- Whitney Professor of Biochemistry, Butler University (2016 - Present)
- Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Butler University (2021 - Present); Associate Professor of Chemistry, Butler University (2015 - 2020); Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Butler University (2009 - 2014)
- Postdoctoral Research Fellow (American Cancer Society Fellow and HHMI Research Associate), Harvard University (2007 - 2009). Research Advisor: Dr. Erin K. O'Shea
- PhD Biochemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison (2007). Research Advisor: Dr. Ronald T. Raines.
My laboratory is globally interested in serine hydrolases: their structure, function, enzymatic activity, biological activity, and therapeutic potential. Specifically, we are interested in:
- Serine hydrolases from Mycobacterium tuberculosis: role in the basic biology, diagnosis, and treatment of tuberculosis.
- Protein palmitoylation and dynamic control by thioesterases.
- Medically relevant bacterial and human serine hydrolases.
I have an active undergraduate research program with 4 - 10 undergraduate students per semester and 2 - 4 undergraduate students during summer research. Summer research students obtain funding through the Butler Summer Institute (BSI), through internal funding from Butler, and through coverage from external grants from the NSF and NIH. I have mentored students with majors from chemistry to biology to pharmacy and starting from first year students to fourth year students. Students working in my laboratory have continued onto top graduate school programs in biochemistry, molecular biology, chemistry, genetics, and inorganic chemistry, onto top medical and dental schools, and into different chemical and business industry positions.
Selected Research Publications: (*Indicates Undergraduate Author)
- Bowles IE,* Pool EH,* Lancaster BS,* Lawson EK,* Savas CP,* Kartje ZJ,* Severinac L,*Cho DH,* Macbeth MR, Johnson RJ, Hoops GC. (2021) Transition metal cation inhibition of Mycobacterium tuberculosis esterase RV0045C. Protein science. 30. p1554.
- Bun JS,* Slack MD,* Schemenauer DE,* Johnson RJ (2020) Comparative analysis of the human serine hydrolase OVCA2 to the model serine hydrolase homolog FSH1from S. cerevisiae. PLOS ONE. 15,e0230166. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0230166.
- Larsen EM, Johnson RJ. (2019) Microbial esterases and ester prodrugs: An unlikely marriage for combating antibiotic resistance. Drug Development Research. https://doi.org/10.1002/ddr.21468. 1-15. Invited Review. Selected for Cover. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/toc/10982299/2019/80/1
- White A,* Koelper A,* Russell A,* Larsen EM, Kim C, Lavis LD, Hoops GC, Johnson RJ (2018) Fluorogenic structure activity library pinpoints molecular variations in the substrate specificity of structurally homologous esterases. Journal ofBiological Chemistry. 293, 13851-13862. doi:10.1074/jbc.RA118.003972
- Bassett B*, Waibel B*, White A*, Hansen H*, Stephens D*, Koelper A*, Larsen EM, LavisLD, Hoops GH, Johnson RJ (2018) Measuring the global substrate specificity of mycobacterial serine hydrolases using a library of fluorogenic ester substrates. ACS Infectious Diseases. 4, 904-911.
- Smith M,* Hart W,* Rabin P,* Johnson RJ (2018) A dynamic loop provides dual control over the catalytic and membrane binding activity of a bacterial serine hydrolase. BBA – Proteins and Proteomics. 1866, 925-932.
- Larsen EM, Stephens D*, Clarke N*, Johnson RJ (2017) Ester-prodrugs of ethambutol control its antibacterial activity and provide rapid screening for mycobacterial hydrolase activity. Bioorganic Medicinal Chemistry Letters. 27, 4544-4547.
- McKary MG*, Abendroth J, Edwards TE, Johnson RJ (2016) Structural basis for the strict substrate selectivity of the mycobacterial hydrolase LipW. Biochemistry. 55, 7099.
Selected Research Grants:
- L Lewellyn (PI), C Stobart (Co-PI), C Masamha (Co-PI), J Kowalski (Co-PI), and RJ Johnson (Co-PI).MRI: Acquisition of Spinning Disk Confocal for Multi-Disciplinary Research and Undergraduate Teaching and Training. National Science Foundation. Major Research Instrumentation. Funded 10/1/21 – 9/31/24 for $472,138.
- RJ Johnson. Mycobacterial serine hydrolases and their roles in dormant tuberculosis infection. Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Program. Funded 8/1/18 – 7/31/23 for $60,000.
- RJ Johnson. RUI: Dual regulated control over the catalytic and membrane binding activity of acyl protein thioesterases. National Science Foundation. MCB: Molecular Biophysics. Funded 8/1/18 – 7/31/21 for $250,269
- RJ Johnson. Investigation of mycobacterial hydrolases and their role in lipolysis. National Institutes of Health. NIH R15 Award. May 2015 - April 2018.
- RJ Johnson (PI), J Kowalski (Co-PI), & G Hoops (Co-PI). An integrated series of student-driven, research-based undergraduate laboratory courses linking chemical biology, biochemistry, and neurobiology. National Science Foundation. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science. May 2012 - April 2015.
- Classroom undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) and inquiry based research laboratories.
- Active classroom learning styles, especially incorporation of scientific skills, active discourse, and argumentation into the classroom.
- Incorporation of new classroom technologies, including molecular visualization laboratories.
- CH361/CH362/CH462: Biochemistry I and II (Amino acids, peptides, proteins, enzymes, carbohydrates, central dogma, signal transduction, metabolism)
- CH463: Biochemistry Lab (Writing intensive, inquiry based laboratory)
- CH432: Synthesis and Characterization (Inquiry based laboratory)
- CH418: Chemistry and the Environment (Chemistry study abroad course)
- CH105/CH106/CH107: Introductory and Advanced Chemistry I and II (Atomic structure, acid/base, kinetics, equilibrium, thermodynamics, and electrochemistry)
- NW210: Chemistry and Society (Introduction to chemistry and the intersection with current issues in society)
Selected Teaching and Learning Publications: (*Indicates Undergraduate)
- Johnson RJ, et al . (2021). Proteopedia entry:Structure of complex membrane proteins solved using cryo-electron microscopy. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education. https://doi.org/10.1002/bmb.21560
- Castro C, Johnson RJ, Kieffer B, Means JA, Taylor A, Telford J, Thompson LK, Sussman JL, Prilusky J, Theis K (2021) A practical guide to teaching with Proteopedia. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education. https://doi.org/10.1002/bmb.21548
- Johnson RJ (2016 )Arsenic based life: an active learning assignment for teaching scientific discourse. Biochem. Mol. Biol. Educ. 40, 40-45.
Kowalski JR, Hoops GC, Johnson RJ (2016) A collaborative series of classroom undergraduate research experiences spanning Biochemistry, Chemical Biology, andNeurobiology. CBE-Life Sciences. 15.4, ar55.