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Joseph Cotruvo

Louis Martarano Career Development Professor of Chemistry

Professional Appointments and Affiliations

Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Louis Martarano Career Development Professor


220 Chemistry Building
University Park, PA 16802
(814) 863-4869

Mailing Address

104 Chemistry Building


Ph.D., Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2012

A.B., Chemistry, Princeton University, 2006

Honors and Awards

Ed Stiefel Young Investigator Award (2022)

Sloan Research Fellowship (2021)

DOE Early Career Award (2020)

NSF CAREER Award (2019)

Charles E. Kaufman Foundation New Investigator Award (2018-2020)

Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund Postdoctoral Fellowship (2013-2016)

National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship (2008-2011)


The Cotruvo lab uses biochemistry and chemical biology to understand metal selectivity in biological systems. We study how bacteria selectively acquire and utilize lanthanides and apply what we learn to design biotechnologies for rare earth detection, capture, and separations. We also develop and apply new tools to study roles of transition metals (particularly iron and manganese) in infectious and neurodegenerative disease.

Selected Publications

Featherston, E.R., Issertell, E.I., Cotruvo, J.A., Jr. Probing lanmodulin's lanthanide recognition via sensitized luminescence yields a platform for quantification of terbium in acid mine drainage. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2021, doi: 10.1021/jacs.1c06360. 

Mattocks, J.A., Tirsch, J.L., Cotruvo, J.A., Jr. Determination of affinities of lanthanide-binding proteins using chelator-buffered titrations. Methods Enzymol. 2021, 651, 23-61.

Featherston, E.R., Mattocks, J.A., Tirsch, J.L., Cotruvo, J.A., Jr. Heterologous expression, purification, and characterization of proteins in the lanthanome. Methods Enzymol. 2021, 650, 119-157.

Featherston, E.R. and Cotruvo, J.A., Jr. The biochemistry of lanthanide acquisition, trafficking, and utilization. Biochim. Biophys. Acta Mol. Cell Res. 2021, 1868, 118864.

Mattocks, J.A. and Cotruvo, J.A., Jr. Biological, biomolecular, and bio-inspired strategies for detection, extraction, and separations of lanthanides and actinides. Chem. Soc. Rev. 2020, 49, 8315-8334.

Deblonde, G.J.-P., Mattocks, J.A., Park, D.M., Reed, D.W., Cotruvo, J.A., Jr., and Jiao, Y. Selective and efficient biomacromolecular extraction of rare earth elements using lanmodulin. Inorg. Chem. 2020, 59, 11855-11867.

Xu, J. and Cotruvo, J.A., Jr. The czcD (NiCo) riboswitch responds to iron(II). Biochemistry 202059, 1508-1516.

Cotruvo, J.A., Jr. The chemistry of lanthanides in biology: Recent discoveries, emerging principles, and technological applications. ACS Cent. Sci. 2019, 5, 1496-1506.

Ho, J.V. and Cotruvo, J.A., Jr. A periplasmic binding protein for pyrroloquinoline quinone. Biochemistry 2019, 58, 2665-2669.

Featherston, E.R., Rose, H.R., McBride, M.J., E.M. Taylor, Boal, A.K., and Cotruvo, J.A., Jr. Biochemical and structural characterization of XoxG and XoxJ and their roles in lanthanide-dependent methanol dehydrogenase activity. ChemBioChem 2019, 20, 2360-2372.

Mattocks, J.A., Ho, J.V., and Cotruvo, J.A., Jr. A selective, protein-based fluorescent sensor with picomolar affinity for rare earth elements. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2019, 141, 2857-2861.

Cook, E.C., Featherston, E.R., Showalter, S.A., and Cotruvo, J.A., Jr. Structural basis for rare earth element recognition by Methylobacterium extorquens lanmodulin. Biochemistry 2019, 58, 120-125.

Cotruvo, J.A., Jr., Featherston, E.R., Mattocks, J.A., Ho, J.V., and Laremore, T.N. Lanmodulin: A highly selective lanthanide-binding protein from a lanthanide-utilizing bacterium. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2018, 140, 15056-15061.

Prior to Penn State:

Krishnamoorthy, L.,* Cotruvo, J.A., Jr.,* Chan, J., Kaluarachchi, H., Muchenditsi, A., Pendyala, V.S., Jia, S., Aron, A.T., Ackerman, C.M., Vander Wal, M.N., Guan, T., Smaga, L.P., Farhi, S.S., New, E.J., Lutsenko, S., and Chang, C.J. Copper regulates cyclic-AMP-dependent lipolysis. Nat. Chem. Biol., 2016, 12, 586-592. (*Co-first authors)

Cotruvo, J.A., Jr., Stich, T.A., Britt, R.D., and Stubbe, J. Mechanism of assembly of the dimanganese-tyrosyl radical cofactor of class Ib ribonucleotide reductase: Enzymatic generation of superoxide is required for tyrosine oxidation via a MnIIIMnIV intermediate. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2013, 135, 4027-4039.

Boal, A.K., Cotruvo, J.A., Jr., Stubbe, J., and Rosenzweig, A.C. Structural basis for activation of class Ib ribonucleotide reductase. Science 2010, 329, 1526-1530.

Cotruvo, J.A., Jr. and Stubbe, J. An active dimanganese(III)-tyrosyl radical cofactor in Escherichia coli class Ib ribonucleotide reductase. Biochemistry 2010, 49, 1297-1309.