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Randy L. Johnson, Ph.D.

Present Title & Affiliation


Research Interests

Research Interests:

Modeling human disease and development in the mouse

Our laboratory is interested in elucidating genetic mechanisms that control normal development and are disrupted in pathological situations such as congenital birth defects and cancer.  Current research interests are divided into three areas:  dorsal-ventral limb patterning, ocular development and disease, and a novel tumor suppressor pathway called “hippo” that was recently discovered in Drosophila.  Our experimental approach is to generate mouse models that contain conditional and/or tagged alleles and to use these mice to study gain and loss of function phenotypes for critical regulators of mammalian growth and patterning.

Office Address

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
6767 Bertner St.
Unit Number: 1000
Houston, TX 77030
Room Number: S11.8316B
Phone: (713) 834-6287
Fax: (713) 792-0346

Education & Training

Degree-Granting Education

1991 Columbia University, New York, NY, PHD, Chemistry
1990 Columbia University, New York, NY, MPhil, Chemistry
1986 Columbia University, New York, NY, MA, Chemistry
1984 Georgetown University, Washington, DC, BS, Chemistry

Postgraduate Training

1991-1995 Postdoc, Developmental Biology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA


Academic Appointments

Associate Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Division of Basic Science Research, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, 9/2001-8/2010

Selected Publications

Peer-Reviewed Original Research Articles

1. Mishima Y, Lindgren AG, Chizhikov VV, Johnson RL, Millen KJ. Overlapping function of Lmx1a and Lmx1b in anterior hindbrain roof plate formation and cerebellar growth. J Neurosci 29(36):11377-84, 9/2009. PMCID: PMC2765661.
2. Allton K, Jain AK, Herz HM, Tsai WW, Jung SY, Qin J, Bergmann A, Johnson RL, Barton MC. Trim24 targets endogenous p53 for degradation. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 106(28):11612-6, 7/14/2009. e-Pub 6/25/2009. PMCID: PMC2710642.
3. Qiu Q, Chen H, Johnson RL. Lmx1b-expressing cells in the mouse limb bud define a dorsal mesenchymal lineage compartment. Genesis 47(4):224-233, 4/2009. PMID: 19298015.
4. Dai JX, Johnson RL, Ding YQ. Manifold functions of the Nail-Patella Syndrome gene Lmx1b in vertebrate development. Dev Growth Differ 21(3):241-250, 4/2009. e-Pub 2/16/2009. PMID: 19222527.
5. Hodges MR, Tattersall GJ, Harris MB, McEvoy SD, Richerson DN, Deneris ES, Johnson RL, Chen ZF, Richerson GB. Defects in breathing and thermoregulation in mice with near-complete absence of central serotonin neurons. J Neurosci 28(10):2495-505, 3/2008. PMID: 18322094.
6. Endele S, Klein S, Richter S, Molter T, Amann K, Klanke B, Witzgall R, Johnson RL, Hilgers KF, Winterpacht A. Renal phenotype in heterozygous Lmx1b knockout mice (Lmx1b+/-) after unilateral nephrectomy. Transgenic Res 16(6):723-9, 12/2007. e-Pub 7/2007. PMID: 17657578.
7. Zhao ZQ, Chiechio S, Sun YG, Zhang KH, Zhao CS, Scott M, Johnson RL, Deneris ES, Renner KJ, Gereau RW, Chen ZF. Mice lacking central serotonergic neurons show enhanced inflammatory pain and an impaired analgesic response to antidepressant drugs. J Neurosci 27(22):6045-6053, 5/30/2007. PMID: 17537976.
8. Guo C, Qiu HY, Huang Y, Chen H, Yang RQ, Chen SD, Johnson RL, Chen ZF, Ding YQ. Lmx1b is essential for Fgf8 and Wnt1 expression in the isthmic organizer during tectum and cerebellum development in mice. Development 134(2):317-25, 1/2007. e-Pub 12/2006. PMID: 17166916.
9. Suleiman H, Raschta AS, Hertting I, Vitzhum H, Moeller MJ, Johnson R, Westphal H, Holzman LB, Rachel R, Rascle A, Witzgall R. The podocyte-specific inactivation of Lmx1b, ldb1 and E2a yields new insight into a transcriptional network in podocytes. Dev Biol 304:701-712, 2007.
10. Zhao ZQ, Scott M, Chiechio S, Wang JS, Renner KJ, Gereau RW, Johnson RL, Deneris ES, Chen ZF. Lmx1b is required for maintenance of central serotonergic neurons and mice lacking central serotonergic system exhibit normal locomotor activity. J Neurosci 26(49):12781-8, 12/2006. PMID: 17151281.
11. Gould DB, Reedy M, Wilson LA, Smith RS, Johnson RL, John SW. Mutant myocilin nonsecretion in vivo is not sufficient to cause glaucoma. Mol Cell Biol 26(22):8427-36, 11/2006. e-Pub 9/2006. PMCID: PMC1636791.
12. Holderfield MT, Henderson Anderson AM, Kokubo H, Chin MT, Johnson RL, Hughes CC. HESR1/CHF2 Suppresses VEGFR2 transcription independent of binding to E-boxes. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 346(3):637-648, 8/4/2006. e-Pub 6/8/2006. PMID: 16782059.
13. Seo KW, Wang Y, Kokubo H, Kettlewell JR, Zarkower DA, Johnson RL. Targeted disruption of the DM domain containing transcription factor Dmrt2 reveals an essential role in somite patterning. Dev Biol 290(1):200-210, 2/1/2006. e-Pub 1/4/2006. PMID: 16387292.
14. Chen YT, Kobayashi A, Kwan KM, Johnson RL, Behringer RR. Gene expression profiles in developing nephrons using Lim1 metanephric mesenchyme-specific conditional mutant mice. BMC Nephrol 7:1-6, 2006. e-Pub 2/7/2006. PMCID: PMC1413522.
15. Kokubo H, Miyagawa-Tomita S, Johnson RL. Hesr, a mediator of the Notch signaling, functions in heart and vessel development. Trends Cardiovasc Med 15(5):190-4, 7/2005. PMID: 16165016.
16. Dunston JA, Reimschisel T, Ding YQ, Sweeney E, Johnson RL, Chen ZF, McIntosh I. A neurological phenotype in nail patella syndrome (NPS) patients illuminated by studies of murine Lmx1b expression. Eur J Hum Genet 13(3):330-5, 3/2005. PMID: 15562281.
17. Kokubo H, Miyagawa-Tomita S, Nakazawa M, Saga Y, Johnson RL. Mouse hesr1 and hesr2 genes are redundantly required to mediate Notch signaling in the developing cardiovascular system. Dev Biol 278(2):301-9, 2/15/2005. PMID: 15680351.
18. Kokubo H, Miyagawa-Tomita S, Tomimatsu H, Nakashima Y, Nakazawa M, Saga Y, Johnson RL. Targeted disruption of hesr2 results in atrioventricular valve anomalies that lead to heart dysfunction. Circ Res 95(5):540-7, 9/3/2004. e-Pub 8/5/2004. PMID: 15297376.
19. Ding YQ, Yin J, Kania A, Zhao ZQ, Johnson RL, Chen ZF. Lmx1b controls the differentiation and migration of the superficial dorsal horn neurons of the spinal cord. Development 131(15):3693-703, 8/2004. e-Pub 6/30/2004. PMID: 15229182.
20. Dreyer SD, Naruse T, Morello R, Zabel B, Winterpacht A, Johnson RL, Lee B, Oberg KC. Lmx1b expression during joint and tendon formation: localization and evaluation of potential downstream targets. Gene Expr Patterns 4(4):397-405, 7/2004. PMID: 15183306.
21. Schweizer H, Johnson RL, Brand-Saberi B. Characterization of migration behavior of myogenic precursor cells in the limb bud with respect to Lmx1b expression. Anat Embryol (Berl) 208:7-18, 4/2004. PMID: 15007643.
22. Dunston JA, Reimschiesel T, Ding Y, Sweeney E, Johnson RL, Chen ZF, McIntosh I. A neurological phenotype in Nail Patella Syndrome (NPS) patients illuminated by studies of murine Lmx1b expression. Eur. J. Human Genet. 13:330-335, 2004.
23. Cheng L, Chen CL, Luo P, Tan M, Qiu M, Johnson R, Ma Q. Lmx1b, Pet-1, and Nkx2.2 coordinately specify serotonergic neurotransmitter phenotype. J Neurosci 23:9961-7, 11/2003. PMID: 14602809.
24. Kile BT, Hentges KE, Clark AT, Nakamura H, Salinger AP, Liu B, Box N, Stockton DW, Johnson RL, Behringer RR, Bradley A, Justice MJ. Functional genetic analysis of mouse chromosome 11. Nature 425(6953):81-6, 9/4/2003. PMID: 12955145.
25. Ding YQ, Marklund U, Yuan W, Yin J, Wegman L, Ericson J, Deneris E, Johnson RL, Chen ZF. Lmx1b is essential for the development of serotonergic neurons. Nat Neurosci 6(9):933-8, 9/2003. PMID: 12897786.
26. Reedy MV, Johnson RL, Erickson CA. The expression patterns of c-kit and Sl in chicken embryos suggest unexpected roles for these genes in somite and limb development. Gene Expr Patterns 3(1):53-8, 3/2003. PMID: 12609603.
27. Rohr C, Prestel J, Heidet L, Hosser H, Kriz W, Johnson RL, Antignac C, Witzgall R. The LIM-homeodomain transcription factor Lmx1b plays a crucial role in podocytes. J Clin Invest 109(8):1073-82, 4/2002. PMCID: PMC150943.
28. Chen H, Johnson RL. Interactions between dorsal-ventral patterning genes lmx1b, engrailed-1 and wnt-7a in the vertebrate limb. Int J Dev Biol 46(7):937-41, 2002. PMID: 12455631.
29. RLJohnson. Limb Development. Encyclopedia of Genetics, Academic Press, 12/2001.
30. Tabin CJ, Johnson RL. Developmental biology: clocks and hox. Nature 412(6849):780-1, 8/2001. PMID: 11518950.
31. Kos R, Reedy MV, Johnson RL, Erickson CA. The winged-helix transcription factor FoxD3 is important for establishing the neural crest lineage and repressing melanogenesis in avian embryos. Development 128(8):1467-79, 4/2001. PMID: 11262245.
32. Wang SW, Kim BS, Ding K, Wang H, Sun D, Johnson RL, Klein WH, Gan L. Requirement for math5 in the development of retinal ganglion cells. Genes Dev 15(1):24-9, 2001. PMID: 11156601.
33. Vadlamudi RK, Wang RA, Talukder AH, Adam L, Johnson R, Kumar R. Evidence of Rab3A expression, regulation of vesicle trafficking, and cellular secretion in response to heregulin in mammary epithelial cells. Mol Cell Biol 20(23):9092-101, 12/2000. PMID: 11074007.
34. Kania A, Johnson RL, Jessell TM. Coordinate roles for LIM homeobox genes in directing the dorsoventral trajectory of motor axons in the vertebrate limb. Cell 102:161-73, 7/2000. PMID: 10943837.
35. Capdevila J, Johnson RJ. Hedgehog signaling in vertebrate and invertebrate limb development. Cell & Molecular Life Sciences 57:1682-1694, 5/2000.
36. Smidt MP, Asbreuk CH, Cox JJ, Chen H, Johnson RL, Burbach JP. A second independent pathway for development of mesencephalic dopaminergic neurons requires Lmx1b. Nat Neurosci 3(4):337-41, 4/2000. PMID: 10725922.
37. Pressman CL, Chen H, Johnson RL. LMX1B, a LIM homeodomain class transcription factor, is necessary for normal development of multiple tissues in the anterior segment of the murine eye. Genesis 26(1):15-25, 2000. PMID: 10660670.
38. Kokubo H, Lun Y, Johnson RL. Identification and expression of a novel family of bHLH cDNAs related to Drosophila hairy and enhancer of split. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 260(2):459-65, 7/1999. PMID: 10403790.
39. Pathi S, Rutenberg JB, Johnson RL, Vortkamp A. Interaction of Ihh and BMP/Noggin signaling during cartilage differentiation. Dev Biol 209(2):239-53, 5/1999. PMID: 10328918.
40. Chen H, Johnson RL. Dorsoventral patterning of the vertebrate limb: a process governed by multiple events. Cell Tissue Res 296(1):67-73, 4/1999. PMID: 10199966.
41. Aulehla A, Johnson RL. Dynamic expression of lunatic fringe suggests a link between notch signaling and an autonomous cellular oscillator driving somite segmentation. Dev Biol 207(1):49-61, 3/1999. PMID: 10049564.
42. Evrard YA, Lun Y, Aulehla A, Gan L, Johnson RL. lunatic fringe is an essential mediator of somite segmentation and patterning. Nature 394:377-81, 7/1998. PMID: 9690473.
43. Morsli H, Choo D, Ryan A, Johnson R, Wu DK. Development of the mouse inner ear and origin of its sensory organs. J Neurosci 18(9):3327-35, 5/1998. PMID: 9547240.
44. Kengaku M, Capdevila J, Rodriguez-Esteban C, De La Pena J, Johnson RL, Belmonte JC, Tabin CJ. Distinct WNT pathways regulating AER formation and dorsoventral polarity in the chick limb bud. Science 280:1274-7, 5/1998. PMID: 9596583.
45. Capdevila J, Johnson RL. Endogenous and ectopic expression of noggin suggests a conserved mechanism for regulation of BMP function during limb and somite patterning. . Dev. Biol. 197:205-217, 5/1998.
46. Chen H, Lun Y, Ovchinnikov D, Kokubo H, Oberg KC, Pepicelli CV, Gan L, Lee B, Johnson RL. Limb and kidney defects in Lmx1b mutant mice suggest an involvement of LMX1B in human nail patella syndrome. Nat Genet 19:51-5, 5/1998. PMID: 9590288.
47. Chen H, Ovchinnikov D, Pressman CL, Aulehla A, Lun Y, Johnson RL. Multiple calvarial defects in lmx1b mutant mice. Dev Genet 22(4):314-20, 5/1998. PMID: 9664684.
48. Dreyer SD, Zhou G, Baldini A, Winterpacht A, Zabel B, Cole W, Johnson RL, Lee B. Mutations in LMX1B cause abnormal skeletal patterning and renal dysplasia in nail patella syndrome. Nat Genet 19:47-50, 5/1998. PMID: 9590287.
49. Capdevila J, Tabin C, Johnson RL. Control of dorsoventral somite patterning by Wnt-1 and beta-catenin. Dev Biol 193(2):182-94, 1/1998. PMID: 9473323.
50. Heanue TA, Johnson RL, Izpisua-Belmonte JC, Stern CD, De Robertis EM, Tabin CJ. Goosecoid misexpression alters the morphology and Hox gene expression of the developing chick limb bud. Mech Dev 69(1-2):31-7, 12/1997. PMID: 9486529.
51. Cygan JA, Johnson RL, McMahon AP. Novel regulatory interactions revealed by studies of murine limb pattern in Wnt-7a and En-1 mutants. Development 124(24):5021-32, 12/1997. PMID: 9362463.
52. Johnson RL, Tabin CJ. Molecular models for vertebrate limb development. Cell 90(6):979-90, 9/1997. PMID: 9323126.
53. Marigo V, Johnson RL, Vortkamp A, Tabin CJ. Sonic hedgehog differentially regulates expression of GLI and GLI3 during limb development. Dev Biol 180(1):273-83, 11/1996. PMID: 8948590.
54. Marigo V, Laufer E, Nelson CE, Riddle RD, Johnson RL, Tabin C. Sonic hedgehog regulates patterning in early embryos. Biochem Soc Symp 62:51-60, 11/1996. PMID: 8971339.
55. Oh SH, Johnson R, Wu DK. Differential expression of bone morphogenetic proteins in the developing vestibular and auditory sensory organs. J Neurosci 16(20):6463-75, 10/1996. PMID: 8815925.
56. Levin M, Johnson RL, Stern CD, Kuehn M, Tabin C. A molecular pathway determining left-right asymmetry in chick embryogenesis. Cell 82:803-14, 9/1995. PMID: 7671308.
57. Johnson RL, Tabin C. The long and short of hedgehog signaling. Cell 81(3):313-6, 5/1995. PMID: 7736584.
58. Johnson RL, Laufer E, Riddle RD, Tabin C. Ectopic expression of Sonic hedgehog alters dorsal-ventral patterning of somites. Cell 79(7):1165-73, 12/1994. PMID: 8001152.
59. Laufer E, Nelson CE, Johnson RL, Morgan BA, Tabin C. Sonic hedgehog and Fgf-4 act through a signaling cascade and feedback loop to integrate growth and patterning of the developing limb bud. Cell 79:993-1003, 12/1994. PMID: 8001146.
60. Fietz MJ, Concordet JP, Barbosa R, Johnson R, Krauss S, McMahon AP, Tabin C, Ingham PW. The hedgehog gene family in Drosophila and vertebrate development. Dev Suppl:43-51, 12/1994. PMID: 7579523.
61. Johnson RL, Riddle RD, Tabin CJ. Mechanisms of limb patterning. Curr Opin Genet Dev 4(4):535-42, 8/1994. PMID: 7950321.
62. Johnson RL, Riddle RD, Laufer E, Tabin C. Sonic hedgehog: a key mediator of anterior-posterior patterning of the limb and dorso-ventral patterning of axial embryonic structures. Biochem Soc Trans 22(3):569-74, 8/1994. PMID: 7821639.
63. Riddle RD, Johnson RL, Laufer E, Tabin C. Sonic hedgehog mediates the polarizing activity of the ZPA. Cell 75:1401-16, 12/1993. PMID: 8269518.
64. Johnson RL, Grant KB, Zankel TC, Boehm MF, Merbs SL, Nathans J, Nakanishi K. Cloning and expression of goldfish opsin sequences. Biochemistry 32:208-14, 1/1993. PMID: 8418840.
65. Yan B, Takahashi T, Johnson R, Spudich JL. Identification of signaling states of a sensory receptor by modulation of lifetimes of stimulus-induced conformations: the case of sensory rhodopsin II. Biochemistry 30(44):10686-92, 11/1991. PMID: 1931988.
66. Takahashi T, Yoshihara K, Watanabe M, Kubota M, Johnson R, Derguini F, Nakanishi K. Photoisomerization of retinal at 13-ene is important for phototaxis of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii: simultaneous measurements of phototactic and photophobic responses. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 178(3):1273-9, 8/1991. PMID: 1872847.
67. Zankel T, HO K, Johnson R, Chang CW, Sekiya N, Naoki H, Yoshihara K, Nakanishi K. Bovine rhodopsin with 11-cis-locked retinal chromophore neither activates rhodopsin kinase nor undergoes conformational change upon irradiation. J Am Chem Soc 112:5387-5388, 9/1990.
68. Corson DW, Cornwall MC, MacNichol EF, Jin J, Johnson R, Derguini F, Crouch RK, Nakanishi K. Sensitization of bleached rod photoreceptors by 11-cis-locked analogues of retinal. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 87(17):6823-7, 9/1990. PMID: 2395874.
69. Yan B, Takahashi T, Johnson R, Derguini F, Nakanishi K, Spudich JL. All-trans/13-cis isomerization of retinal is required for phototaxis signaling by sensory rhodopsins in Halobacterium halobium. Biophys J 57(4):807-14, 4/1990. PMID: 2344465.
70. Foster KW, Saranak J, Derguini F, Zarrilli GR, Johnson R, Okabe M, Nakanishi K. Activation of Chlamydomonas rhodopsin in vivo does not require isomerization of retinal. Biochemistry 28(2):819-24, 1/1989. PMID: 2713348.
71. Nakanishi K, Derguini F, Rao VJ, Zarrilli G, Okabe M, Lien T, Johnson RL, Foster KW, Saranak J. Theory of rhodopsin activation: probable charge redistribution of excited state chromophore. Pure & Appl Chem 61:361-364, 1/1989.

Invited Articles

1. Tabin CJ, Johnson RJ. Clocks and Hox. Nature 412:780-781, 2001.

Grant & Contract Support

Title: Hippo signaling, metabolism and liver cancer
Funding Source: Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT)
Role: Co-Principal Investigator
Principal Investigator: David Moore
Duration: 11/1/2012 - 10/31/2015
Title: 11th International Conference on Limb Development and Regeneration
Funding Source: NIH/NICHD
Role: Principal Investigator
Duration: 4/1/2010 - 5/1/2011
Title: Hippo signaling in liver growth and tumorigenesis
Funding Source: U.T. M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
Role: Principal Investigator
Duration: 9/1/2009 - 8/31/2010

Last updated: 3/18/2014