The Catholic University of America

J. Michael Mullins



Phone: (202) 319-5279 

Fax: (202) 319-5721






Education and Training:

  • Ph.D., Cell Biology, University of Texas at Austin
  • Post-Doctoral Research, Dept. of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado

Teaching Interests:

  • Introductory Biology
  • Cell Structure and Function
  • Physiology

Research Interests:

The major focus of my laboratory is the issue of biological effects that are induced by weak, electromagnetic (EM) fields. This area of research has received considerable attention due to epidemiologic data which suggest that exposure to 60 Hz electromagnetic fields, such as those emitted by power lines, may produce a two fold or greater increase in the incidence of childhood leukemia, malignant brain tumors, and other cancers. Since 50-60 Hz EM fields are ubiquitous in modern society, it is important to discover how cells detect and respond to them. The interdisciplinary research team of which I am part has demonstrated definite effects of weak, 60 Hz electromagnetic fields on the development of chicken embryos, and on specific enzyme activities in both chicken embryos and cultured mammalian cells. We have explored the mechanism by which cells detect such fields, and used this information to devise means to inhibit their detection. In addition to their possible harmful effects, EM fields also offer the potential for beneficial effects. The enhanced knitting of broken bones exposed to EM fields is a good example of how certain conditions of EM field exposure can be useful. Our current efforts in this regard are directed at studying a protective mechanism that is induced by EM field exposure. We have found that cell cultures or chicken embryos which are exposed briefly to EM fields are protected from the damaging effects of subsequent exposure to lethal, hypoxic conditions. Such protective effects may have import for dealing with the anoxic or hypoxic conditions that are produced in tissues to which blood flow is blocked by a stroke or heart attack.

Other work in my laboratory is centered on the effects of the neurotoxin acrylamide, which we found also affects the ability of mammalian cultured cells to adhere to their growth surface. We found that acrylamide greatly diminishes cell adhesion, simultaneously disrupting the network of actin based stress fibers and focal adhesions in the cells. This disruption causes the cell to lose its ability to adhere to a substratum, and results in cell death. The deleterious effects of acrylamide exposure, however, can be countered by raising cytoplasmic levels of cyclic AMP. We are investigating the effects of acrylamide, and the mechanisms which cyclic AMP can block them. These studies involve a combination of microscopy, immunocytochemistry, and biochemistry. Recent results show that the phosphorylation state of some of the focal adhesion proteins is altered by acrylamide, but that the normal phosphorylation state can be maintained if cyclic AMP is applied simultaneously with acrylamide. We believe that studies such as these will be useful for furthering understanding not only the toxic effects of agents such as acrylamide, but also events essential for normal cell adhesion and functioning.

Research Funding:

Research on the biological effects of EM fields has received funding from the Department of the Army, N.I.E.H.S., and through venture capital.

Recent Publications:

  1. Litovitz, T.A., L.M. Penafiel, J.M. farrel, D. Krause, R. Meister, and J.M. Mullins. (1997). Bioeffects induced by exposure to microwaves are mitigated by superposition of ELF noise. Bioelectromagnetics, 18:422-430.
  2. Hoffman, J.C., K.C. Vaughn and J.M. Mullins. (1998). Fluorescence microscopy of etched methacrylate sections improves the study of mitosis in plant cells. Microscopy Research & Technique, 40:369-376.
  3. Mullins, J.M., T.A. Litovitz, M. Penafiel, A. Desta, and D. Krause. (1998). Intermittent noise affects EMF induced ODC activity. Biochemistry and Bioenergetics. 44:237-242.
  4. Mullins, J.M., L.M. Penafiel, J. Juutilainen and T.A. Litovitz. (1999). Dose response of EM field enhanced ornithine decarboxylase activity. Bioelectrochemistry and Bioenergetics, 48:193-199.
  5. Di Carlo, A.L., J.M. Mullins, and T. A. Litovitz. (2000) Electromagnetic field-induced protection of chick embryos from hypoxia exhibits characteristics of temporal sensing. Bioelectrochemistry, 52:17-21.
  6. Di Carlo, A.L., J.M. Mullins, and T. A. Litovitz. (2000) Thresholds for EM field-induced hypoxia protection: evidence for a primary, electric field effect. Bioelectrochemistry, 52:9-16.
  7. Rutledge, R.M, M. Ghislain, J.M. Mullins, C.P. de Thozee, and J. Golin. (2008) Pdr5-mediated multidrug resistance requires the CPY-vacuolar sorting protein Vps3: are xenobiotic compounds routed from the vacuole to plasma membrane transporters for efflux? Mol Genet Genomics, 279:573-83.
  8. Mao, S.Y. and J.M. Mullins. (2010) Conjugation of fluorochromes to antibodies. Methods Mol Biol 588:43-8.
  9. Mullins, J.M. (2010) Fluorochromes: properties and characteristics. Methods Mol Biol 588:123-34.
  10. Mullins, J.M. (2010) Overview of conventional fluorescence photomicrography. Methods Mol Biol. 588:181-6.
  11. Mullins, J.M., C. Harkins, M. Hanley, S. Lynch, J. Muckenthaler and A. Hines . Acrylamide induced loss of cell adhesion is countered by elevated cAMP. Submitted.
  12. Kavanaugh, N.E. and J.M. Mullins. Altered phosphorylation of focal adhesion proteins by acrylamide and the countering effects of cAMP. In Preparation.