Dr Emma Scotter
BSc (Hons), PhD (Pharmacology)
I am the head of the Motor Neuron Disease Lab at the Centre for Brain Research, University of Auckland.
My team researches various aspects of Motor Neuron Disease. Model systems range from cell lines and primary cells grown from post-mortem brain and spinal cord, to those tissues themselves. Of particular interest to me and my group are cells of the blood-brain barrier, and their ability to deal with proteins which take on aberrant structures (oligomers and aggregates). My lab uses molecular pharmacology, molecular biology, and neuropathology techniques to study the pathways by which cells recognise and respond to these aberrantly structured proteins. These include the ubiquitin-proteasome system and selective macroautophagy. Pharmacologically or genetically enhancing the ability of these systems to clear toxic proteins which accumulate in neurodegenerative disease has great therapeutic potential.
I am a University of Auckland graduate (BSc (Hons) and PhD (Pharmacology)). I was awarded a Marie Curie International Incoming Fellowship in 2010 to work at King's College London. I remained at King's College for four years, investigating misfolded proteins in motor neuron disease. I returned to the University of Auckland in early 2014 after being awarded an Aotearoa Fellowship by the Centre for Brain Research.
I was awarded a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship in 2016 to support my vision of growing a national Motor Neuron Disease Research programme. I also received Marsden FastStart funding to investigate protein waste clearance in Motor Neuron Disease. My team and I established the NZ Motor Neuron Disease Research Network in 2017 with funding from MND NZ, which connects MND research groups across NZ.
If you would like to support our research, please consider visiting our Giving page.
Research | Current
- Genetic screening of people living with motor neuron disease (collaboration with Dr. Richard Roxburgh)
- Characterising primary brain cells grown from the post-mortem brains of patients with motor neuron disease (collaboration with Professor Mike Dragunow)
- Screening for novel compounds which promote misfolded protein clearance (collaboration with Professors Mike Dragunow and Margaret Brimble)
Teaching | Current
Current lab members
- Dr. Molly Swanson, Postdoctoral Fellow
- Ms Christa MacDonald, Research technician
- Mr Jules Devaux, Research technician
- Ms Charlotte Dunne, PhD student
- Ms Serey Naidoo, PhD student
- Ms Maize Cao, PhD student
- Ms Kyrah Thumbadoo, PhD student
- Mr Miran Mrkela, PhD student
- Ms Laura Nementzik, BBMedSci Honours Student
Completions and previous
- Ms Laura Nementzik, Science Scholar student, 2019
- Ms Kyrah Thumbadoo, Pharmacology Honours student, 2019
- Dr. Deidre Jansson, Postdoctoral Fellow (with Prof. Mike Dragunow)
- Ms Laura Nementzik, Summer student, 2018
- Mr Ji Hun Yoo, Summer student, 2018
- Mr Ben Zhang, Undergraduate research experience, 2018
- Ms Sediqa Amin, BBMedSci Honours student, 2018
- Mr Andrew Siemens, Research technician, 2016-2018
- Ms Maize Cao, Summer student and Science Scholar, 2017
- Ms Sarah Waters, BBMedSci Honours student, 2017
- Ms Kylie Pan, Summer student, 2017
- Mr James Bailey, King's College London medical elective student, 2015
I welcome enquiries from prospective Honours, Masters and PhD students and postdoctoral fellows.
Scotter Lab in the press
- Inaugural MND New Zealand Research Conference 2019 Video Highlights (see 1:40 and 5:15)
- TV3's The Project 2018 on high MND rates in New Zealand
- NZ Herald 2018 "Study reveals shocking death rates for Kiwis with motor neurone disease"
- MND News Spring 2017 "Announcing the MND Research Network" page 3
- MND News Spring 2016 "Research Update" page 5
- NZ Herald 2016 "Research drives demand for donated tissue at Auckland brain bank"
- Te Waha Nui (AUT) 2016 "Walking for those who can't"
- Australasian Neuroscience Society 2015 Interview
- Scoop 2015 "Rutherford Discovery to fund Motor Neurone Disease Research"
- MND News Spring 2014 "Welcome home Dr. Scotter" page 5
- Director, NZ MND Research Network
- Chair, Rare Genetic Brain Diseases satellite conference at Queenstown Research Week and AWCBR 2018
- Steering Commitee Member, NZ MND Patient Registry
- Theme Leadership Group, Brain Research New Zealand Theme 1: Neurodiscovery (Genes, Cells, Networks)
Areas of expertise
- Cellular modelling of neurodegeneration
- Protein quality control and degradation pathways
- Motor Neuron Disease (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis; ALS)
- Frontotemporal dementia
- TDP-43 proteinopathies
Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)
- Wu, J. J., Cai, A., Greenslade, J. E., Higgins, N. R., Fan, C., Le, N. T. T., ... Dieriks, B. V. (2020). ALS/FTD mutations in UBQLN2 impede autophagy by reducing autophagosome acidification through loss of function. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 117 (26), 15230-15241. 10.1073/pnas.1917371117
Other University of Auckland co-authors: Victor Dieriks, Maurice Curtis, Richard Faull
- Gokuladhas, S., Schierding, W., Cameron-Smith, D., Wake, M., Scotter, E. L., & O'Sullivan J (2020). Shared Regulatory Pathways Reveal Novel Genetic Correlations Between Grip Strength and Neuromuscular Disorders. Frontiers in genetics, 1110.3389/fgene.2020.00393
Other University of Auckland co-authors: Justin O'Sullivan, William Schierding, David Cameron-Smith, Melissa Wake
- Klim, J. R., Vance, C., & Scotter, E. L. (2019). Antisense oligonucleotide therapies for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: Existing and emerging targets. The international journal of biochemistry & cell biology, 110, 149-153. 10.1016/j.biocel.2019.03.009
- Walker, K. L., Rodrigues, M. J., Watson, B., Reilly, C., Scotter, E. L., Brunton, H., ... Roxburgh, R. H. (2019). Establishment and 12-month progress of the New Zealand Motor Neurone Disease Registry. Journal of clinical neuroscience : official journal of the Neurosurgical Society of Australasia, 60, 7-11. 10.1016/j.jocn.2018.11.034
Other University of Auckland co-authors: Miriam Rodrigues, Richard Roxburgh
- Smyth, L. C. D., Rustenhoven, J., Scotter, E. L., Schweder, P., Faull, R. L. M., Park, T. I. H., & Dragunow, M. (2018). Markers for human brain pericytes and smooth muscle cells. Journal of chemical neuroanatomy, 92, 48-60. 10.1016/j.jchemneu.2018.06.001
Other University of Auckland co-authors: Michael Dragunow, Richard Faull, Thomas Park
- Rustenhoven, J., Smith, A. M., Smyth, L. C., Jansson, D., Scotter, E. L., Swanson, M. E. V., ... Handley, R. (2018). PU.1 regulates Alzheimer's disease-associated genes in primary human microglia. Molecular neurodegeneration, 13 (1)10.1186/s13024-018-0277-1
Other University of Auckland co-authors: Michael Dragunow, Pritika Narayan, Maurice Curtis, Richard Faull, Thomas Park, Deidre Jansson, Molly Swanson, Renee Handley
- Cao, M. C., Chancellor, A., Charleston, A., Dragunow, M., & Scotter, E. L. (2018). Motor neuron disease mortality rates in New Zealand 1992-2013. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis & frontotemporal degeneration, 19 (3-4), 285-293. 10.1080/21678421.2018.1432660
Other University of Auckland co-authors: Michael Dragunow, Maize Cao
- Rustenhoven, J., Smyth, L. C., Jansson, D., Schweder, P., Aalderink, M., Scotter, E. L., ... Dragunow, M. (2018). Modelling physiological and pathological conditions to study pericyte biology in brain function and dysfunction. BMC neuroscience, 19 (1)10.1186/s12868-018-0405-4
Other University of Auckland co-authors: Richard Faull, Michael Dragunow, Thomas Park, Deidre Jansson
Phone: 09 923 1350
If I don't answer, please email rather than leaving a message.
Primary office location
THOMAS BUILDING - Bldg 110
Level 4, Room 427
3 SYMONDS ST