Maura McGrail

Associate Professor; Chair of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology Graduate Program

Dr. McGrail, Associate Professor, received her BS in Biochemistry from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and her PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Minnesota. Her previous positions include postdoctoral work at the University of California-San Diego, Myriad Genetics in Salt Lake City, and the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah.

Research Description

The focus of our research is to investigate the genetic pathways that contribute to brain tumor onset and progression using the zebrafish model system. Identifying genetic drivers that advance cancer progression will aid in developing new therapies to treat malignant disease. Gene editing and somatic mutagenesis with CRISPR/Cas9 and TALENs are being used to identify genes that cooperate with the RB1 and TP53 tumor suppressors in neural development and brain tumor pathogenesis.


Complete Publication List 

Recent Publications

Almeida MP, Welker JM, Ekker SC, Clark KJ, Essner JJ, McGrail M. Endogenous zebrafish neural Cre drivers generated by CRISPR/Cas9 short homology directed targeted integration. bioRxiv doi:

Wierson WA, Welker JM, Almeida MP, Mann CM, Webster DA, Weiss TJ, Torrie ME, Volbrecht MK, Lan M, McKeighan KC, Leavy J, Ming Z, Wehmeier A, Mikelson CS, Haltom JA, Kwan KM, Chien C-B, Balciunas D, Ekker SC, Clark KJ, Webber BR, Moriarity BS, Solin SL, Carlson DF, Dobbs DL, McGrail M*, Essner JJ*. Efficient targeted integration directed by short homology in zebrafish and mammalian cells. eLife. 2020 May 15;9. pii: e53968. doi: 10.7554/eLife.53968. PMID:32412410  * co-corresponding authors.

Wierson WA, Simone BW, WareJoncas Z, Mann C, Welker JM, Kar B, Emch MJ, Friedberg I, Gendron WAC, Barry MA, Clark KJ, Dobbs DL, McGrail MA, Ekker SC, Essner JJ. Expanding the CRISPR Toolbox with ErCas12a in Zebrafish and Human Cells. CRISPR J. 2019 Nov 19. doi: 10.1089/crispr.2019.0026. PMCID: PMC6919245.

Mann CM, Martínez-Gálvez G, Welker JM, Wierson WA, Ata H, Almeida MP, Clark KJ, Essner JJ, McGrail M, Ekker SC, Dobbs D. The Gene Sculpt Suite: a set of tools for genome editing. Nucleic Acids Res. 2019 Jul 2;47(W1):W175-W182. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkz405. PMCID: PMC6602503.

Schultz LE, Almeida MP, Wierson WA, Kool M, McGrail M. Retinoblastoma binding protein 4 maintains cycling neural stem cells and prevents DNA damage and Tp53-dependent apoptosis in neural progenitors. bioRxiv doi:

Schultz LE, Haltom JA, Almeida MP, Wierson WA, Solin SL, Weiss TJ, Helmer JA, Sandquist EJ, Shive HR, McGrail M. Epigenetic regulators Rbbp4 and Hdac1 are overexpressed in zebrafish RB-embryonal brain tumors and required for neural progenitor survival and proliferation. Disease Models & Mechanisms. 2018 Jun 15;11(6). pii: dmm034124. doi: 10.1242/dmm.034124. PMCID: PMC6031359.

Schultz LE, Solin SL, Wierson WA, Lovan JM, Syrkin-Nikolau J, Lincow DE, Severin AJ, Sakaguchi DS, McGrail M. VEGFA and Leptin expression associated with ectopic proliferation and retinal dysplasia in zebrafish optic pathway tumors. Zebrafish. 2017 Aug;14(4):343-356. doi: 10.1089/zeb.2016.1366.

Welker JM, Wierson WA, Wang Y, Poshusta TL, McNulty MS, Tisdale EE, Solin SL, Ekker SC, Clark KJ, McGrail MA, Essner JJ. GoldyTALEN vectors with improved efficiency for Golden Gate TALEN Assembly. Human Gene Therapy. 2016 10.1089/hum.2016.012.

Solin SL, Shive HR, Woolard KR, Essner JJ, McGrail M. Rapid tumor induction in zebrafish by TALEN-mediated somatic inactivation of the zebrafish retinoblastoma1 tumor suppressor rb1. Scientific Reports 2015 5, 13745; doi: 10.1038/srep13745.

Solin SL, Wang Y, Mauldin J, Schultz LE, Lincow DE, Brodskiy PA, Jones CA, Syrkin-Nikolau J, Linn JM, Essner JJ, Hostetter JM, Whitley EM, Cameron JD, Chou H-h, Severin AJ, Sakaguchi DS, McGrail M. Molecular and cellular characterization of a zebrafish optic pathway tumor line implicates glia-derived progenitors in tumorigenesis. PLoS ONE 2014 10.1371/journal.pone.0114888.  





Area of Expertise: 
Cancer genetics and functional genomics in zebrafish
B.S., Biochemistry, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 1988
Ph.D., Molecular, Cellular, Developmental Biology and Genetics, University of Minnesota, 1996
3005 Advanced Teaching and Research Building, 2213 Pammel Dr.