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David P Crews

Ashbel Smith Professor Emeritus of Zoology and Psychology
Department of Integrative Biology

Ashbel Smith Professorship


Postal Address
AUSTIN, TX 78712

Trainee, Marine Biological Laboratories, Woods Hole, Massachusetts (1980)
Trainee, Institute for Behavioral Genetics University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado (1975)
NSF Postdoctoral Trainee. Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley
Predoctoral Trainee in Psychobiology, NIMH
Ph.D., Institute of Animal Behavior, Rutgers University, New Jersey (1973)
B.A., University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland (1969)

Research Summary:

One of my research programs focuses on sex determination as a case study in how evolution has produced very different mechanisms for achieving the same end. Here I take advantage of the fact that in many reptiles the sex of the offspring depends on the incubation temperature of the egg, a process known as temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD). One question concerns how the physical stimulus of temperature is transduced into a physiological stimulus that operates ultimately at a molecular level to determine an individual's gonadal sex. In this work I use the red-eared slider turtle as the animal model system. I have demonstrated that sex steroid hormones are the physiological equivalent of incubation temperature, serving as the proximate trigger for male and female sex determination. Temperature appears to accomplish this end by acting on genes coding for steroidogenic enzymes (e.g., steroidogenic factor 1 and aromatase) and sex steroid hormone receptors (e.g., estrogen and androgen receptors), and other transcription factors and signaling molecules (e.g., Sox9, Wnt4, FOXL2, Mis, and Pumilio). Phylogenetic analysis indicates that TSD is the precursor of sex determination by genotypic mechanisms (e.g., sex chromosomes). My other research focuses on epigenetics. There is now evidence that an individual's likelihood of developing health problems involves a combination of that individual's own exposures as well as exposures of ancestors in generations past. This transmission of life experiences across generations represents the newly emerging field of environmental epigenetics.

2012 Crews D, Gillette R, Scarpino SV, Manikkam M, Savenkova MI, Skinner MK, Epigenetic transgenerational alterations to stress response in brain gene networks and behavior, PNAS 109: 9143-9148 view

2011 Crews D, Gore AC., Life Imprints: Living in a Contaminated World., Environ Health Perspect 119: 1-3 view

2008 Crews D., Epigenetics and its implications for behavioral neuroendocrinology., Front Neuroendocrinol 29 (3): 344-357 view

2007 David Crews, Andrea C. Gore, Timothy S. Hsu, Nygerma L. Dangleben, Michael Spinetta, Timothy Schallert, Matthew D. Anway, and Michael K. Skinner, Transgenerational epigenetic imprints and mate preference., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104: 5942-5946

  • Daniel S. Lehrman Lifetime Achievement Award, Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology (2012)
  • William’s Lecture, University of Akron (2011)
  • Rushton Lecture, Florida State University (2009)
  • University Cooperative Society’s 2008 Research Excellence Award for Best Research Paper, University of Texas at Austin (2008)
  • "100 Top Science Stories of 2007." Discover: Science, Technology, and The Future January 2008: 40 (2007)
  • Allen Edwards Lecture, University of Washington, Seattle (2002)
  • Bruce Stewart Lecture, American Society of Reproductive Medicine (2002)
  • John Wiley Distinguished Speaker, International Society of Developmental Psychobiology (2001)
  • Fellow, American Psychological Association, Division 6 (2001)
  • Ashbel Smith Professor of Zoology and Psychology (1998)
  • Grass Foundation Traveling Scientist Lecturer (1997)
  • Fellow, The American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1996)
  • Fellow, American Association of Applied and Preventive Psychology (1995)
  • Rolex Awards for Enterprise, Honorable Mention (1993)