Francis J. McNally

Francis McNally

Position Title

Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, College of Biological Sciences

3167 Life Sciences

Research Interests

Mechanisms of Asymmetric Cell Division during Female Meiosis

Meiosis is a process by which animals, plants and fungi reduce chromosome number four-fold to produce haploid gametes. In females of both plants and animals, only one of four sets of chromosomes segregated during meiosis is inherited by a gamete. In animals, this asymmetric inheritance is mediated by asymmetric meiotic spindle positioning and highly asymmetric cell divisions that yield a large haploid egg. We are interested in the mechanisms that mediate these asymmetric divisions and utilize C. elegans because both meiotic divisions can be filmed in utero using fluorescent protein fusions and time-lapse imaging. We use a combination of classical genetics, RNAi and biochemistry to elucidate the roles of proteins that regulate microtubule-based motility, microtubule organization and microtubule dynamics in meiotic cell division.

Grad Group Affiliations

  • Biochemistry, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Integrative Genetics and Genomics

Specialties / Focus

  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology
  • Cell Division and the Cytoskeleton
  • Chromosome Biology
  • Chromosome Dynamics and Nuclear Function
  • Developmental Biology
  • Developmental Genetics
  • Meiosis
  • Model Organism Genetics
  • Reproductive Biology
  • Chromosome Biology, Developmental Genetics, Model Organism Genetics


  • MCB 144 Mechanisms of Cell Division, Winter
  • BIS 104 Cell Biology, Spri


  • McNally


  • 1984 BA Biochemical Sciences Princeton University
  • 1990 PhD Biochemistry University of California, Berkeley


Vargas E, McNally KP, Cortes DB, Panzica MT, Danlasky BM, Li Q, Maddox AS, McNally FJ. 2019.  Spherical spindle shape promotes perpendicular cortical orientation by preventing isometric cortical pulling on both spindle poles during C. elegans female meiosis.  Development. 146(20). pii: dev178863.

Vargas E, McNally KP, Cortes DB, Panzica MT, Danlasky BM, Li Q, Maddox AS, McNally FJ.

Development. 2019 Oct 21;146(20). pii: dev178863. 

McNally FJ, Roll-Mecak A. 2018.  Microtubule-severing enzymes: From cellular functions to molecular mechanism.  J Cell Biol.  217(12):4057-4069.

Nithianantham S, McNally FJ, Al-Bassam J.  2018.  Structural basis for disassembly of katanin heterododecamers.  J Biol Chem. 293(27):10590-10605.

Panzica MT, McNally FJ.  2018.  Mechanisms that prevent catastrophic interactions between paternal chromosomes and the oocyte meiotic spindle.  Cell Cycle. 17(5):529-534.

McNally FJ.  2017.  Competing chromosomes explain junk DNA.  Science.  358(6363):594-595.

Vargas E, McNally K, Friedman JA, Cortes DB, Wang DY, Korf IF, McNally FJ. (2017) Autosomal Trisomy and Triploidy Are Corrected During Female Meiosis in Caenorhabditis elegans. Genetics 207(3):911-922.

Panzica MT, Marin HC, Reymann AC, McNally FJ. (2017) F-actin prevents interaction between sperm DNA and the oocyte meiotic spindle in C. elegans. The Journal of cell biology 216(8):2273-2282.

Flynn JR, McNally FJ. (2017) A casein kinase 1 prevents expulsion of the oocyte meiotic spindle into a polar body by regulating cortical contractility. Molecular biology of the cell 28(18):2410-2419.

McNally KP, Panzica MT, Kim T, Cortes DB, McNally FJ. (2016) A novel chromosome segregation mechanism during female meiosis. Molecular biology of the cell 27(16):2576-89.

Crowder ME, Flynn JR, McNally KP, Cortes DB, Price KL, Keuhnert PA, Panzica MT, Andaya A, Leary JA, McNally FJ. 2015.  Dynactin-dependent cortical dynein and spherical spindle shape correlate temporally with meiotic spindle rotation in C. elegans. Mol Biol Cell. 26: 3030-3046.

Cortes DB, McNally KL, Mains PE, McNally FJ.  2015.  The asymmetry of female meiosis reduces the frequency of inheritance of unpaired chromosomes.  eLife 2015;4:e06056.

McNally K, Berg E, Cortes DB, Hernandez V, Mains PE, McNally FJ.(2014).Katanin maintains meiotic metaphase chromosome alignment and spindle structure in vivo and has multiple effects on microtubules in vitro. Mol Biol Cell. 25:1037-49.

McNally FJ. (2013). Mechanisms of spindle positioning. J Cell Biol. 200:131-40.

McNally, K., Fabritius, A.S., Ellefson, M.L., Flynn, J.R., Milan, J.A. and McNally, F.J. (2012) Kinesin-1 prevents capture of the oocyte meiotic spindle by the sperm aster. Developmental Cell 22: 788-789.

O'Donnell L, Rhodes D, Smith SJ, Merriner DJ, Clark BJ, Borg C, Whittle B, O'Connor AE, Smith LB, McNally FJ, de Kretser DM, Goodnow CC, Ormandy CJ, Jamsai D, O'Bryan MK. (2012). An essential role for katanin p80 and microtubule severing in male gamete production.PLoS Genet. 2012;8(5):e1002698

Ellefson ML, McNally FJ. (2011) CDK-1 inhibits meiotic spindle shortening and dynein-dependent spindle rotation in C. elegans. J Cell Biol. 193:1229-44.

Fabritius AS, Flynn JR, McNally FJ. (2011). Initial diameter of the polar body contractile ring is minimized by the centralspindlin complex. Dev Biol. 359:137-48.

Loughlin R, Wilbur JD, McNally FJ, Nédélec FJ, Heald R. (2011). Katanin contributes to interspecies spindle length scaling in Xenopus. Cell. 147:1397-407.

Fabritius, A.S., Ellefson, M.L., and McNally, F.J. 2011. Nuclear and spindle positioning during oocyte meiosis. Curr Opin Cell Biol. In press.

McNally KP, McNally FJ. (2011) The spindle assembly function of Caenorhabditis elegans katanin does not require microtubule-severing activity. Mol Biol Cell. 22:1550-60.

McNally, K.L., Martin, J.L., Ellefson, M., McNally, F.J. 2010. Kinesin-dependent transport results in polarized migration of the nucleus in oocytes and inward movement of yolk granules in meiotic embryos. Dev. Biol. 339: 126-140.

Roll-Mecak, A., McNally, F.J. 2010. Microtubule-severing enzymes. Curr. Opin. Cell Biol. 22: 96-103.

Ellefson, M.L., and F.J. McNally. 2009. Kinesin-1 and cytoplasmic dynein act sequentially to move the meiotic spindle to the oocyte cortex in Caenorhabditis elegans. Mol. Biol. Cell 20: 2722-2730.

Meyerzon, M., Fridolfsson, H.N., Ly, N., McNally, F.J., Starr, D.A. 2009. UNC-83 is a nuclear-specific cargo adaptor for kinesin-1-mediated nuclear migration. Development. 136: 2725-2733.

Johnson, J.L., Lu, C., Raharjo, E., McNally, K., McNally, F.J., Mains, P.E. 2009. Levels of the ubiquitin ligase substrate adaptor MEL-26 are inversely correlated with MEI-1/katanin microtubule-severing activity during both meiosis and mitosis. Dev Biol. 330: 349-357.

McNally, K., Audhya, A., Oegema, K., McNally, F.J. 2006. Katanin controls mitotic and meiotic spindle length. J. Cell Biol. 175: 881-891.

Yang, H., Mains, P.E., and F.J. McNally. 2005. Kinesin-1 mediates translocation of the meiotic spindle to the oocyte cortex through KCA-1, a novel cargo adapter. J. Cell Biol. 169: 447-457.

McNally, K.L., and F.J. McNally. 2005. Fertilization initiates the transition from anaphase I to metaphase II during C. elegans meiosis. Dev. Biol. 282: 218-230.

Yang, H., McNally, K., and F.J. McNally. 2003. MEI-1/Katanin is Required for Translocation of the Meiosis I Spindle to the Oocyte Cortex in C. elegans. Dev. Biol. 260: 245-259..