Faculty Profile: Mark Johnson, Ph.D.

Mark Johnson
Mark Johnson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Biology
Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, & Biochemistry
Work: +1 401-863-3556
My lab uses pollen tube growth and guidance as a model system to understand the mechanisms of invasive cell growth, guidance of cellular migration, and determination of cellular polarity. We study the fertilization process in flowering plants because the success of this fundamental component of the life cycle depends on a lengthy and precisely guided cellular journey.


Mark received his B.S. in Biology from Wake Forest University in 1993 and completed his graduate work in Microbiology/Cell and Molecular Biology at the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory at Michigan State University (Ph.D. 2000) where he studied mRNA degradation with Dr. Pamela J. Green. Mark began working on plant reproductive development while he was an NIH Ruth L. Kirchstein National Research Service Award postdoctoral fellow at The University of Chicago with Dr. Daphne Preuss (2000-2004). Mark joined the faculty of Brown University in September of 2004.


Michigan State University

Research Description

I use pollen tube growth and guidance as a model system to understand the mechanisms of invasive cell growth, guidance of cellular migration, and determination of cellular polarity. I study the fertilization process in flowering plants because the success of this fundamental component of the life cycle depends on a lengthy and precisely guided cellular journey. Flowering plants have immotile sperm that must be delivered to female gametes by a pollen tube: a single cell that extends at remarkable growth rates, penetrates floral tissues, and responds to multiple precise and discrete signals that guide its growth. To understand the molecular mechanisms that mediate fertilization, I've taken a genetic approach in Arabidopsis thaliana and have identified a collection of about 30 pollen mutants that define genes involved in each of the critical steps in the pollen tube growth and guidance process. The major goal of my lab is to understand the functions of these and other genes responsible for plant fertilization.

Grants and Awards

Richard B. Salomon Faculty Research Award, Brown University, 2007

NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award, 2002-2004

Howard Hughes Medical Institute Postdoctoral Fellow, 2001

Anton Lang Research Excellence Award for Graduate Assistants, MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory, 2000

DuVall Scholar, Excellence in Graduate Research, Department of Microbiology, Michigan State University, 1999


The American Society of Plant Biology

Funded Research


National Science Foundation
HAP2/GCS1: Mechanisms of Double Fertilization (IOS-0644623).
06/01/07 – 05/31/10
Principal Investigator: Mark A. Johnson
Total Award Amount: $390,000

Brown University office of Vice President for Research, Research Seed Funds
Pollen Tube Glycobiology - A Chemical Genetic Analysis of Galactose Biochemistry in
Growing Pollen Tubes
03/01/10 – 2/28/11
Principal Investigator: Mark A. Johnson
Co-PI, Amit Basu, Brown University Chemistry Department
Total Award Amount: $90,000


The Richard B. Salomon Faculty Research Awards, Brown University
How do gametes fuse? Identification of Egg-expressed Proteins Required for Sperm-Egg Fusion.
01/01/07 – 12/31/07
Principal Investigator: Mark A. Johnson
Total Award Amount: $15,000

Teaching Experience


BIOL 1540/2540 Molecular Genetics (Spring 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011)

BIOL 0440 The Plant Organism (Spring 2006, 2008)


BIOL 2330 Current Topics in Developmental Biology: The Molecular basis of cell-cell recognition (Fall 2006)

BIOL 2330 Current Topics in Developmental Biology: Design the ultimate bioenergy crop plant. (Fall 2007)

BIOL 2290 Current Topics in Cell Biology: microRNA regulation of germ cells and development (Fall 2010, 2011)

Independent Research:

BIOL 1950/1960

Selected Publications

  • Beale KB, Leydon AR, Johnson MA (2012) Gamete fusion is required to block multiple pollen tubes from entering an Arabidopsis ovule. Current Biology (on-line May17). (2012)
  • Lu Y, Chanroj S, Zulkifli L, Johnson MA, Uozumi N, Cheung A, Sze H (2011). Pollen Tubes Lacking a Pair of K+ Transporters Fail to Target Ovules in Arabidopsis. Plant Cell. Jan;23(1):81-93 (2011)
  • Qin Y, Wysocki RJ, Somogyi A, Feinstein Y, Franco JY, Tsukamoto T, Dunatunga D, Levy C, Smith S, Simpson R, Gang D, Johnson MA, Palanivelu R. (2011) Sulfinylated azadecalins act as functional mimics of a pollen germination stimulant in Arabidopsis pistils. Plant J. Dec;68(5):800-15. (2011)
  • Johnson MA, Kost B (2010) Pollen tube development. Methods Mol Biol. 655:155-76. (2010)
  • Johnson MA (2010) Fertilization: monogamy by mutually assured destruction. Curr Biol. Jul 13;20(13):R571-3 (2010)
  • Palanivelu R, Johnson MA (2010) Functional genomics of pollen tube-pistil interactions in Arabidopsis. Biochem Soc Trans. Apr;38(2):593-7. (2010)
  • Wong JL, Leydon AR, Johnson MA (2010) HAP2(GCS1)-dependent gamete fusion requires a positively charged carboxy-terminal domain. PLoS Genet. Mar 19;6(3):e1000882. (2010)
  • Wong JL, Johnson MA (2010) Is HAP2-GCS1 an ancestral gamete fusogen? Trends Cell Biol. Mar;20(3):134-41. (2010)
  • Johnson MA and Bender J (2009) Reprogramming the epigenome during germline and seed development. Genome Biol 10: 232 (2009)
  • Qin Y, Leydon AR, Manziello A, Pandey R, Mount D, Denic S, Vasic B, Johnson MA, Palanivelu R (2009) Penetration of the stigma and style elicits a novel transcriptome in pollen tubes, pointing to genes critical for growth in a pistil. PLoS Genet 5: e1000621 (2009)
  • Frank AC and Johnson MA (2009) Expressing the diphtheria toxin A subunit from the HAP2(GCS1) promoter blocks sperm maturation and produces single sperm-like cells capable of fertilization. Plant Physiol. 2009 Nov;151(3):1390-400. (2009)
  • Johnson MA and Lord EM (2006) Extracellular Guidance Cues and Intracellular Signaling Pathways that Direct Pollen Tube Growth. In R Malho, ed, The Pollen Tube: A cellular and molecular perspective, Vol 3. Springer, Heidelberg, pp 223-242 (2006)
  • von Besser K, Frank AC, Johnson MA, Preuss D (2006) Arabidopsis HAP2 (GCS1) is a sperm-specific gene required for pollen tube guidance and fertilization. Development 133: 4761-4769 (2006)
  • Lidder P, Johnson MA, Sullivan ML, Thompson DM, Perez-Amador MA, Howard CJ, Green PJ (2004) Genetics of the DST-mediated mRNA decay pathway using a transgene-based selection. Biochem Soc Trans 32: 575-577 (2004)
  • Chiba Y, Johnson MA, Lidder P, Vogel JT, van Erp H, Green PJ (2004) AtPARN is an essential poly(A) ribonuclease in Arabidopsis. Gene 328: 95-102 (2004)
  • Johnson MA, von Besser K, Zhou Q, Smith E, Aux G, Patton D, Levin JZ, Preuss D (2004) Arabidopsis hapless mutations define essential gametophytic functions. Genetics 168: 971-982 (2004)
  • Johnson MA and Preuss D (2003) On your mark, get set, GROW! LePRK2-LAT52 interactions regulate pollen tube growth. Trends Plant Sci 8: 97-99 (2003)
  • Johnson MA, Preuss D (2002) Plotting a course: multiple signals guide pollen tubes to their targets. Dev Cell 2: 273-281 (2002)
  • Perez-Amador MA, Lidder P, Johnson MA, Landgraf J, Wisman E, Green PJ (2001) New Molecular Phenotypes in the dst Mutants of Arabidopsis Revealed by DNA Microarray Analysis. Plant Cell 13: 2703-2717. (2001)
  • Johnson MA, Perez-Amador MA, Lidder P, Green PJ (2000) Mutants of Arabidopsis defective in a sequence-specific mRNA degradation pathway. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 97: 13991-13996 (2000)
  • Johnson MA, Baker EJ, Colbert JT, Green PJ (1998) Determinants of mRNA stability in plants. In J Bailey-Serres, D Gallie, eds, A look beyond transcription: Mechanisms determining mRNA stability and translation in plants. American Society of Plant Physiologists, Rockville, pp 40-53 (1998)
  • Kastenmayer JP, van Hoof A, Johnson MA, Green PJ (1998) mRNA Decay Machinery in Plants: Approaches and Potential Components. In N Raikhel, RL Last, G Morelli, F LaShavo, eds, Plant Molecular Biology, Vol 104. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, pp 125 - 133 (1998)