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Daniel Starr, Ph.D.

University of California, Davis


Daniel Starr is a professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of California, Davis. His laboratory studies how nuclei move, and then anchor to, a specific part of a cell throughout development. The Starr Lab focuses on the molecular mechanisms of KASH and SUN proteins in the nuclear envelope to determine how the nucleus connects to the cytoskeleton, primarily using C. elegans as a model system to better understand nuclear positioning in a developmental context. The lab team answers fundamental questions in cell and developmental biology, including how motors target to the nuclear envelope and how the activities of motors are switched throughout development, how the nuclear lamina is connected to the nuclear envelope, how actin filaments move nuclei, and how molecular forces are transferred across the nuclear envelope. All of these mechanisms have been shown to be conserved across eukaryotes and defects in these processes lead to a variety of neuromuscular diseases. The Starr Lab is particularly interested in how these mechanisms are regulated to squeeze nuclei through constricted spaces and how this relates to development and cancer metastasis.

Dr. Starr was trained as a developmental geneticist in the laboratory of Dr. Michael Goldberg at Cornell University, where he characterized a complex of kinetochore proteins, showed they were conserved across eukaryotes, and found that they function to recruit the microtubule motor dynein to the kinetochore to move chromosomes. Starr then joined Min Han’s group with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University of Colorado, Boulder. There he and his colleagues used forward genetics in C. elegans to discover KASH proteins and propose the LINC complex model where KASH and SUN proteins span the nuclear envelope and connect the nucleus to the cytoskeleton.

In 2003, Starr established his research group at UC Davis. He was named a Basil O’Conner Scholar by the March of Dimes in 2005, which supports early-career scientists embarking on independent research careers to study health issues of mothers and babies. Starr also is the director of the PREP@UC Davis training program, and serves as a deputy editor for Science Advances.

Science Programs at Allen Institute