Jo Anne Powell-Coffman

Professor and Chair
Jo Anne Powell-Coffman photo, 2010

Dr. Powell-Coffman received her Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Physiology from the University of California-Davis, and her Ph.D. in Biology from the University of California-San Diego (1993). After a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Dr. Powell-Coffman joined the faculty at Iowa State University in 1998. Her research group at ISU has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, NASA, the National Institutes of Health, an Established Investigator Award from the American Heart Association and a Bailey Research Career Development Award. Dr. Powell-Coffman served as the GDCB ADVANCE Professor from 2007-2009 and was Chair of the Interdepartmental Genetics graduate program 2010 – 2011.  In 2012, she was selected as a PULSE (Partnership for Undergraduate Life Sciences Education; Leadership Fellow. Dr. Powell-Coffman served as the GDCB Interim Department Chair July 2011–December 2013, and she formally accepted the position of Department Chair on January 1, 2013. In 2015, Dr. Powell-Coffman received the ISU Award for Early Achievement in Departmental Leadership.

Research Program

The Powell-Coffman research group employs a powerful genetic model system, the nematode C. elegans, to study how animals sense and adapt to their environment. A central focus of the lab has been to identify and decipher regulatory mechanisms that enable adaptation to hypoxia (low oxygen). Using genetic strategies in C. elegans, the Powell-Coffman Lab has identified novel regulators of HIF-1 hypoxia-inducible factor and has gained important insights to the regulatory circuits that control this important transcription factor.  The research group also investigates the mechanisms by which animals survive other stresses, ranging from hypergravity to reactive nitrogen species.

Teaching / Education Research

Prior to becoming Department Chair, Dr. Powell-Coffman taught upper-division and graduate level courses in the areas of genetics and developmental biology.  She also taught introductory biology.  Recent grant funded projects to advance undergraduate education and student success include: (1) HHMI Science Education grants to increase student engagement in introductory undergraduate science courses; (2) a CIRTL project to develop discipline-based learning communities for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows; and (3) an AAU-sponsored project to strengthen STEM education at ISU.

Selected Publications

  • Addis, EA and Powell-Coffman JA (2018) Student and faculty views on process of science skills at a large research-intensive university. Journal of College Science Teaching Vol 47 pages 72-82
  • Saldanha, JN, Pandey, S, and Powell-Coffman JA (2016) The effects of short-term hypergravity on Caenorhabditis elegans. Life Sciences in Space Research Vol 10, pages 38-46
  • Elliott, ER, Reason, RD, Coffman, CR, Gangloff, EJ, Raker, JR, Powell-Coffman, JA, and Ogilvie CA. (2016) Improved student learning through a faculty learning community: How faculty collaboration transformed a large-enrollment course from lecture to student centered. CBE Life Science Educ. vol. 15 no. 2 ar22
  • Saldanha, JN, Parashar, A, Pandey S, and Powell-Coffman JA (2013) Multiparameter behavioral analyses provide insights to mechanisms of cyanide resistance in Caenorhabditis elegans.  Toxicol Sci. 135(1):156-68.
  • Addis EA, Quardokus KM, Bassham DC, Boury NM, Colbert JT, Becraft PW, Coffman CR, Powell-Coffman JA (2013) Implementing pedagogical change in introductory biology courses through faculty learning communities. Journal of College Science Teaching Nov Volume 43, no 2.
  • Park, E.C., Ghose, P., Shao, Z., Kang, L., Xu, S., Powell-Coffman, J.A., and Rongo, C. (2012) EGL-9 Regulates Glutamate Receptor Trafficking in a HIF-Independent Manner by Modulating CDK-5 Phosphorylation of LIN-10.  EMBO Journal 31: 1379-1393.
  • Powell-Coffman, J.A. and Qin H. (2011)  Invertebrate AHR homologs:  Ancestral functions in sensory systems.  In The AH Receptor in Biology and Toxicolgy. Ed R. Pohjanvirta, Wiley & Sons pp 405-411.
  • Powell-Coffman, JA and CR Coffman (2010) Lack of oxygen aids cell survival. Nature 465: 554-555.
  • Shao, Z., Zhang, Y., Ye, Q, Saldanha, J. and Powell-Coffman JA (2010) C. elegans SWAN-1 binds to EGL-9 and regulates HIF-1-mediated resistance to the bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1. PLoS Pathogens, 6(8) e1001075
  • Powell-Coffman, JA (2010)  Hypoxia signaling and resistance in C. elegans.  Trends Endocrinol Metab. 21 (7):435-440.
  • Shao, Z., Zhang, Y., and Powell-Coffman JA. (2009) Two distinct roles for EGL-9 in the regulation of HIF-1-mediated gene expression in Caenorhabditis elegans. Genetics 183: 821 – 829.
  • Zhang, Y., Shao, Z., Zhai, Z., Shen, C., and Powell-Coffman JA. 2009. The HIF-1 Hypoxia-Inducible Factor Modulates Lifespan in C. elegans. PLoS ONE 4(7):e6348.
  • Qian, H., Robertson, A. P., Powell-Coffman, J. A., and R. J. Martin . 2008. Levamisole resistance resolved at the single-channel level in Caenorhabditis elegans. Faseb Journal 22(9):3247 – 3254.
  • Hoogewijs D, Terwilliger NB, Webster KA, Powell-Coffman JA, Tokishita S, Yamagata H, Hankeln T, Burmester T, Rytkönen KT, Nikinmaa M, Abele D, Heise K, Lucassen M, Fandrey J, Maxwell PH, Påhlman S and Gorr TA. 2007. From Critters to Cancer: Bridging trajectories between comparative and clinical research of oxygen sensing: HIF signaling and adaptations towards hypoxia. Integrative and Comparative Biology 47:552 – 577.
  • Shen, C., Shao, Z., and J. A. Powell-Coffman. 2006. The Caenorhabditis elegans rhy-1 gene inhibits HIF-1 hypoxia-inducible factor activity in a negative feedback loop that does not include vhl-1. Genetics 174(3):1205 – 1214.
  • Qin, H., Zhai, Z., and J. A. Powell-Coffman. 2006. The Caenorhabditis elegans AHR-1 transcription complex controls expression of soluble guanylate cyclase genes in the URX neurons and regulates aggregation behavior. Developmental Biology 298(2):606 – 615.
  • Shen, C., Nettleton, D, Jiang, M., Kim, S. and Powell-Coffman, J.A.. 2005. Roles of HIF-1/hypoxia inducible factor and VHL-1/ Von Hippel tumor suppressor during hypoxia response in C. elegans. J. Biol. Chem 280:20580-8.
  • Huang, X., Powell-Coffman, J. A., and Y. Jin. 2004. The AHR-1 aryl hydrocarbon receptor and its co-factor the AHA-1 aryl hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translator specify GABAergic neuron cell fate in C. elegans. Development 131: 819-28.
  • Qin, H. and Powell-Coffman, J.A.. 2004. The C. elegans aryl hydrocarbon receptor, AHR-1, regulates neuronal development. Developmental Biology 270: 64-75.
  • Powell-Coffman, J.A.. 2003. bHLH-PAS proteins in C. elegans. In, PAS Proteins: Regulators and Sensors of Development and Physiology (Editor S. Crews). Kluwer Academic Publishers. Norwell, MA. pp 51 – 68 .
  • Shen, C. and Powell-Coffman, J. A.. 2003. Genetic analysis of hypoxia signaling and response in C. elegans. Ann. New York Acad. Sci. 995: 191 – 199.
  • Treinin, M., Schleyer, J., Jiang, H., Powell-Coffman, J. A., Bromberg, Z., and M. Horowitz. 2003. HIF-1 is required for heat acclimation in the nematode C. elegans. Physiological Genomics 14, 17-24.
  • Jiang, H., Guo, R., and J. A. Powell-Coffman. 2001. The Caenorhabditis elegans hif-1 gene encodes a bHLH-PAS protein that is required for adaptation to hypoxia. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 98: 7916 – 7921.
  • Powell-Coffman, J.A., Bradfield, C.A., and W.B. Wood. 1998. C. elegans orthologs of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor and its heterodimerization partner the aryl hyrdrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 95: 2844-2849.
  • Powell-Coffman, J.A., Knight, J., and W.B. Wood. 1996. Onset of C. elegans gastrulation is blocked by inhibition of embryonic transcription with an RNA polymerase antisense RNA. Dev. Biol. 178: 472-483.
Area of Expertise: 
Biomedical Research
Developmental Genetics
Biology Education Research
B.S., University of California,Davis, 1986
Ph.D., University of California, San Diego, 1993
2108 Molecular Biology Building,