Dr Justin Martin O'Sullivan
BSc (Hons), PhD
After completing my PhD at The University of Otago with Richard Cannon in 1998, I held postdoctoral positions in the laboratories of Professor Mick Tuite (University of Kent) and Professor Nick Proudfoot (University of Oxford).
I returned to New Zealand in 2004 to take up a faculty position at Massey University, and moved to the Liggins Institute in 2012. I was appointed the Associate Director for Research at the Liggins Institute in 2016.
I was awarded the Life Technologies Award for excellence in molecular biology research in 2010, and a Massey University Early Career Research Medal (2005).
My group takes a holistic approach to understand genomes and cell structure formation, function, and inheritance. Our goal is to interpret the relationships between what a cell’s DNA codes for (the genotype) and what we actually see (the phenotype) in terms of genome biology. To do this we use and develop methods and technologies from molecular biology, bioinformatics, and computational biology to integrate the spatial organization of genomes with measures of their function.
We are currently interested in: 1) how single nucleotide polymorphisms work together to contribute to growth and complex diseases (e.g. Parkinson's, Mood disorders, Auto-immunity, Asthma, type 1 and 2 diabetes, Neuromuscular disorders); 2) how the mitochondria contributes to the regulation of nuclear genes; 3) how genomes change shape during development and migration and how these changes affect genes and replication; 4) how bacteria and single celled eukaryotes organise their genomes to optimise cellular metabolism; 5) the role of host selection on the microbiome during development/treatment of complex disorders.
Teaching, affiliations and collaborations
Honorary Professor, University of Southampton, UK. (2019-2022)
Honorary Senior Lecturer in Molecular Biology, Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand.
Dr O’Sullivan has collaborations with researchers in:
- The University of Otago, NZ.
- The University of Canterbury, NZ.
- University of Southampton, UK.
- Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Melbourne, Aus.
- Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Sydney, Aus.
Dr O’Sullivan has recently collaborated with researchers in:
- Imperial College London, UK
- Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, USA
- The National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, USA
- University of Edinburgh, UK
- University of Oslo, Norway
- The Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Melbourne, Australia
- The Garvan Instititute, Sydney, Australia
Research | Current
- Understanding how genomes are organized in 3-dimensions and the role that epigenetics has in shaping and maintaining this organization. Studies are designed to advance our understanding of the complex inter-relationships between what a cell’s DNA codes for (the genotype), the epigenetic code, and the result of the genotype’s conditional expression (the phenotype).
- Investigating these problems using a holistic systems biology approach to understand genome structure formation, function, and inheritance. This approach integrates methods and technologies from molecular biology, bioinformatics, and computational biology.
- Invesigating how the microbiome changes in preterm infants and its effects on later life disease.
- Investigating how SNPs contribute to the development of disease through alterations to the 3D organization of gene regulation.
- Actively involved in communicating science to the community, I coordinated a Metagenomic study which involved High School students and teachers in the practical and theoretical aspects of a real-life scientific investigation of soil microbiology. (http://www.katoa.ac.nz)
Current Doctoral (as lead supervisor)
- Denis Nyaga (Regulatory network for SNPs in Type 1 diabetes in children; lead supervisor, 2017-2020 - submitted)
- Brooke Wilson (The human microbiome. 2018-current)
- Clara Chong Yieh Lin (Role of smell and taste in feed tolerance in preterm babies; co-supervisor, 2017-2020 - submitted, Bloomfield, Liggins UoA)
- Daniel Ho (Converting population risk to individual risk. 2017-current)
- Evgeniia Golovina (Finessing predictors of obesity and cognition. 2017-current).
- Githal Arachchige (Measuring lipid soluble vitamins in children; 2018-present)
- Sreemol Gokuladhas (Genetic variants in muscle disorders; 2018-present)
- Marius van Rijnsoever (Microbiome in colon cancer, 2019-present)
- Sophie Farrow (Genetic variants in Parkinson's disease, 2019-present)
- Rachel Jaros (CoVID-19 and the lung - precision genetics, 2020-present)
- Roan Zaied (Asthma - precision genetics , 2020-present)
- Sarah Mitchell (co-supervisor David Cameron-Smith) 2019..
- Lekha Jain (co-supervisor Jo Perry) 2020.
- Stephanie Andraos (Measuring water soluble vitamins, one C metabolites and methylation profeiles in infants; 2017-2020).
- Tayaza Fadason (Modelling SNPs, genes and pathways to predict metabolic activity; lead supervisor, completed 2019)
- Thilini Maddegoda Vidanelage (Role of gut microbiome on insulin resistance of children with early adverse life events; lead-supervisor; completed 2018)
- Elsie Jacobson (3D chromatin and immune cell activation: do physical constraints alter nuclear conformation, and does this change cell behaviour?; lead supervisor; completed 2019)
- William Schierding (The third dimension of Genetics; co-supervisor; completed 2017)
- Dharani Sontam (Early-life high-fat diet and voluntary physical activity affect body composition, bone phenotype and gene expression in the male rat; lead supervisor; completed 2017)
- Malina Doynova (Linking genome organization to nuclear function in astrocytes and muscle cells; lead supervisor; completed 2017)
- Tatyana Pichugina (Unravelling genome structure and function through experimentally informed polymer models; lead supervisor; completed 2015)
- Inswasti Cahyani (Characterisation of the Role of the RPA135-IGS1 Interaction in the Stability of Ribosomal DNA I Saccharomyces cerevisiae; lead supervisor; completed 2015)
- Ralph Grand (Genomes in Space and Time; lead supervisor; completed 2014)
- Chris Rodley (Unravelling the genomic structure of Saccharomyces cerevisiae; lead supervisor; completed 2011)
- Sara Ershadi (co-supervisor Thomas Lumley, 2020).
- Sachin Jayan (Analysis of the metabolic profiles from faeces and plasma of children born very preterm; lead supervisor, 2015)
- Rachel Bowden (The 3D-structure of the Escherichia coli nucleoid through one division; lead supervisor; completed 2013)
- Steven Chou (lead supervisor; completed 2011)
1. Veronica Benton Guy (A metagenomic study of the microbial population at hot water beach, Coromandel; First class Honours, 2011)
2. Ralph Grand (Implementation of a DNA enrichment step into the GCC protocol for the elucidation of human chromosome organisation. First class Honours, 2009)
3. Chris Rodley (Searching for Inter- and Intra-chromosomal interactions within regulatory regions of loci associated with Leukaemia; First class Honours, 2007)
10/09/2016-5/9/2017 Convenor Epigenetics symposium QMB Research Week, 2017.
10/6/2016-current Elected member of Long Bay College board of trustees.
21/1/2016 Member of the Asian Conference on Transcription Scientific organizing committee for Penang, Malaysia (2017).
21/12/2015 Member Mapnet symposium organizing committee for QMB 2016.
7/12/2015 Invited speaker. The 4th International Symposium on the Mathematics on Chromatin Live Dynamics (4ISMCD): 7th- 9th December 2015, Hiroshima, Japan.
21/06/2015 Invited speaker The 8th international fission yeast meeting: 21-26/6/15 Kobe, Japan.
23/10/14-current Appointment to editorial board of Nutrients.
04/09/14 Invited speaker. The 2016 FASEB Summer Research Conference on Yeast Chromosome Structure, Replication and Segregation.
28/8/14-current Appointed to Metabolic Health Expert panel for High Value Nutrition National Science Challenge.
19/5/2013 Invited speaker - 50th ICTP Advanced workshop on interdisciplinary views on chromosome structure and function: 15-19 September 2014, Trieste, Italy.
1/10/13-28/8/14 Convenor - QMB 2014 main meeting.
17/2/2013 Invited speaker - Lorne Genomics 2013, Lorne, Australia.
1/9/12-1/10/13 Convenor - Epigenetics and chromatin symposium, QMB 2013.
2012-2016 Associate Investigator in Gravida: National Centre for Growth and Development.
1/1/2011-1/10/2013 Panellist for the Cellular, Molecular and Physiological Biology panel - Marsden Fund, Royal Society of New Zealand.
1/9/10-1/9/11 Convenor - Epigenetics and chromatin symposium, QMB 2011.
30/10/10-30/10/12 North Island representative - the Australian and New Zealand Society for Cell and Developmental Biology.
1/9/10 2010 Life Technologies Life Science Award: for Emerging Excellence in Molecular biology in New Zealand.
3/6/10-current Associate Investigator - Maurice Wilkins Centre for Molecular Biodiscovery.
06/2010-06/2016 Elected member of Long Bay Primary School board of trustees. Chairman (2012-2015).
1/1/09-current Member of QMB organizing committee.
1/1/09-04/12/10 Member of organizing committee for NZMS/NZSBMB joint conference December 2010.
2005 Massey University Early Career Research Medal.
1/1/05-2012 Coordinator of the NZMS eukaryotic special interest group.
Associate Director for Research
Areas of expertise
My research centres on the use of high throughput techniques in the meta-analyses of genomes. We specialise in the integration of novel experimental and computational techniques to answer biologically relevant questions, including what is the physical structure of a genome within a cell or what is the epigenetic structure of a genome within an environment? Our group also has considerable experience with genetic and biochemical manipulation, mostly in yeast, and increasingly in other organisms.
28/8/14-current Appointed to Metabolic Health Expert panel for High Value Nutrition National Science Challenge.
01/10/13-28/8/14 Convenor QMB 2014 main meeting.
01/01/2011-01/10/2013 Panellist for the Cellular, Molecular and Physiological Biology panel, Marsden Fund, Royal Society of New Zealand.
01/09/12- 01/10/13 Organizer Epigenetics and chromatin symposium, QMB 2013.
01/09/10-09/11 Organizer Epigenetics and chromatin symposium, QMB 2011.
01/01/09-current Member of QMB organizing committee.
30/10/10-30/10/12 North Island representative; The Australian and New Zealand Society for Cell and Developmental Biology.
01/01/09-04/12/10 Member of organizing committee for NZMS/NZSBMB joint conference December 2010.
01/01/05-2012 Coordinator of the NZMS eukaryotic special interest group.
Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)
- Schierding, W., Horsfield, J. A., & O'Sullivan JM (2020). Low tolerance for transcriptional variation at cohesin genes is accompanied by functional links to disease-relevant pathways. Journal of medical genetics10.1136/jmedgenet-2020-107095
Other University of Auckland co-authors: William Schierding
- Davies, N., O'Sullivan JM, Plank, L. D., & Murphy, R. (2020). Gut Microbial Predictors of Type 2 Diabetes Remission Following Bariatric Surgery. Obesity surgery, 30 (9), 3536-3548. 10.1007/s11695-020-04684-0
Other University of Auckland co-authors: Lindsay Plank, Rinki Murphy
- Schierding, W., Farrow, S., Fadason, T., Graham, O. E. E., Pitcher, T. L., Qubisi, S., ... Kennedy, M. A. (2020). Common Variants Coregulate Expression of GBA and Modifier Genes to Delay Parkinson's Disease Onset. Movement disorders : official journal of the Movement Disorder Society, 35 (8), 1346-1356. 10.1002/mds.28144
Other University of Auckland co-authors: Jo Perry, William Schierding, Tayaza Fadason, Alan Davidson
- Butler ÉM, Chiavaroli, V., Derraik, J. G. B., Grigg, C. P., Wilson, B. C., Walker, N., ... Cutfield, W. S. (2020). Maternal bacteria to correct abnormal gut microbiota in babies born by C-section. Medicine, 99 (30)10.1097/md.0000000000021315
Other University of Auckland co-authors: José Derraik, Éadaoin Butler
- Andraos, S., Lange, K., Clifford, S. A., Jones, B., Thorstensen, E. B., Kerr, J. A., ... O'Sullivan JM (2020). Plasma Trimethylamine N-Oxide and Its Precursors: Population Epidemiology, Parent-Child Concordance, and Associations with Reported Dietary Intake in 11- to 12-Year-Old Children and Their Parents. Current developments in nutrition, 4 (7)10.1093/cdn/nzaa103
Other University of Auckland co-authors: Melissa Wake
- Leong, K. S. W., O'Sullivan JM, Derraik, J. G. B., & Cutfield, W. S. (2020). Gut microbiome transfer-Finding the perfect fit. Clinical endocrinology, 93 (1), 3-10. 10.1111/cen.14183
Other University of Auckland co-authors: Karen Leong, José Derraik, Wayne Cutfield
- Hibberd, R., Golovina, E., Farrow, S., & O'Sullivan JM (2020). Genetic variants associated with alcohol dependence co-ordinate regulation of ADH genes in gastrointestinal and adipose tissues. Scientific reports, 10 (1)10.1038/s41598-020-66048-z
- Chong, C. Y. L., Vatanen, T., Oliver, M., Bloomfield, F. H., & O'Sullivan JM (2020). The microbial biogeography of the gastrointestinal tract of preterm and term lambs. Scientific Reports, 10 (9113)10.1038/s41598-020-66056-z
Other University of Auckland co-authors: Tommi Vatanen, Mark Oliver, Frank Bloomfield
Primary office location
M&HS BUILDING 505 - Bldg 505
Level 2, Room 202E
85 PARK RD