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, in collaboration with Professors Mike Dragunow and Richard Faull, 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 studies the pathways by which cells recognise and respond to these aberrantly structured proteins. These include the ubiquitin-proteasome system and selective macroautophagy. 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 recently awarded a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship 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 recently established the NZ Motor Neuron Disease Research Network with funding from MND NZ.

More information on the Motor Neuron Disease Research lab can be found here

Research | Current

  • Screening for novel compounds which promote misfolded protein clearance (collaboration with Professors Mike Dragunow and Margaret Brimble)
  • Characterising primary brain cells grown from the post-mortem brains of patients with motor neuron disease (collaboration with Professor Mike Dragunow)

Teaching | Current

MEDSCI717- Advanced Neuroscience: Neuropharmacology

MEDSCI307- Neuropharmacology

Postgraduate supervision

I welcome enquiries from prospective Honours, Masters and PhD students.


Scotter Lab in the press

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 AWCBT 2018

Steering Commitee Member, NZ MND Patient Registry


Areas of expertise

Cellular modelling of neurodegeneration

Protein quality control and degradation pathways

Motor Neuron Disease (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), Frontotemporal dementia, TDP-43 proteinopathies


Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • 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
  • Smith, B. N., Topp, S. D., Fallini, C., Shibata, H., Chen, H.-J., Troakes, C., ... Soragia-Gkazi, A. (2017). Mutations in the vesicular trafficking protein annexin A11 are associated with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Science Translational Medicine, 9 (388)10.1126/scitranslmed.aad9157
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/35898
  • Scotter, E. L., Smyth, L., Bailey, J. A. W., Wong, C.-H., de Majo, M., Vance, C. A., ... Charleston, A. (2017). C9ORF72 and UBQLN2 mutations are causes of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in New Zealand: a genetic and pathologic study using banked human brain tissue. Neurobiology of Aging, 49, 214.e1-214.e5. 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2016.06.019
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Maurice Curtis, Richard Faull, Michael Dragunow, Henry Waldvogel
  • Jansson, D., Scotter, E., Rustenhoven, J., Coppieters, N., Smyth, L., Oldfield, R., ... Faull, R. (2016). Interferon-γ blocks signalling through PDGFRβ in human brain pericytes. Journal of Neuroinflammation, 13 (24).10.1186/s12974-016-0722-4
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/31458
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Richard Faull, Michael Dragunow, Scott Graham, Deidre Jansson, Natacha Coppieters 't Wallant
  • Chen, H.-J., Mitchell, J. C., Novoselov, S., Miller, J., Nishimura, A. L., Scotter, E. L., ... Shaw, C. E. (2016). The heat shock response plays an important role in TDP-43 clearance: Evidence for dysfunction in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Brain, 139 (5), 1417-1432. 10.1093/brain/aww028
  • Rustenhoven, J., Aalderink, M., Scotter, E. L., Oldfield, R. L., Bergin, P. S., Mee, E. W., ... Park, T. I.-H. (2016). TGF-beta1 regulates human brain pericyte inflammatory processes involved in neurovasculature function. Journal of Neuroinflammation, 13 (37).10.1186/s12974-016-0503-0
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Maurice Curtis, Richard Faull, Michael Dragunow, Scott Graham, Thomas Park
  • Mitchell, J. C., Constable, R., So, E., Vance, C., Scotter, E., Glover, L., ... McAlonis, M. (2015). Wild type human TDP-43 potentiates ALS-linked mutant TDP-43 driven progressive motor and cortical neuron degeneration with pathological features of ALS. Acta neuropathologica communications, 310.1186/s40478-015-0212-4
  • Scotter, E. L., Chen, H.-J., & Shaw, C. E. (2015). TDP-43 proteinopathy and ALS: Insights into disease mechanisms and therapeutic targets. Neurotherapeutics, 12 (2), 352-363. 10.1007/s13311-015-0338-x