Skip to main content
Jeffrey Essner photo

Jeffrey J Essner

  • Professor

Contact Info

3007 Advanced Teaching and Research Building, 2213 Pammel Drive


  • B.S., Biology, University of Iowa, 1987
  • Ph.D., Molecular, Cellular, Developmental Biology and Genetics, University of Minnesota, 1996

More Information

Dr. Essner received his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota where he began using the zebrafish model system to understand the cellular roles of proto-oncogenes. He did postdoctoral training at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla followed by a research faculty appointment at the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah. Prior to joining the faculty of the Genetics, Development and Cell Biology Department at Iowa State University in 2005, Dr. Essner was the Scientific Director at Discovery Genomics, Inc., a biotech company that uses zebrafish for high-throughput analysis of gene function.

Research Description

My research uses zebrafish to model events that are critical to the progression of cancer and to identify genes that are required for these processes. Central to my research program is an effort to understand the genes that are required for tumor angiogenesis. Angiogenesis represents a specialized type of vascularization whereby new vessels are formed by the budding of endothelial cells from existing vessels. This allows the tumor to receive nourishment for further growth and provides a route for cancer cells to metastasize to other parts of the body. During angiogenesis, endothelial cells must first bud from existing vessels by passing through the vessel basement membrane in a manner similar to invasive cancer cells. By modeling this in zebrafish, we have identified several new genes involved in angiogenesis.


  • Bedell, V.M., Wang, Y., Campbell, J.M., Poshusta, T.L., Starker, C.G., Krug, R.G., Tan, W., Penheiter, S.G., Ma, A.C., Leung, A.Y., Fahrenkrug, S.C., Carlson, D.F., Voytas, D.F., Clark, K.J., Essner, J.J., Ekker, S.C. (2012) in vivo genome editing using a high-efficiency TALEN system. Nature Sep 23. doi: 10.1038/nature11537. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 23000899
  • Liao, H.K., Wang, Y., Noack-Watt, K.E., Wen, Q., Breitbach, J., Kemmet, C.K., Clark, K.J., Ekker, S.C., Essner, J.J., McGrail, M. (2012) Tol2 gene trap integrations in the zebrafish amyloid precursor protein genes appa and aplp2 reveal accumulation of secreted APP at the embryonic veins. Developmental Dynamics 241(2): 415-25. PMID: 22275008
  • McGrail, M., Hatler, J.M., Kuang, X., Liao, H.K., Nannapaneni, K., Watt, K.E., Uhl, J.D., Largaespada, D.A., Vollbrecht, E., Scheetz, T.E., Dupuy, A.J., Hostetter, J.M., Essner, J.J. (2011) Somatic mutagenesis with a Sleeping Beauty transposon system leads to solid tumor formation in zebrafish. PLoS One 6(4): e18826. PMID: 21533036
  • Liao, H.K., Essner, J.J. (2011) Use of RecA fusion proteins to induce genomic modifications in zebrafish. Nucleic Acids Research 39(10): 4166-79. PMID: 21266475
  • Wang Y., Kaiser M.S., Larson J.D., Nasevicius A., Roberg-Perez S., Clark, K.J., Hackett P.B., Ekker S., McGrail M., Essner J.J. (2010) Moesin1 and Ve-cadherin are required in endothelial cells during in vivo tubulogenesis. Development 137(18): 3119-28.
  • Petzold, A.M., Bedell, V.M., Boczek, N.J., Essner, J.J., Balciunas, D., Clark, K.J., and Ekker, S.E. (2010) SCORE Imaging: Specimen in a Corrected Optical Rotational Enclosure. Zebrafish 7(2):149-54.
  • McGrail M., Batz L., Noack K.E., Pandey S., Huang Y., Gu X., Essner J.J. (2010) Expression of the zebrafish CD133/prominin1 genes in cellular proliferation zones in the embryonic central nervous system and sensory organs. Developmental Dynamics 239(6): 1849-57.
  • Hatler J.M., Essner J.J., and Johnson R.G. (2009) A gap junction connexin is required in the vertebrate left-right organizer. Dev. Biol. 336(2): 183-91.
  • Kalén M, Wallgard E, Asker N, Nasevicius A, Athley E, Billgren E, Larson JD, Wadman SA, Norseng E, Clark KJ, He L, Karlsson-Lindahl L, Häger AK, Weber H, Augustin H, Samuelsson T, Kemmet CK, Utesch CM, Essner JJ, Hackett PB, Hellström M. (2009) Combination of reverse and chemical genetic screens reveals angiogenesis inhibitors and targets. Chem Biol. 16(4), 432-41.
  • Hillwig, M.S., Rizshsky, L., Wang, Y., Umanskaya, A., Essner, J.J., and MacIntosh, G.C. (2009) Zebrafish RNase T2 genes and the evolution of ribonucleases in animals. BMC Evol. Biol. 9:170.
  • Wolman, M.A., Sittaramane, V., Essner, J.J., Yost, H.J., Chandrasekhar, A., and Halloran, M.C. (2008) Transient axonal glycoprotein-1 (TAG-1) and laminin-alpha1 regulate dynamic growth cone behaviors and initial axon direction in vivo. Neural Development 3(1), 6.
  • Miao, Z., Luker, K.E., Summers, B.C., Berahovich, R., Bhojani, M.S., Rehemtulla, A., Kleer, C.G., Essner, J.J., Nasevicius, A., Luker, G.D., Howard, M.C., and Schall, T.J. (2007) CXCR7 (RDC1) promotes breast and lung tumor growth in vivo and is expressed on tumor-associated vasculature. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 104(40), 15735-40.
  • Essner, J.J., Chen, E., and Ekker, S.E. (2006) Molecules in Focus – Syndecan-2. International Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology 38(2), 152-156.
  • Essner, J.J., McIvor, R.S, and Hackett P.B. (2005) Awakening Gene Therapy with Sleeping Beauty Transposons. Current Opinion in Pharmacology 5(5), 513-519.
  • Essner, J.J., Amack, J.D., Nyholm, M.K., Harris, E.H., and Yost, H.J. (2005) Kupffer’s Vesicle is a Ciliated Organ of Asymmetry in the Zebrafish Tail that Initiates Left-Right Development of the Brain, Heart and Gut. Development 132(6), 1247-1260.
  • Larson, J.D., Wadman, S.A., Chen, E., Kerley, L., Clark, K.J., Eide, M., Lippert, S., Nasevicius, A., Ekker, S.C., Hackett, P.B., and Essner, J.J., (2004) Expression of VE-cadherin in zebrafish embryos: A new tool to evaluate vascular development. Developmental Dynamics 231, 204-213.
  • Essner, J.J., Vogan, K.J., Wagner, M.K., Tabin, C.J., Yost, H.J., and Brueckner, T. (2002). Conserved Function for Embryonic Nodal Cilia. Nature 418(6893), 37-38.
  • Morgan, D, Goodship, J., Essner, J.J., Vogan, K.J., Turnpenny, L., Yost, H.J., Tabin, C.J., and Strachan, T. (2002). The left-right determinant inversin has highly conserved ankyrin repeat and IQ domains and interacts with calmodulin. Human Genetics 110(4), 377-384.
  • Bisgrove, B.W., Essner, J.J., and Yost, H.J. (2000). Multiple pathways in the midline regulate concordant brain, heart and gut left-right asymmetry. Development 127, 3567-3579.
  • Branford, W.W., Essner. J.J., and Yost, H.J. (2000). Regulation of gut and heart left-right asymmetry by context-dependent interactions between Xenopus lefty and BMP4 signaling. Developmental Biology 223, 291-306.
  • Essner, J.J., Johnson, R.G., and Hackett, P.B. Jr. (1999). Overexpression of thyroid hormone receptor 1 during zebrafish embryogenesis disrupts hindbrain patterning and implicates nuclear receptors in the control of Hox gene expression. Differentiation 65, 1-11.
  • Bisgrove, B.W., Essner, J.J., and Yost, H.J. (1999). Regulation of midline development by antagonism of lefty and nodal signaling. Development 126, 3253-3262.
  • Essner, J.J., Branford, W.W., Zhang, J., and Yost, H.J. (1999). Mesendoderm and left-right brain, heart, and gut development are differentially regulated by pitx2 isoforms. Development 127,1081-1093.
  • Essner, J. J., Breuer, J.J., Essner, R. D., Fahrenkrug, S. C., and Hackett, P.B. Jr. (1997). The zebrafish thyroid hormone receptor 1 is expressed during early embryogenesis and can function in transcriptional repression. Differentiation 62, 107-117.
  • Essner, J.J., Laing, J.G., Beyer, E.C., Johnson, R.G. and Hackett, P.B. (1996). Expression of zebrafish connexin43.4 in the notochord and tail bud of wild-type and mutant no tail embryos. Developmental Biology 177, 449-462.