Michaela Johnson, Ph.D.

Michaela Johnson, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral fellow, Patrik Brundin Laboratory


Dr. Michaela Johnson earned her B.S. in laboratory medicine (first class honors) and her Ph.D. in medical science from University of South Australia, where she consistently placed at the top of her class. While there, her research largely focused on the aging process and neurodegenerative diseases, with a specific emphasis on model development and enzyme regulation in Parkinson’s disease. Her work has earned her several awards, including the 51st Australasian Association of Clinical Biochemistry Conference Scholarship, and poster prizes at both Ageing 2016 and the Dementia, Ageing and Neurodegenerative Disease Meeting of the Australasian Neuroscience Society. In 2018, she joined the lab of Dr. Patrik Brundin at Van Andel Institute as a postdoctoral fellow.


Current research focus

Dr. Johnson’s current work is investigating the role of the lysosomal protein ATP13A2 (also called PARK9), in the cell-to-cell transfer of the pathological protein alpha-synuclein in a model of Parkinson’s disease. This work could yield a novel therapeutic target, which is a serious and unmet clinical need for this disease.

Education & Society Memberships

Ph.D. in medical science, University of South Australia (Adviser: Dr. Larisa Bobrovskaya)
Thesis: Further characterization of the rotenone model: Focus on TH and BDNF in the brain and periphery

B.S. in laboratory medicine (with first class honors), University of South Australia

Society Memberships
Australian Society for Medical Sciences

Australasian Neuroscience Society


Awards & External Funding

Poster prize, Ageing 2016 conference (2016)

Research Degree International Travel Grant, University of South Australia (2015)

Poster prize, Ageing and Neurodegenerative Diseases group meeting at the Australasian Neuroscience Society (2014)

bioCSL Immunohaematology Prize (highest aggregate mark in haematology courses) (2014)

Martin Hansen Award (highest aggregate mark in the final two years of the program) (2014)

Terumo Prize for Excellence in Laboratory Medicine (highest aggregate mark in the Bachelor of Laboratory Medicine program) (2014)

51st Australasian Association of Clinical Biochemistry Conference Scholarship, Department of Health and Aging (2013)


To view lists of Dr. Johnson’s selected publications and oral/poster presentations click below.


Johnson ME, Stecher B, Labrie V, Brundin L, Brundin P. 2018. Triggers, facilitators and aggravators: Redefining Parkinson’s disease pathogenesis. Trends Neurosci.

Johnson ME, Salvatore MF, Maiolo SA, Bobrovskaya L. 2018. Tyrosine hydroxylase as a sentinel for central and peripheral tissue responses in Parkinson’s progression: Evidence from clinical studies and neurotoxin models. Prog Neurobiol.

Johnson ME, Stringer A, Bobrovskaya L. 2018. Rotenone induces gastrointestinal pathology and microbiota alterations in a rat model of Parkinson’s disease. NeuroToxicology 65:174–185.

Johnson JL, Johnson ME, Buisman-Pijlman F. 2017. Neurohypophyseal hormones and drugs of abuse. In: Wolff, K. ed. Detection of Misused Drugs: Biomarkers, Analytical Advances and Interpretation. The Royal Society of Chemistry; pp. 1–33.

Johnson ME, Johnson JL. 2016. Management of slow colonic transit constipation in Parkinson’s disease: Current evidence and a community pharmacy perspective. Int J Pharm Pharm Sci 8(7).

Senthilkumaran M, Johnson ME, Bobrovskaya L. 2016. The effects of insulin-induced hypoglycaemia on tyrosine hydroxylase phosphorylation in rat brain and adrenal gland. Neurochem Res 41(7):1612–1624.

Johnson ME, Lim Y, Senthilkumaran M, Zhou XF, Bobrovskaya L. 2015. Investigation of tyrosine hydroxylase and BDNF in a low-dose rotenone model of Parkinson’s disease. J Chem Neuroanat 70:33–41.

Johnson ME, Bobrovskaya L. 2015. An update on the rotenone models of Parkinson’s disease: Their ability to reproduce the features of clinical disease and model gene-environment interactions. Neurotoxicology 46:101–116.

Johnson JL, Rolan P, Johnson ME, Bobrovskaya L, Williams D, Johnson K, Tuke J, Hutchinson M. 2014. Codeine-induced hyperalgesia and allodynia: Investigating the role of glial activation. Transl Psychiatry 4(11):e482–489.

Oral/Poster Presentations

Can the rotenone neurotoxin model of Parkinson’s disease reproduce the clinical symptoms of gastrointestinal dysfunction?
Australian Society of Medical Research

Constipation in Parkinson’s disease: A review of evidence-based treatments and the role of the pharmacist
Ageing 2016

Development of an early pre-motor rotenone model of Parkinson’s disease
Ageing 2016

Regulation of tyrosine hydroxylase in a low dose rotenone model of Parkinson’s disease
The School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences Bi-Annual Symposium

Regulation of tyrosine hydroxylase in a low dose rotenone model of Parkinson’s disease
The 12th International Conference on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease

Regulation of catecholaminergic enzymes in Parkinson’s disease: Observations in rodent models
Australasian Neuroscience Society Conference

Regulation of tyrosine hydroxylase in Parkinson’s disease: Observations in rodent models
51st Australasian Association of Clinical Biochemistry Conference