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Dr John Fitter

Laboratory and Research Manager

School of Medicine and Public Health

Career Summary


Research Expertise
My research has a diverse background in plant, microbiological and human biology specialising in molecular biology and genetics. I have used this expertise to explore the conservation of hormone regulation in the processes of tadpole metamorphosis and relate this to human birth where the transition from aqueous to terrestrial environments is so similar yet so distant in evolutionary time terms.

Teaching Expertise
I have wide ranging expertise in teaching in diverse settings including lectures, laboratories, field stations and research stations at undergraduate and post-graduate level.

Administrative Expertise
I have significant training in Laboratory Management and OH&S. I am managing the Mothers & Babies Research Centre laboratories and personnel (~100 people) who include an enormous diversity of disciplines including medicine, biology, chemistry, psychology, engineering, mathematics.

I am current Chair of the UoN Chemical & Radiation Technical Committee, the current Chair of the Faculty of Health & Medicine Health and Safety committee, Faculty of Health and CRTC representative for the Uon Health & Safety committee, UoN representative on the John Hunter campus Radiation Safety committee, Member of the Research Integrity, Accountability and Compliance committee. I am also the MBRC representative on the HMRI Building committee.


  • PhD, University of Newcastle
  • Bachelor of Science (Honours), University of Newcastle
  • Advanced Certificate in Aircraft Maint Eng (Elect), Royal Australian Air Force - RTO
  • Diploma of Business (Frontline Management), GE Consultancy Pty Ltd (RTO)


  • development, endocrinology, metamorphosis
  • phenotypic plasticity
  • post graduate training curriculum
  • techniques for teaching

Fields of Research

Code Description Percentage
060199 Biochemistry and Cell Biology not elsewhere classified 35
060799 Plant Biology not elsewhere classified 65

Professional Experience

Academic appointment

Dates Title Organisation / Department
1/04/1993 - 1/06/1995 ARC Research Associate University of Wollongong
Department of Biological Sciences



Year Award
2015 Workplace Health & Safety Award
School of Medicine & Population Health, Faculty of Health & Medicine, University of Newcastle



Year Title / Rationale
2004 Sessional Teaching program
Organisation: University of Newcastle Description: Tips and techniques for sessional teachers program and subsequent video production now on-line via university intranet


For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.

Chapter (2 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2006 Rose RJ, Fitter JT, McCurdy DW, Sheahan MB, 'Mitochondrial Somatic Genetics and Homeotic Effects on Flower Morphology', Floriculture, Ornamental and Plant Biotechnology: advances and topical issues, Global Science Books, Isleworth, United Kingdom 210-215 (2006) [B1]
Co-authors David Mccurdy, Ray Rose
2000 Smith R, Changs E-C, Mesiano S, Nicholson R, Cheng Y-H, Bowman M, et al., 'Regulation of parturition: The role of CRH', Hormones and Women's Health The Reproductive Years, Harwood Academic Publishers, Amsterdam, The Netherlands 215-219 (2000) [B1]
Co-authors Gemma Madsen, Roger Smith, Vicki Clifton, Maria Bowman

Journal article (11 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2015 Pan X, Bowman M, Scott RJ, Fitter J, Nicholson RC, Smith R, Zakar T, 'Methylation of the Corticotropin Releasing Hormone Gene Promoter in BeWo Cells: Relationship to Gene Activity', International Journal of Endocrinology, 2015 (2015) [C1]

© 2015 Xin Pan et al.Corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH) production by the human placenta increases exponentially as pregnancy advances, and the rate of increase predicts gesta... [more]

© 2015 Xin Pan et al.Corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH) production by the human placenta increases exponentially as pregnancy advances, and the rate of increase predicts gestational length. CRH gene expression is regulated by cAMP in trophoblasts through a cyclic AMP-response element (CRE), which changes its transcription factor binding properties upon methylation. Here we determined whether methylation of the CRH proximal promoter controls basal and cAMP-stimulated CRH expression in BeWo cells, a well-characterized trophoblastic cell line. We treated the cells with 8-Br-cAMP and the DNA methyltransferase inhibitor 5-aza-2' deoxycytidine (5-AZA-dC) and determined the effects on CRH mRNA level and promoter methylation. Clonal bisulfite sequencing showed partial and allele independent methylation of CpGs in the CRH promoter. CRH mRNA expression and the methylation of a subset of CpGs (including CpG2 in the CRE) increased spontaneously during culture. 8-Br-cAMP stimulated CRH expression without affecting the increase in methylation. 5-AZA-dC decreased methylation and augmented 8-Br-cAMP-stimulated CRH expression, but it blocked the spontaneous increase of CRH mRNA level. We conclude that the CRH promoter is a dynamically and intermediately methylated genomic region in BeWo cells. Promoter methylation did not inhibit CRH gene expression under the conditions employed; rather it determined the contribution of alternative cAMP-independent pathways and cAMP-independent mechanisms to CRH expression control.

DOI 10.1155/2015/861302
Co-authors Maria Bowman, Rodney Scott, Roger Smith
2014 Chai SY, Smith R, Fitter JT, Mitchell C, Pan X, Ilicic M, et al., 'Increased progesterone receptor a expression in labouring human myometrium is associated with decreased promoter occupancy by the histone demethylase JARID1A', Molecular Human Reproduction, 20 442-453 (2014) [C1]

Progesterone regulates female reproductive function predominantly through two nuclear progesterone receptors (PRs), PR-A and PR-B. During human parturition myometrial PR expressio... [more]

Progesterone regulates female reproductive function predominantly through two nuclear progesterone receptors (PRs), PR-A and PR-B. During human parturition myometrial PR expression is altered to favour PR-A, which activates pro-labour genes. We have previously identified histone H3 lysine 4 trimethylation (H3K4me3) as an activator of myometrial PR-A expression at labour. To further elucidate the mechanisms regulating PR isoform expression in the human uterus at labour, we have (i) determined the methylation profile of the cytosine-guanine dinucleotides (CpG) island in the promoter region of the PR gene and (ii) identified the histone-modifying enzymes that target the H3K4me3 mark at the PR promoters in term and preterm human myometrial tissues obtained before and after labour onset. Bisulphite sequencing showed that despite overall low levels of PR CpG island methylation, there was a significant decrease in methylated CpGs with labour in both preterm (P < 0.05) and term (P < 0.01) groups downstream of the PR-B transcription start site. This methylation change was not associated with altered PR-B expression, but may contribute to the increase in PR-A expression with labour. Chromatin immunoprecipitation revealed that the histone methyltransferase, SET and MYND domain-containing protein 3 (SMYD3), bound to the PR gene at significantly higher levels at the PR-A promoter compared with the PR-B promoter (P < 0.010), with no labour-associated changes observed. The H3K4 demethylase, Jumonji AT-rich interactive domain 1A (JARID1A), also bound to the PR-A, but not to the PR-B promoter prior to term labour, and decreased significantly at the onset of labour (P = 0.014), providing a mechanism for the previously reported increase in H3K4me3 level and PR-A expression with labour. Our studies suggest that epigenetic changes mediated by JARID1A, SMYD3 and DNA methylation may be responsible, at least in part, for the functional progesterone withdrawal that precipitates human labour. © The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. All rights reserved.

DOI 10.1093/molehr/gau005
Citations Scopus - 7Web of Science - 5
Co-authors Gemma Madsen, Roger Smith
2005 Fitter JT, Thomas MR, Niu C, Rose RJ, 'Investigation of Nicotiana tabacum (plus) N suaveolens cybrids with carpelloid stamens', Journal of Plant Physiology, 162 225-235 (2005) [C1]
DOI 10.1016/j.jplph.2004.02.006
Citations Scopus - 14Web of Science - 11
Co-authors Ray Rose
2002 Mesiano S, Chan EC, Fitter JT, Kwek K, Yeo G, Smith R, 'Progesterone withdrawal and estrogen activation in human parturition are coordinated by progesterone receptor-A expression in the myometrium', Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 87 2924-2930 (2002) [C1]
Citations Scopus - 230Web of Science - 203
Co-authors Roger Smith
2000 West NP, Jungnitz H, Fitter JT, McArthur JD, Guzman CA, Walker MJ, 'Role of phosphoglucomutase of Bordetella bronchiseptica in lipopolysaccharide biosynthesis and virulence', INFECTION AND IMMUNITY, 68 4673-4680 (2000)
DOI 10.1128/IAI.68.8.4673-4680.2000
Citations Scopus - 37Web of Science - 34
2000 Cheng Y, Nicholson RC, King BR, Chan EC, Fitter JT, Smith R, 'Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone Gene Expresssion in Primary Placental Cells is Modulated by Cyclic Adenosine 3',5'-Monophosphate', The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 85 1239-1244 (2000) [C1]
Citations Scopus - 34Web of Science - 35
Co-authors Roger Smith, Bruce King
2000 Cheng Y, Nicholson RC, King BR, Chan EC, Fitter JT, Smith R, 'Glucocorticoid stimulation of Corticiotrophin-releasing hormone gene expression requires a Cyclic Adenosine 3',5'-Monophosphate regulatory element in human primary Placental Cytotrophoblast Cells', The journal of Clinical Endocrinology And Metabolism, 85 (2000) [C1]
Citations Scopus - 66Web of Science - 61
Co-authors Bruce King, Roger Smith
1997 Ni X, Chan EC, Fitter JT, Smith R, 'Nitric oxide inhibits corticotropin-releasing hormone exocytosis but not synthesis by cultured human trophoblasts', JOURNAL OF CLINICAL ENDOCRINOLOGY & METABOLISM, 82 4171-4175 (1997)
DOI 10.1210/jc.82.12.4171
Citations Scopus - 32Web of Science - 26
Co-authors Roger Smith
1997 West NP, Fitter JT, Jakubzik U, Rodhe M, Guzman CA, Walker MJ, 'Non-motile mini-transposon mutants of Bordetella bronchiseptica exhibit altered abilities to invade and survive in eukaryotic cells', FEMS MICROBIOLOGY LETTERS, 146 263-269 (1997)
DOI 10.1016/S0378-1097(96)00486-7
Citations Scopus - 9Web of Science - 9
1996 Fitter JT, Thomas MR, Rose RJ, SteeleScott N, 'Heteroplasmy of the chloroplast genome of Medicago sativa L cv 'Regen S' confirmed by sequence analysis', THEORETICAL AND APPLIED GENETICS, 93 685-690 (1996)
DOI 10.1007/BF00224063
Citations Scopus - 11Web of Science - 10
Co-authors Ray Rose
Citations Scopus - 7Web of Science - 8
Co-authors Ray Rose
Show 8 more journal articles

Conference (5 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2014 Pan X, Smith R, Scott RJ, Fitter J, Zakar T, 'Corticotropin Releasing Hormone (CRH) Expression Is Controlled by DNA Methylation in the Trophoblast', REPRODUCTIVE SCIENCES (2014) [E3]
Citations Web of Science - 1
Co-authors Rodney Scott, Roger Smith
2012 Chai S, Fitter JT, Smith R, Madsen GM, 'DNA methylation of progesterone receptor isoforms in term human myometrium', Abstracts. The Annual Scientific Meeting of the Endocrine Society of Australia and the Society for Reproductive Biology 2012 (2012) [E3]
Co-authors Gemma Madsen, Roger Smith
2012 Pan X, Nicholson RC, Scott R, Fitter JT, Smith R, Zakar T, 'DNA methylation associated with induction of CRH gene expression in trophoblast cells', Abstracts. The Annual Scientific Meeting of the Endocrine Society of Australia and the Society for Reproductive Biology 2012 (2012) [E3]
Co-authors Roger Smith, Rodney Scott
2006 Minahan KL, Clulow J, Mahony MJ, Smith R, Fitter JT, 'Different environmental stresses elicit differential CRH responses in limnodynastes peronii', Endocrine Journal-Continuation of Endocrinologia Japonica (2006) [E3]
Co-authors John Clulow, Roger Smith
Citations Web of Science - 18
Co-authors Ray Rose
Show 2 more conferences

Research Supervision

Number of supervisions


Total current UON EFTSL


Current Supervision

Commenced Level of Study Research Title / Program / Supervisor Type
2009 PhD Epigenetic Regulation of the CRH Gene in Pregnancy
PhD (Medicine), Faculty of Health and Medicine, The University of Newcastle

Past Supervision

Year Level of Study Research Title / Program / Supervisor Type
2005 Honours The role of CRH in development and plasticity oin the amphibian Lymnodynastes peronii
Biol Sc Not Elsewhere Classifd, University of Newcastle
2002 Honours The role of corticotropin releasing hormone and its receptor in the metamorphosis of Australian anurans
Biol Sc Not Elsewhere Classifd, University of Newcastle
1997 Honours Regulation of Corticotropin Releasing Hormone in Human Placental Cells
Biol Sc Not Elsewhere Classifd, University of Newcastle
Sole Supervisor

Dr John Fitter


Laboratory and Research Manager
Mothers & Babies Research Centre
School of Medicine and Public Health
Faculty of Health and Medicine

Contact Details

Phone (02) 40420361
Fax (02) 40420045


Room HMRI 3406
Building Hunter Medical Research Institute
Location John Hunter Hospital campus