pennsylvania and graduated with a B.A. in biology in 1958.[6] Davidson's Ph.D. work entailed studying RNA synthesis and gene expression in early development of the anuran Xenopus laevis in the lab of Alfred Mirsky at Rockefeller University.[7]

From Rockefeller to Caltech

After obtaining his Ph.D., Davidson stayed on at Rockefeller first as a research associate and then as an assistant professor. In 1971, he moved to the California Institute of Technology as an associate professor. There, Davidson took an interest in development of marine invertebrates, especially of the purple sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus, and in investigating the function of genomic repetitive DNA elements, both interests of which would lead to a long line of investigation that eventually led to his contemporary interest in gene regulatory networks.[8]

Career in biology

Davidson has spent the majority of his scientific career investigating the molecular and mechanistic basis of animal development, i.e. how animals are built by reading the instructions encoded in the egg and, ultimately, in the genome. While at Rockefeller and very early in his career, he and Roy Britten, then at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, speculated on how the products of transcription, e.g. various RNAs or other downstream products, would need to in principle interact in order for cellular differentiation and gene regulation to occur in multicellular organisms.[9] This research program eventually led him to investigations regarding the role of gene regulation in cell lineage and embryonic territory specification, both endeavors of which contributed substantially to many biological disciplines, including developmental biology, systems biology and evolutionary developmental biology. In 2011, he was awarded the International Prize for Biology in recognition for his pioneering work on developmental gene regulatory networks.

Selected bibliography

  • Britten R. and E.H. Davidson (1969). "Gene regulation for higher cells: a theory". Science 165 (3891): 349–57.  
  • Gene Activity in Early Development (1987) ISBN 0-12-205161-0
  • Genomic Regulatory Systems: Development and Evolution (2001) ISBN 0-12-205351-6
  • Davidson, E.H., J.P. Rast, P. Oliveri, et al. (2002). "A genomic regulatory network for development". Science 295 (5560): 1669–78.  
  • The Regulatory Genome: Gene Regulatory Networks In Development And Evolution (2006) ISBN 0-12-088563-8


  1. ^ "Eric H. Davidson". 
  2. ^ Sea urchin genome sequencing consortium (2006). "The genome of the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus". Science 314 (5801): 941–952.  
  3. ^ Hood, L. (2008). "Gene regulatory networks and embryonic specification". Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 105 (16): 5955–62.  
  4. ^ Davidson, E.H. (1987). Gene Activity in Early Development. Academic Press. 
  5. ^ Evolution - The Molecular Landscape Interview with Eric Davidson. 2011-03-28. 
  6. ^ "Eric H. Davidson". 
  7. ^ Davidson, E.H., Allfrey, V.G. and Mirsky, A.E. (1964), "On the RNA synthesized during the lampbrush phase of amphibian oogenesis", PNAS 52: 501–508,  
  8. ^ Genomic Regulatory Systems: Development and Evolution. Academic Press. 2001. 
  9. ^ Britten R. and E.H. Davidson (1969). "Gene regulation for higher cells: a theory". Science 165 (3891): 349–57.  

External links

  • Research web page
  • Patent: Gene regulatory networks and methods of interdiction for controlling the differentiation state of a cell
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