John Tower

Professor of Biological Sciences
John Tower
Email Office RRI 219C Office Phone (213) 740-5384

Research & Practice Areas

Aging and Development Biology, DNA replication, Signal Transduction and Gene Regulation


John Tower received his PhD in 1988 from The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Biochemistry, Cellular, and Molecular Biology Training Program, where he worked under the direction of Dr. Barbara Sollner-Webb on the topic of rDNA transcriptional regulation. He subsequently undertook postdoctoral training with Dr. Allan C. Spradling, at the Department of Embryology, Carnegie Institution of Washington, in Baltimore, where he began ongoing studies on Drosophila P element mutagenesis and chorion gene amplification. In 1991 he joined the faculty in the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Southern California, in what is now the Molecular and Computational Biology Program. Dr. Tower has been investigating the molecular genetics of aging in Drosophila since 1989, with a particular emphasis on transgenic technologies, hsps, superoxide dismutase, p53 and the role of sexual differentiation.


  • Ph.D. Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology Training Program, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 1988
    • Postdoctoral fellow, The Carnegie Institution of Washington, Dept of Embryology, Baltimore, 1988-1991
  • Tenure Track Appointments

    • Professor Biological Sciences, University of Southern California, 2010 –
    • Associate Professor Biological Sciences, University of Southern California, 1999 – 2010
    • Assistant Professor Biological Sciences, University of Southern California, 1991 – 1999

    PostDoctoral Appointments

    • Helen Hay Whitney Memorial Foundation Fellow, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Baltimore, 1988 – 1991
  • Summary Statement of Research Interests

    Professor Tower’s research focuses on the molecular genetics of aging in Drosophila melanogaster. He is taking several approaches to his research on aging, the first of which is studying the regulation of gene expression as a function of age, in particular, the heat shock protein genes hsp70 and hsp22, and anti-microbial peptide genes involved in the innate immune response. Increased expression of these genes was found to be a predictive biomarker of aging. The second approach is to identify genes that directly regulate life span. His current emphasis is to test candidate genes involved in regulating oxidative stress responses and nuclear-mitochondrial signaling. He is particularly interested in how the post-mitotic muscle, nerve and liver cells of the adult maintain function during aging, and how stem cells populations are maintained in the ovary. These studies have identified p53 and sexual differentiation as key contributors to aging. Professor Tower is investigating how sex-specific hormones, including steroid hormones and male Sex Peptide hormone can promote sexual differentiation and reproduction at a cost for animal health and life span.

    Research Keywords

    aging, hsp70, hsp22, oxidative damage, ROS, life span, stem cells, aging biomarkers, innate immune response, p53, steroid hormones, sex, mitochondria, Sex Peptide hormone, replicative senescence, DNA replication origins, drosophila chorion gene amplification, replicator, follicle cells, biological science

    Research Specialties

    Aging and Development Biology, DNA replication, Signal Transduction and Gene Regulation

  • Journal Article

    • Landis, G. N., Riggan, L., Bell, H. S., Vu, W., Wang, T., Wang, I., Tejawinata, F. I., Ko, S., Tower, J. (2022). Mifepristone Increases Life Span in Female Drosophila Without Detectable Antibacterial Activity. Front Aging. Vol. 3 (2022/08/09), pp. 924957.
    • Landis, G. N., Ko, S., Peng, O., Bognar, B., Khmelkov, M., Bell, H. S., Tower, J. (2022). A screen of small molecule and genetic modulators of life span in female Drosophila identifies etomoxir, RH5849 and unanticipated temperature effects. Fly (Austin). Vol. 16 (12022/11/23), pp. 397-413.
    • Qu, T., Calabrese, P., Singhavi, P., Tower, J. (2021). Incorporating antagonistic pleiotropy into models for molecular replicators. Biosystems. Vol. 201 (2020/12/29), pp. 104333.
    • Landis, G. N., Hilsabeck, T. A., Bell, H. S., Ronnen-Oron, T., Wang, L., Doherty, D. V., Tejawinata, F. I., Erickson, K., Vu, W., Promislow, D. E., Kapahi, P., Tower, J. (2021). Mifepristone Increases Life Span of Virgin Female Drosophila on Regular and High-fat Diet Without Reducing Food Intake. Front Genet. Vol. 12 (2021/10/19), pp. 751647.
    • Landis, G. N., Doherty, D. V., Yen, C. A., Wang, L., Fan, Y., Wang, I., Vroegop, J., Wang, T., Wu, J., Patel, P., Lee, S., Abdelmesieh, M., Shen, J., Promislow, D. E., Curran, S. P., Tower, J. (2021). Metabolic Signatures of Life Span Regulated by Mating, Sex Peptide, and Mifepristone/RU486 in Female Drosophila melanogaster. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. Vol. 76 (22020/07/11), pp. 195-204.
    • Bell H, S. B., Tower, J. (2021). In vivo assay and modelling of protein and mitochondrial turnover during aging. Fly (Austin). Vol. 15 (12021/05/19), pp. 60-72.
    • Tower, J., Pomatto, L. C., Davies, K. J. (2020). Sex differences in the response to oxidative and proteolytic stress. Redox Biol. Vol. 31 (2020/03/24), pp. 101488.
    • Tower, J., Agrawal, S., Alagappan, M. P., Bell, H. S., Demeter, M., Havanoor, N., Hegde, V. S., Jia, Y., Kothawade, S., Lin, X., Nadig, C., Rajashekharappa, N. S., Rao, D., Rao, S. S., Sancheti, P., Saria, A., Shantharamu, N. H., Sharma, V., Tadepalli, K., Varma, A. (2019). Behavioral and molecular markers of death in Drosophila melanogaster. Exp Gerontol. Vol. 126, pp. 110707.
    • Tower, J. (2019). Drosophila Flies in the Face of Aging. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. Vol. 74 (10), pp. 1539-1541.
    • Shen, J., Tower, J. (2019). Effects of light on aging and longevity. Ageing Res Rev. Vol. 53, pp. 100913.
    • Tower, J. (2017). Sex-Specific Gene Expression and Life Span Regulation. Trends Endocrinol Metab. pp. pii: S1043-2760(17)30099-1. doi: 10.1016/j.tem.201.
    • Tower, J., Landis, G. N., Shen, J., Choi, R., Fan, Y., Lee, D., Song, J. (2017). Mifepristone/RU486 acts in Drosophila melanogaster females to counteract the life span-shortening and pro-inflammatory effects of male Sex Peptide. Biogerontology.
    • Shen, J., Landis, G. N., Tower, J. (2017). Multiple Metazoan Life-span Interventions Exhibit a Sex-specific Strehler-Mildvan Inverse Relationship Between Initial Mortality Rate and Age-dependent Mortality Rate Acceleration. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. Vol. 72 (1), pp. 44-53.
    • Pomatto, L. C., Carney, C., Shen, B., Wong, S., Halaszynski, K., Salomon, M. P., Davies, K. J., Tower, J. (2017). The Mitochondrial Lon Protease Is Required for Age-Specific and Sex-Specific Adaptation to Oxidative Stress. Curr Biol. Vol. 27 (1), pp. 1-15.
    • Tower, J. (2015). Mitochondrial maintenance failure in aging and role of sexual dimorphism. Arch Biochem Biophys. Vol. 576 (2014/12/03), pp. 17-31.
    • Tower, J. (2015). Programmed cell death in aging. Ageing Res Rev. Vol. 23 (Pt A2015/04/12), pp. 90-100.
    • Landis, G. N., Salomon, M. P., Keroles, D., Brookes, N., Sekimura, T., Tower, J. (2015). The progesterone antagonist mifepristone/RU486 blocks the negative effect on life span caused by mating in female Drosophila. Aging (Albany NY). Vol. 7 (12015/01/24), pp. 53-69.
    • Tower, J., Landis, G., Gao, R., Luan, A., Lee, J., Sun, Y. (2014). Variegated expression of Hsp22 transgenic reporters indicates cell-specific patterns of aging in Drosophila oenocytes. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. Vol. 69 (32013/06/01), pp. 253-9.
    • Pickering, A. M., Staab, T. A., Tower, J., Sieburth, D., Davies, K. J. (2013). A conserved role for the 20S proteasome and Nrf2 transcription factor in oxidative stress adaptation in mammals, Caenorhabditis elegans and Drosophila melanogaster. J Exp Biol. Vol. 216 (Pt 42012/10/06), pp. 543-53.
    • Landis, G., Shen, J., Tower, J. (2012). Gene expression changes in response to aging compared to heat stress, oxidative stress and ionizing radiation in Drosophila melanogaster. Aging (Albany NY). Vol. 4 (112012/12/06), pp. 768-89.
    • Ardekani, R., Huang, Y. M., Sancheti, P., Stanciauskas, R., Tavare, S., Tower, J. (2012). Using GFP video to track 3D movement and conditional gene expression in free-moving flies. PLoS One. Vol. 7 (72012/07/26), pp. e40506.
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