Louisiana Cancer Research Consortium

Kelly Johanson, Ph.D.

Kelly Johanson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Telephone Number: 504-520-7610
Room Number: NCF - Room 301H
Email Address: kjohanso@xula.edu
website: http://www.xula.edu/chemistry/profiles/kjohanson

Dr. Johanson received her B.S. degree in Biochemistry from Beloit College in Beloit, WI in 1998. She then received a Ph.D. from Tulane University in 2003, working in the lab of Dr. Linda Hyman. Here, she worked on identifying transcription termination signals in yeast. This became the focus of her dissertation 'ÄúDefining the role of GRS1 in transcription termination.'Äù While at Tulane, she also worked with Dr. Timothy Hammond on a project to identify molecular changes in microgravity. Using yeast as a model system, Dr. Hammond'Äôs group designed a series of experiments that were flown on the space shuttle Atlantis (STS-112) in October 2002. Dr. Johanson remained at Tulane after completing her graduate work and completed a postdoctoral position in Dr. Hammond'Äôs lab examining gene expression changes in response to microgravity. In 2005, she joined the lab of Dr. Andrew Hollenbach at LSU Health Sciences center and worked there as a postdoctoral researcher until 2008. At LSU, Dr. Johanson began studying the role of the oncogenic transcription factor, Pax3-FOXO1, in the development of Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma, which remains the focus of her current research. She joined the Chemistry department faculty at Xavier University in August 2008.

Research Interests

Dr. Johanson'Äôs research is focused on the oncogenic chimeric transcription factor involved in the development of Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma (ARMS), an aggressive soft-tissue sarcoma affecting children and adolescents. ARMS patients have a poor prognosis with an approximate event-free four-year survival rate of only 17% . The more malignant form of ARMS is characterized by a (2;13)(p35;q14) chromosomal translocation that results in the fusion of two transcription factors involved in muscle development, Pax3 and FOX01a. This Pax3-FOXO1 fusion protein retains the DNA binding regions of Pax3, while the Pax3 transcriptional activation domain is replaced by two elements from FOXO1 'Äî a bisected DNA binding domain and the FOXO1 transcriptional activation domain. Despite the identification and characterization of this oncogenic transcription factor, little is known about how Pax3-FOXO1 targets specific genes or how their aberrant activation might lead to the development of ARMS. Dr. Johanson is primarily interested in investigating the mechanisms of Pax3-FOXO1 DNA binding as a way of identifying its potential direct transcriptional targets.


NSF (2009)-Pfund-163; MaGee(PI) 2/1/09 'Äì 1/31/10
Development of a Microfluidic Device for SELEX Analysis of Transcription factors,
The goal of this study is to develop a high-throughput method for SELEX analysis using Pax3 as a model system.
Role: Co-Investigator

Sidhu A, Miller PJ, Johanson KE, Hollenbach AD. Novel flanking DNA sequences enhance FOXO1a DNA binding affinity but do not alter DNA bending. Biochemistry. 2008 Jul 1;47(26):6809-18.

Coleman CB, Gonzalez-Villalobos RA, Allen PL, Johanson K, Guevorkian K, Valles JM, Hammond TG. Diamagnetic levitation changes growth, cell cycle, and gene expression of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Biotechnol Bioeng. 2007 Nov 1;98(4):854-63.

Johanson K, Allen PL, Gonzalez-Villalobos RA, Nesbit J, Nickerson CA, Honer ziu Bentrup K, Wilson JW, Ramamurthy R, D'ÄôElia R, Muse KE, Freeman J, Stodieck LS, Hammond TG. Haploid deletion strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae that determine survival during space flight. Acta Astronautica. 2006

Johanson K, Allen PL, Gonzalez-Villalobos RA, Baker CB, D'Elia R, Hammond TG. Gene expression and survival changes in Saccharomyces cerevisiae during suspension culture. Biotechnol Bioeng. 2006 Apr 20;93(6):1050-9

Current grant support

Louisiana Cancer Research Consortium Partnership; Johanson (PI) 7/01/08 'Äì 6/30/10
A role for FoxO1 in Pax3-FoxO1 DNA binding.
The major goals of this project are to identify the DNA sequence recognized by Pax3-FoxO1 and the regions of the Pax3-FoxO1 protein that are necessary for DNA binding and transcriptional activation.
Role: PI

Louisiana Cancer Research Consortium