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Maura McGrail

Maura McGrail

  • Associate Professor
  • Associate Chair for Research

Contact Info

3005 Advanced Teaching and Research Building, 2213 Pammel Dr.


  • B.S., Biochemistry, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 1988
  • Ph.D., Molecular, Cellular, Developmental Biology and Genetics, University of Minnesota, 1996

More Information

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 McGrail lab studies brain development and disease using the zebrafish genetic model system. We develop CRISPR gene editing technologies for functional genomics and disease modeling, with a focus on targeted integration to create genetic tools for cell-specific lineage tracing and conditional gene studies. Our research examines RB and TP53 transcriptional and epigenetic mechanisms in neural progenitor cell cycle regulation to understand how their loss drives brain tumor cell proliferation and survival. A second research area is in building novel in vivo models of neurodegeneration risk loci to investigate pathways driving neuroinflammation in neurodegenerative disease.




Complete Publication List

Recent Publications

McGrail M, Sakuma T, Bleris L. Genome editing. Editorial. Sci Rep 2022 Nov 28. 12, 20487.

Liu F, Kambakam S, Almeida MP, Ming Z, Welker JM, Wierson WA, Schultz-Rogers LE, Ekker SC, Clark KJ, Essner JJ, McGrail M. Cre/lox regulated conditional rescue and inactivation with zebrafish UFlip alleles generated by CRISPR-Cas9 targeted integration. eLife 2022

Schultz-Rogers LE, Thayer ML, Wierson WA, Helmer JA, Wishman MD, Wall KA, Greig JL, Forsman JL, Puchhalapalli K, Nair S, Weiss TJ, Luiken JM, Blackburn PR, Ekker SC, Kool M, McGrail M. Rbbp4 loss disrupts neural progenitor cell cycle regulation independent of Rb and leads to Tp53 acetylation and apoptosis. 2022. Developmental Dynamics doi/abs/10.1002/dvdy.467.

Almeida MP, Welker JM, Siddiqui S, Luiken J, Ekker SC, Clark KJ, Essner JJ, McGrail M. Endogenous zebrafish proneural Cre drivers generated by CRISPR/Cas9 short homology directed targeted integration. Sci Rep. 2021 Jan 18;11(1):1732. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-81239-y.

Welker JM, Wierson WA, Almeida MP, Mann CM, Torrie ME, Ming Z, Ekker SC, Clark KJ, Dobbs DL,  Essner JJ, McGrail M. GeneWeld: a method for efficient targeted integration directed by short homology in zebrafish. Bio-protocol 2021 July 21; 11(14): e4100. DOI: 10.21769/BioProtoc.4100.

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.

Ichino N, Serres M, Urban R, Urban M, Schaefbauer K, Greif L, Varshney GK, Skuster KJ, McNulty M, Daby C, Wang Y, Liao H-k, El-Rass S, Ding Y, Liu W, Schimmenti LA, Sivasubbu S, Balciunas D, Hammerschmidt M, Farber SA, Wen X-Y, Xu X, McGrail M, Essner JJ, Burgess S, Clark KJ, Ekker SC. Building the vertebrate codex using the Gene Breaking Protein Trap Library. eLife 2020; 9:e54572 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.54572

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, 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.

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.