Bruce W. Draper

Bruce Draper

Position Title
Associate Professor & Chair, Biochemistry, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology Graduate Group

Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, College of Biological Sciences

Life Science 3129

Research Interests

Germline stem cells

We study mechanisms that regulate the development and function of germline stem cell in zebrafish, with a main focus on female germline stem cells. We study factors that function within the stem cells, as well as those that are required for the development of the somatic gonad, the germ cell niche.

Sex determination and maintenance of the adult sexual phenotype

While zebrafish do not switch sex as adults, our lab has recently discovered that maintenance of the adult female sexual phenotype is an active process that requires continuous input from germ cells, as the reduction of germ cell numbers in an adult female results in female-to-male sex reversal. Our current research is focused on determining what signal is produced by the germ cells and how it influences the developmental state of the somatic gonad.

Development of the early somatic gonad

The mechanisms mediating the development of the somatic gonad in vertebrates during the transition from the sexually bipotential state to the sex-specified state are well defined. In contrast, far less is known about the genes acting earlier during formation of the undifferentiated gonad primordium. We recently discovered that a mutation in a zebrafish Fgf ligand, fgf24, results in the rapid loss of germ cells during early larval development, at a time prior to gonad differentiation. Our results suggest that the primary function of fgf24 is to promote the development of early somatic gonad cells and that the loss of germ cells in fgf24 mutants is secondary to this defect. We are currently investigating the role of fgf24 in regulating the development of the early somatic gonad.

Grad Group Affiliations

  • Biochemistry, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Integrative Genetics and Genomics
  • Pharmacology and Toxicology (PTX)

Specialties / Focus

  • Cancer Biology
  • Cell Biology
  • Cellular Responses to Toxins and Stress
  • Developmental Biology
  • Developmental Genetics
  • Differentiation, Morphogenesis and Wound Healing
  • Meiosis
  • Model Organism Genetics
  • Molecular Genetics
  • Reproductive Biology
  • Signal Transduction
  • Stem Cell Biology


  • BCB 251 Molecular Mechanisms in Early Development, Fall (odd years)
  • MCB 150 Developmental Biology, Winter


  • Bruce Draper Lab
    • Matthew McFaul (BMCDB)
    • Yulong Liu (BMCDB)
    • Sydney Wyatt (IGG)
    • Lana Christensen (Jr. Specialist)

Honors and Awards

  • Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation Fellowship (1997-2000)

    Professional Societies

    • Society for Developmental Biology
    • Genetics Society of America
    • American Association for the Advancement of Science


    • 1988 BA Biochemistry and Cellular Biology University of California, San Diego
    • 1995 PhD Zoology University of Washington


    ORCID ID: 0000-0002-4397-7749

    Yan, Y. L., Batzel, P,. Titus, T., Sydes, J., Desvignes, T., Bremiller, R., Draper, B., Postlethwait, J. H. (2019) A hormone that lost its receptor: Anti-Müllerian hormone (Amh) in zebrafish gonad development and sex determination. Genetics (in press). PMID: 31399485

    Leerberg, D.M., Hopton, R.L. and Draper, B.W. (2019) Fibroblast growth factor receptors function redundantly during zebrafish embryonic development. Genetics 212, 1301-1319. PMID: 31175226

    Kossack, M.E., High, S.K., Hopton, R.E., Yan, Y., Postlethwait, J.H. and Draper, B.W. (2018) Female sex development and reproductive duct formation depend on Wnt4a in zebrafish. Genetics 211, 219-233. PMID: 30446521

    Blokhina, Y.P., Nguyen, A.D., Draper, B.W. and and  Burgess, S.M. (2018) The telomere bouquet is a hub where meiotic double-strand breaks, synapsis, and stable hololog juxtaposition are coordinated in the zebrafish Danio rerio. PLOS Genetics 15(1): e1007730. PMID: 30653507

    Yan, Y.L., Desvignes, R/. BreMiller, R., Wilson, C., Dillon, D., High, S., Draper, B., Buck, C.L. and Postlethwait, J. (2017) The gonadal soma controls ovarian follicle proliferation through Gsdf in zebrafish. Dev. Dyn. 246(11), 925-945. PMID: 28856758

    Leerberg, D.M., Sano, K. and Draper. B.W. (2017) Fibroblast growth factor signaling is required for early somatic gonad development in zebrafish. PLOS Genetics, 13(9), e1006993. PMID: 28873404

    Webster, K.A., Schach, U., Ordaz, A., Steinfeld, J.S., Draper, B.W. & Siegfried, K.R. (2017) Dmrt1 is necessary for male sexual development in zebrafish. Dev. Biol. 422, 33-46. PMID: 27940159

    Dranow, D.B., Hu, K., Bird, A.M., Lawry, S.T., Adams, M.T., Sanchez, A., Amatruda, J.F. and Draper, B.W. (2016) Bmp15 is an oocyte produced signal required for maintenance of the adult female sexual phenotype in zebrafish. PLOS Genetics, 12(9), e1006323. PMID: 27642754

    Dranow, D.B., Tucker, R.P. and Draper, B.W. (2013) Germ cells are required to maintain a stable sexual phenotype in adult zebrafish. Dev. Biol. 376, 43-50. PMID: 23348677

    Beer, RL and Draper, B.W. (2013) nanos3 maintains germline stem cells and expression of the conserved germline stem cell gene nanos2 in the zebrafish ovary. Dev. Biol.374, 308-318. PMID: 23228893

    Leu, D.H. and Draper, B.W. (2010) The ziwi promoter drives germline-specific expression in zebrafish. Dev. Dyn. 239, 2714-2721. PMID: 20737503

    Houwing, S., Kamminga, L. M., Berezikov, E., Cronembold, D. Girard, A., van der Elst, H., Filippov, D. V., Blaser, H., Raz, E., Moens, C. B., Plasterk, R. H., Hannon, G. J., Draper, B. W., Ketting, R. F. (2007) A role for Piwi and piRNAs in germ cell maintenance and transposon silencing in zebrafish. Cell 129, 69-82. PMID: 17418787

    Draper, B. W., McCallum, C. M. and Moens, C. B. (2007) nanos1 is required to maintain oocyte production in adult zebrafish. Dev. Bio. 305, 589-598. PMID: 17418113

    Draper, B.W., Stock, D. W. and Kimmel, C.B. (2003). Zebrafish fgf24 functions with fgf8 to promote posterior mesoderm development and is required for pectoral fin formation. Development 130, 4639-4654. PMID: 12925590


    Kossack, M. E. and Draper, B. W. (2019) Genetic regulation of sex determination in zebrafish (Danio rerio). Curr. Top. Dev. Biol. 134, 119-149. PMID: 30999973