Department of Chemistry

Xavier University of Louisiana

Kelly Johanson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor

Telephone Number: 504-520-7610
Room Number: NCF - Room 301H
Email Address:

Introduction to Biochemistry lab (3130L), Advanced Biochemistry (4060), Metabolism (4140)

Short Professional Biography

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 “Defining the role of GRS1 in transcription termination.” 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’s 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’s 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 Interest

Dr. Johanson's research is focused on identifying and characterizing DNA-protein interactions.  Our research centers around the oncogenic chimeric transcription factor PAX3-FOXO1 involved in the development of Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma (ARMS), an aggressive soft-tissue sarcoma affecting children and adolescents. We are interested in how PAX3-FOXO1 interacts with target sequences, including those found in noncoding RNA.  We are also interested in identifying proteins that interact with PAX3-FOXO1 and determining how these interactions affect PAX3-FOXO1 activity.

Current Grant Support

Project Pathways: NIH BUILD program grant

Recent Publications

Johanson KE, Watt TJ. Inquiry-based experiments for large-scale introduction to PCR and restriction enzyme digests. Biochem. Mol. Bio. Ed. 2015, 43, 441-448.

Johanson KE, Watt TJ, McIntyre NR, Thompson M. Purification and characterization of enzymes from yeast: an extended undergraduate laboratory sequence for large classes. Biochem. Mol. Bio. Ed. 2013, 41, 251-261.

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

Department of Chemistry