Lance Davidson
Work Phone Number
Web Site
(804) 243-2596


Morphogenesis is an inherently mechanical process. My research aims are to understand these mechanical processes as they operate across several scales, from patterning of gene expression and protein-protein interactions through to the physical interactions of tissues that coordinate the ultimate movements of gastrulation and neurulation. My graduate thesis work focused on these physical movements during primary invagination in sea urchin gastrulation. Using finite element modeling tools I simulated several proposed hypotheses of invagination. These simulations identified several biomechanical features of the sea urchin embryo that were important to the success of each hypothesis. I then set out to measure these important biomechanical properties in the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus. The results of these studies indicate that models which depend on cell shape change to generate the tissue shape change (i.e. apical constriction and annular ring contraction) cannot generate the requisite forces to create an invagination.

In both the Keller and DeSimone labs my focus has been more on the cell and tissue level, where I have been investigating the cellular processes underlying morphogenesis. I have been looking at several morphogenetic events: convergence and extension in the mesoderm, mesendoderm migration, neural tube closure, and wound healing.


Neural tube closure, wound healing, mesendoderm morphogenesis, and convergence and extension in the mesoderm.


Davidson, L. A., Hoffstrom, B. H., Keller, R., DeSimone, D. W. (2002). Mesendoderm extension and mantle closure during Xenopus laevis gastrulation: combined roles for integrin a5b1, fibronectin and tissue geometry. Developmental Biology 242: 109-29.

Davidson, L. A., Ezin, A. M., and Keller, R. E. (2002). Wound healing by apical contraction and ingression in early Xenopus leavis embryos. Cell Motility and the Cytoskeleton 53: 163-76.

Davidson, L. A., and Keller, R. E. (1999). Neural tube closure in Xenopus laevis involves medial migration, directed protrusive activity, cell intercalation, and convergent extension. Development 126: 4547-4556.

Davidson, L. A., Oster, G. F., Keller, R. E., Koehl, M.A.R. (1999). Measurements of mechanical properties of the blastula wall reveal which hypothesized mechanisms of primary invagination are physically plausible in the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus. Developmental Biology 209: 221-38.

Davidson, L. A., Koehl, M. A., Keller, R., Oster, G. F. (1995) How do sea urchins invaginate? Using biomechanics to distinguish between mechanisms of primary invagination. Development 121: 2005- 2018.