Photo of John L. Nitiss

John L. Nitiss

Professor of Pharmacology, College of Pharmacy - Pharmaceutical Sciences
Associate Head for Research, College of Pharmacy - Pharmaceutical Sciences
Assistant Dean for Research, Rockford Campus, College of Pharmacy
Adjunct professor, College of Medicine - Medical Biotechnology


Office Phone:

(815) 395-5583 (work)

Related Sites:


Research Interests:
Mechanisms of action of anticancer drugs; DNA topoisomerases and their roles in biological processes; microbial model systems of drug action; biochemistry and biology of non-homologous recombination; repair inhibitors and cancer chemotherapy.

Teaching and Supervision

Colloquium Lecture Series (PSCI 425), 8/23/2021 – 12/3/2021
Colloquium Lecture Series (PSCI 425), 8/23/2021 – 12/3/2021
PDAT 9:Hematology/Oncology (Phar 509), 1/11/2021 – 5/7/2021
Spec Topics Biopharm Sci (BPS 594), 1/11/2021 – 4/30/2021
Colloquium for PharmDs (BPS 425), 8/24/2020 – 12/4/2020
Colloquium for PharmDs (BPS 425), 8/24/2020 – 12/4/2020
Molecular Biology, 8/24/2020 – 12/4/2020
PDAT 9: Hematology/Oncology (Phar 509), 1/13/2020 – 5/1/2020
Spec Project in Biopharm Sci (BPS 390), 1/13/2020 – 5/1/2020

Selected Grants

DNA Topoisomerase Misfunctioning in Neurological Disease, National Institutes of Health (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke)., 1/1/2021 - 11/30/2022, Obligated Amount: $79950; Anticipated Amount: $159900

Novel Approaches for Studying Topoisomerase 2 Targeting Anti-Cancer Drugs, National Institutes of Health (National Cancer Institute)., 4/1/2017 - 3/31/2020, Obligated Amount: $159900; Anticipated Amount: $159900

Regulation of Non-Homologous End Joining Through End Processing, National Institutes of Health (National Cancer Institute)., 7/1/2014 - 12/31/2017, Obligated Amount: $360967; Anticipated Amount: $360967

DNA Repair And Antitopoisomerase Drug Effects, National Institutes of Health (National Cancer Institute)., 9/2/2011 - 7/31/2012, Obligated Amount: $5953; Anticipated Amount: $5953

Anti-Topoisomerase Drug Action in Yeast, National Institutes of Health (National Cancer Institute)., 9/2/2011 - 1/31/2016, Obligated Amount: $982606; Anticipated Amount: $1008094

Studies of Childhood Solid Tumors, National Cancer Institute., 8/1/1978 - 7/31/2013, Obligated Amount: $22438490; No Anticipated Amount Set

Selected Publications

Nitiss, JL, Kiianitsa, K, Sun, Y, Nitiss, KC, Maizels, N. (2021). Topoisomerase Assays. Current Protocols, 1, (10). doi:10.1002/cpz1.250.

Sun, Y, Jenkins, LMM, Su, YP, Nitiss, KC, Nitiss, JL, Pommier, Y. (2020). A conserved SUMO pathway repairs topoisomerase DNA-protein cross-links by engaging ubiquitin-mediated proteasomal degradation. Science Advances, 6, (46). doi:10.1126/sciadv.aba6290.

Stantial, N, Rogojina, A, Gilbertson, M, Sun, Y, Miles, H, Shaltz, S, Berger, J, Nitiss, KC, Jinks-Robertson, S, Nitiss, JL. (2020). Trapped topoisomerase II initiates formation of de novo duplications via the nonhomologous end-joining pathway in yeast. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 117, (43), 26876-26884. doi:10.1073/pnas.2008721117.

Wang, Y, Rakela, S, Chambers, JW, Hua, ZC, Muller, MT, Nitiss, JL, Tse-Dinh, YC, Leng, F. (2019). Kinetic Study of DNA Topoisomerases by Supercoiling-Dependent Fluorescence Quenching. ACS Omega, 4, (19), 18413-18422. doi:10.1021/acsomega.9b02676.

Nitiss, KC, Nitiss, JL, Hanakahi, LA. (2019). DNA Damage by an essential enzyme: A delicate balance act on the tightrope. DNA Repair, 82. doi:10.1016/j.dnarep.2019.102639.

Blower, TR, Bandak, A, Lee, ASY, Austin, CA, Nitiss, JL, Berger, JM. (2019). A complex suite of loci and elements in eukaryotic type II topoisomerases determine selective sensitivity to distinct poisoning agents. Nucleic Acids Research, 47, (15), 8163-8179. doi:10.1093/nar/gkz579.

Anand, J, Sun, Y, Zhao, Y, Nitiss, KC, Nitiss, JL. (2018). Detection of topoisomerase covalent complexes in eukaryotic cells. , 1703, 283-299. doi:10.1007/978-1-4939-7459-7_20.

Li, J, Summerlin, M, Nitiss, KC, Nitiss, JL, Hanakahi, LA. (2017). TDP1 is required for efficient non-homologous end joining in human cells. DNA Repair, 60, 40-49. doi:10.1016/j.dnarep.2017.10.003.

Tombline, G, Millen, JI, Polevoda, B, Rapaport, M, Baxter, B, Van Meter, M, Gilbertson, M, Madrey, J, Piazza, GA, Rasmussen, L, Wennerberg, K, White, EL, Nitiss, JL, Goldfarb, DS. (2017). Effects of an unusual poison identify a lifespan role for Topoisomerase 2 in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Aging, 9, (1), 68-97. doi:10.18632/aging.101114.


Ph.D., Illinois Institute of Technology, United States, 1986
S.B., University of Chicago, United States, 1978

Postgraduate Training:
Post-doctoral fellow, Harvard University, United States, 1989