Marc Kirschner

University Professor of Systems Biology

Harvard Medical School, Department of Systems Biology
Alpert Building, Room 532
200 Longwood Ave.
Boston, MA 02115
Tel: 617-432-2250

Lab Size: Over 20


Organizing Space and Time. In the development of an organism, as in the theater, timing is everything. Imagine if, one night, the actors in a play were to miss every single cue, delivering each line perfectly, but always too early or too late. The evening would be a disaster. The same is true in embryonic development. Starting at the moment when sperm and egg meet, cells in the embryo send signals to each other to coordinate the growth of organs, limbs, and tissues. Not only do the signals have to be correct, they also must be perfectly timed. Otherwise, disasters like cancer can result.

The Kirschner lab studies, among many other things, the way a developing frog embryo orchestrates numerous signals to yield the final, complex organism. Just as multiple cues would destroy an actor's ability to deliver his lines at the right time, it would seem like the existence of multiple signals ought to result in cellular cacophony. But, somehow, the cells in the embryo can sort out the meaning of the different signals that are bombarding them. In particular, the lab is investigating the signals that tell cells when to divide.


Gujral TS, Chan M, Peshkin L, Sorger P, Kirschner MW, MacBeath G. A Noncanonical Frizzled2 Pathway Regulates Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition and Metastasis. Cell. 2014 Nov 6; 159(4); 844-856; PMID: 25417160; NIHMSID: 639659; PMC4243058

Lu Y, Wang W, Kirschner MW. Specificity of the anaphase-promoting complex: a single-molecule study. Science. 2015 Apr 10;348(6231):1248737. doi: 10.1126/science.1248737. Epub 2015 Apr 9. PubMed PMID: 25859049.

Klein AM, Mazutis L, Akartuna I, Tallapragada N, Veres A, Li V, Peshkin L, Weitz DA, Kirschner MW. Droplet barcoding for single-cell transcriptomics applied to embryonic stem cells. Cell. 2015 May 21;161(5):1187-201. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2015.04.044. PubMed PMID: 26000487; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4441768.

Wühr M, Güttler T, Peshkin L, McAlister GC, Sonnett M, Ishihara K, Groen AC, Presler M, Erickson BK, Mitchison TJ, Kirschner MW, Gygi SP. The Nuclear Proteome of a Vertebrate. Curr Biol. 2015 Oct 19;25(20):2663-2671. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.08.047 PubMed PMID: 26441354. PMC4618192.

Peshkin L, Wühr M, Pearl E, Haas W, Freeman RM Jr, Gerhart JC, Klein AM, Horb M, Gygi SP, Kirschner MW. On the Relationship of Protein and mRNA Dynamics in Vertebrate Embryonic Development. Dev Cell. 2015 Nov 9;35(3):383-94. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2015.10.010. PubMed PMID: 26555057. PMC4776761