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Associate Professor Joanna Williams

Joanna WilliamsAssociate Professor Joanna Williams’ research team applies the tools of molecular biology to uncover the mechanisms underlying how the brain adapts and responds when memories are formed.
Ageing, brain trauma and neurological diseases result in the deterioration of memories and have catastrophic effects for individuals and society as a whole. It is important for us to understand the molecular steps involved in the maintenance of memories and identify how these are perturbed in disease.

A long-term research interest of this group has been to understand memory mechanisms, how the brain stores information. Using modern molecular biological, bioinformatics and proteomic techniques they have built up a portfolio of studies focused on the regulation of key glutamate receptors involved in memory processes, as well as how gene expression is altered in response to memory events. Most recently, they are pursuing evidence that microRNA, newly identified key regulators of gene expression, control memory-related gene expression profiles. They believe that understanding how memories are formed will lead to a greater understanding of the molecular pathology underlying age-related memory loss and diseases of the brain.

Williams’ lab is intensively researching a protein called sAPPα, a secreted protein fragment derived from the same parent molecule as amyloid-ß. Unlike amyloid-ß, the pathological agent in Alzheimer’s disease, sAPPα has neuroprotective and memory enhancing functions. They are working to uncover both the molecular mechanisms underlying these positive functions and the specific regions within sAPPα which confer these properties as they may have therapeutic potential.

Recently, they have added a new dimension to their research portfolio which aims to identify biomarkers within plasma which may predict neurological diseases. Currently this work focuses on Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia.

Her work is funded through the Health Research Council of New Zealand, Marsden Fund, Lottery Health New Zealand Neurological Foundation and the Otago Grants Committee.

Find out more about Associate Professor Joanna Williams’ research.

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Publications

Mockett, B. G., Guévremont, D., Elder, M. K., Parfitt, K. D., Peppercorn, K., Morrissey, J., Singh, A., Hintz, T. J., … Tate, W. P., Williams, J. M., & Abraham, W. C. (2019). Glutamate receptor trafficking and protein synthesis mediate the facilitation of LTP by secreted amyloid precursor protein-alpha. Journal of Neuroscience. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1523/jneurosci.1826-18.2019

Livingstone, R. W., Elder, M. K., Barrett, M. C., Westlake, C. M., Peppercorn, K., Tate, W. P., Abraham, W. C., & Williams, J. M. (2019). Secreted amyloid precursor protein-alpha promotes arc protein synthesis in hippocampal neurons. Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience, 12, 198. doi: 10.3389/fnmol.2019.00198

Ryan, B., Williams, J. M., & Curtis, M. A. (2019). Plasma microRNAs are altered early and consistently in a mouse model of tauopathy. Neuroscience. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2019.05.036

Ryan, B., & Williams, J. M. (2019). Novel microRNA revealed by systematic analysis of the microRNA transcriptome in dentate gyrus granule cells. Neuroscience Letters, 707, 132280. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2016.09.003

Ryan, M. M., Guévremont, D., Mockett, B. G., Abraham, W. C., & Williams, J. M. (2018). Circulating plasma microRNAs are altered with amyloidosis in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, 66(2), 835-852. doi: 10.3233/jad-180385

Journal - Research Article

Mockett, B. G., Guévremont, D., Elder, M. K., Parfitt, K. D., Peppercorn, K., Morrissey, J., Singh, A., Hintz, T. J., … Tate, W. P., Williams, J. M., & Abraham, W. C. (2019). Glutamate receptor trafficking and protein synthesis mediate the facilitation of LTP by secreted amyloid precursor protein-alpha. Journal of Neuroscience. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1523/jneurosci.1826-18.2019

Ryan, B., & Williams, J. M. (2019). Novel microRNA revealed by systematic analysis of the microRNA transcriptome in dentate gyrus granule cells. Neuroscience Letters, 707, 132280. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2016.09.003

Ryan, B., Williams, J. M., & Curtis, M. A. (2019). Plasma microRNAs are altered early and consistently in a mouse model of tauopathy. Neuroscience. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2019.05.036

Livingstone, R. W., Elder, M. K., Barrett, M. C., Westlake, C. M., Peppercorn, K., Tate, W. P., Abraham, W. C., & Williams, J. M. (2019). Secreted amyloid precursor protein-alpha promotes arc protein synthesis in hippocampal neurons. Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience, 12, 198. doi: 10.3389/fnmol.2019.00198

Ryan, M. M., Guévremont, D., Mockett, B. G., Abraham, W. C., & Williams, J. M. (2018). Circulating plasma microRNAs are altered with amyloidosis in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, 66(2), 835-852. doi: 10.3233/jad-180385

Kyrke-Smith, M., & Williams, J. M. (2018). Bridging synaptic and epigenetic maintenance mechanisms of the engram. Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience, 11, 369. doi: 10.3389/fnmol.2018.00369

Ryan, B., Logan, B. J., Abraham, W. C., & Williams, J. M. (2017). MicroRNAs, miR-23a-3p and miR-151-3p, are regulated in dentate gyrus neuropil following induction of long-term potentiation in vivo. PLoS ONE, 12(1), e0170407. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0170407

Smith, C. C., Guévremont, D., Williams, J. M., & Napper, R. M. A. (2015). Apoptotic cell death and temporal expression of apoptotic proteins Bcl-2 and Bax in the hippocampus, following binge ethanol in the neonatal rat model. Alcoholism, 39(1), 36-44. doi: 10.1111/acer.12606

Ryan, B., Joilin, G., & Williams, J. M. (2015). Plasticity-related microRNA and their potential contribution to the maintenance of long-term potentiation. Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience, 8, 4. doi: 10.3389/fnmol.2015.00004

Nido, G. S., Ryan, M. M., Benuskova, L., & Williams, J. M. (2015). Dynamical properties of gene regulatory networks involved in long-term potentiation. Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience, 8, 42. doi: 10.3389/fnmol.2015.00042

Ryan, M. M., Guévremont, D., Luxmanan, C., Abraham, W. C., & Williams, J. M. (2015). Aging alters long-term potentiation—related gene networks and impairs synaptic protein synthesis in the rat hippocampus. Neurobiology of Aging, 36(5), 1868-1880. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2015.01.012

Dickerson, D. D., Overeem, K. A., Wolff, A. R., Williams, J. M., Abraham, W. C., & Bilkey, D. K. (2014). Association of aberrant neural synchrony and altered GAD67 expression following exposure to maternal immune activation, a risk factor for schizophrenia. Translational Psychiatry, 4, e418. doi: 10.1038/tp.2014.64

Kennard, J. T. T., Guévremont, D., Mason-Parker, S. E., Abraham, W. C., & Williams, J. M. (2014). Redistribution of ionotropic glutamate receptors detected by laser microdissection of the rat dentate gyrus 48 h following LTP induction in vivo. PLoS ONE, 9(3), e92972. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0092972

Joilin, G., Guévremont, D., Ryan, B., Claudianos, C., Cristino, A. S., Abraham, W. C., & Williams, J. M. (2014). Rapid regulation of microRNA following induction of long-term potentiation in vivo. Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience, 7, 98. doi: 10.3389/fnmol.2014.00098

Trotman, M., Barad, Z., Guévremont, D., Williams, J., & Leitch, B. (2014). Changes in the GRIP 1&2 scaffolding proteins in the cerebellum of the ataxic stargazer mouse. Brain Research, 1546, 53-62. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2013.12.027

Ryan, M. M., Morris, G. P., Mockett, B. G., Bourne, K., Abraham, W. C., Tate, W. P., & Williams, J. M. (2013). Time-dependent changes in gene expression induced by secreted amyloid precursor protein-alpha in the rat hippocampus. BMC Genomics, 14, 376. doi: 10.1186/1471-2164-14-376

Eckert, M. J., Guévremont, D., Williams, J. M., & Abraham, W. C. (2013). Rapid visual stimulation increases extrasynaptic glutamate receptor expression but not visual-evoked potentials in the adult rat primary visual cortex. European Journal of Neuroscience, 37(3), 400-406. doi: 10.1111/ejn.12053

Ryan, M. M., Ryan, B., Kyrke-Smith, M., Logan, B., Tate, W. P., Abraham, W. C., & Williams, J. M. (2012). Temporal profiling of gene networks associated with the late phase of long-term potentiation in vivo. PLoS ONE, 7(7), e40538. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0040538

Rushaidhi, M., Jing, Y., Kennard, J. T., Collie, N. D., Williams, J. M., Zhang, H., & Liu, P. (2012). Aging affects L-arginine and its metabolites in memory-associated brain structures at the tissue and synaptoneurosome levels. Neuroscience, 209, 21-31. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2012.02.021

Mockett, B. G., Guévremont, D., Wutte, M., Hulme, S. R., Williams, J. M., & Abraham, W. C. (2011). Calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II mediates Group I metabotropic glutamate receptor-dependent protein synthesis and long-term depression in rat hippocampus. Journal of Neuroscience, 31(20), 7380-7391. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.6656-10.2011

Ryan, M. M., Mason-Parker, S. E., Tate, W. P., Abraham, W. C., & Williams, J. M. (2011). Rapidly induced gene networks following induction of long-term potentiation at perforant path synapses in vivo. Hippocampus, 21(5), 541-553. doi: 10.1002/hipo.20770

Tenorio, G., Connor, S. A., Guévremont, D., Abraham, W. C., Williams, J., O'Dell, T. J., & Nguyen, P. V. (2010). 'Silent' priming of translation-dependent LTP by β-adrenergic receptors involves phosphorylation and recruitment of AMPA receptors. Learning & Memory, 17(12), 627-638. doi: 10.1101/lm.1974510

Kennard, J. T. T., Guévremont, D., Mason-Parker, S. E., Abraham, W. C., & Williams, J. M. (2009). Increased expression, but not postsynaptic localisation, of ionotropic glutamate receptors during the late-phase of long-term potentiation in the dentate gyrus in vivo. Neuropharmacology, 56(1), 66-72. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2008.07.044

Claasen, A. M., Guévremont, D., Mason-Parker, S. E., Bourne, K., Tate, W. P., Abraham, W. C., & Williams, J. M. (2009). Secreted amyloid precursor protein-α upregulates synaptic protein synthesis by a protein kinase G-dependent mechanism. Neuroscience Letters, 460, 92-96. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2009.05.040

Leitch, B., Shevtsova, O., Guévremont, D., & Williams, J. (2009). Loss of calcium channels in the cerebellum of the ataxic and epileptic stargazer mutant mouse. Brain Research, 1279, 156-167. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2009.04.051

Abraham, W. C., & Williams, J. M. (2008). LTP maintenance and its protein synthesis-dependence. Neurobiology of Learning & Memory, 89(3), 260-268. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2007.10.001

Mockett, B. G., Guévremont, D., Williams, J. M., & Abraham, W. C. (2007). Dopamine D1/D5 receptor activation reverses NMDA receptor-dependent long-term depression in rat hippocampus. Journal of Neuroscience, 27(11), 2918-2926. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0838-06.2007

Williams, J. M., Guévremont, D., Mason-Parker, S. E., Luxmanan, C., Tate, W. P., & Abraham, W. C. (2007). Differential trafficking of AMPA and NMDA receptors during long-term potentiation in awake adult animals. Journal of Neuroscience, 27(51), 14171-14178.

Ireland, D. R., Guévremont, D., Williams, J. M., & Abraham, W. C. (2004). Metabotropic glutamate receptor-mediated depression of the slow afterhyperpolarization is gated by tyrosine phosphatases in hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons. Journal of Neurophysiology, 92, 2811-2819.

Williams, J. M., Guévremont, D., Kennard, J. T. T., Mason-Parker, S. E., Tate, W. P., & Abraham, W. C. (2003). Long-term regulation of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor subunits and associated synaptic proteins following hippocampal synaptic plasticity. Neuroscience, 118, 1003-1013.

Abraham, W. C., & Williams, J. M. (2003). Properties and mechanisms of LTP maintenance. Neuroscientist, 9(6), 463-474.

Coussens, C. M., Williams, J. M., Ireland, D. R., & Abraham, W. C. (2000). Tyrosine phosphorylation-dependent inhibition of hippocampal synaptic plasticity. Neuropharmacology, 39, 2267-2277.

Williams, J. M., Beckmann, A. M., Mason-Parker, S. E., Abraham, W. C., Wilce, P. A., & Tate, W. P. (2000). Sequential increase in Egr-1 and AP-1 DNA binding activity in the dentate gyrus following the induction of long-term potentiation. Molecular Brain Research, 77, 258-266.

Williams, J. M., Thompson, V. L., Mason-Parker, S. E., Abraham, W. C., & Tate, W. P. (1998). Synaptic activity-dependent modulation of mitochondrial gene expression in the rat hippocampus. Molecular Brain Research, 60, 50-56.

Williams, J. M., Mason-Parker, S. E., Abraham, W. C., & Tate, W. P. (1998). Biphasic changes in the levels of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor-2 subunits correlate with the induction and persistence of long-term potentiation. Molecular Brain Research, 60, 21-27.

Abraham, W. C., Logan, B., Thompson, V. L., Williams, J. M., & Tate, W. P. (1997). Sequence-independent effects of phosphorothioated oligonucleotides on synaptic transmission and excitability in the hippocampus in vivo. Neuropharmacology, 36, 345-352.

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Journal - Research Other

Ryan, B., Baker, A., Ilse, C., Brickell, K. L., Kersten, H. M., Danesh-Meyer, H. V., Williams, J. M., … Curtis, M. A. (2018). Diagnosing pre-clinical dementia: The NZ Genetic Frontotemporal Dementia Study (FTDGeNZ). New Zealand Medical Journal, 1476(131), 88-91. Retrieved from https://www.nzma.org.nz/journal

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Conference Contribution - Published proceedings: Full paper

Nido, G. S., Williams, J. M., & Benuskova, L. (2012). Bistable properties of a memory-related gene regulatory network. Proceedings of the Annual International Joint Conference on Neural Networks (IJCNN). (pp. 1602-1607). IEEE. doi: 10.1109/IJCNN.2012.6252588

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Conference Contribution - Published proceedings: Abstract

Livingstone, R. W., Elder, M. K., Barrett, M., Westlake, C., Tate, W., Abraham, W., & Williams, J. M. (2018). Arc protein expression in response to secreted amyloid precursor protein-α in primary hippocampal cultures. In K. Hillman (Ed.), Proceedings of the 36th International Australasian Winter Conference on Brain Research. (pp. 60). AWCBR. Retrieved from https://www.otago.ac.nz/awcbr

Williams, J. M., Elder, M. K., & Tate, W. P. (2018). Cell surface expression of GluA1-containing AMPA receptors is enhanced by secreted amyloid precursor protein-alpha; visualized by BioPLAy. Proceedings of the Society for Neuroscience 48th Annual Meeting. 285.15/E44. SfN. Retrieved from https://www.sfn.org

Ryan, M. M., Guévremont, D., Mockett, B., Abraham, W. C., & Williams, J. M. (2018). Circulating plasma microRNA are altered with amyloidosis in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease. Proceedings of the Society for Neuroscience 48th Annual Meeting. 132.17/S12. SfN. Retrieved from https://www.sfn.org

Roy, J., Garvey, A., Guévremont, D., Cutfield, N. J., & Williams, J. M. (2018). MicroRNA expression in the diagnosis of Parkinson's disease. In K. Hillman (Ed.), Proceedings of the 36th International Australasian Winter Conference on Brain Research. (pp. 53). AWCBR. Retrieved from https://www.otago.ac.nz/awcbr

Potemkin, N., Tate, W. P., & Williams, J. M. (2018). Amyloid-β increases SH-SY5y neuroblastoma cell viability. In K. Hillman (Ed.), Proceedings of the 36th International Australasian Winter Conference on Brain Research. (pp. 57). AWCBR. Retrieved from https://www.otago.ac.nz/awcbr

Mockett, B. G., Guévremont, D., Parfitt, K., Elder, M., Peppercorn, K., Kochen, L., … Tate, W. P., Williams, J. M., & Abraham, W. C. (2017). Glutamate receptor trafficking and protein synthesis mediate the facilitation of LTP by secreted amyloid precursor protein-alpha. Proceedings of the Australasian Neuroscience Society 37th Annual Scientific Meeting. Retrieved from http://ans2017.aomevents.com.au

Elder, M., Peppercorn, K., Schuman, E. M., Tate, W. P., Abraham, W. C., & Williams, J. M. (2017). Secreted amyloid precursor protein alpha regulated AMPA receptor synthesis and trafficking. In B. Leitch (Ed.), Proceedings of the 35th International Australasian Winter Conference on Brain Research. (pp. 58). AWCBR. Retrieved from http://www.otago.ac.nz/awcbr/index.html

Ryan, M. M., Guévremont, D., Mockett, B. G., Abraham, W. C., & Williams, J. M. (2017). Changes in circulating microRNA during disease progession in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease. In B. Leitch (Ed.), Proceedings of the 35th International Australasian Winter Conference on Brain Research. (pp. 26). AWCBR. Retrieved from http://www.otago.ac.nz/awcbr/index.html

Ryan, B., Ilse, C., Brickell, K., Baker, A., Addis, D. R., Williams, J., … Curtis, M. (2017). Identifying early markers of frontotemporal dementia. In B. Leitch (Ed.), Proceedings of the 35th International Australasian Winter Conference on Brain Research. (pp. 30). AWCBR. Retrieved from http://www.otago.ac.nz/awcbr/index.html

Kyrke-Smith, M., Abraham, W. C., & Williams, J. M. (2016). Inhibition of histone deacetylase activity, after LTP induction, does not promote the persistence of LTP in vivo. In B. Leitch (Ed.), Proceedings of the 34th International Australasian Winter Conference on Brain Research. (pp. 27). AWCBR. Retrieved from http://www.otago.ac.nz/awcbr

Elder, M. K., Peppercorn, K., tom Dieck, S., Kochen, L., Schuman, E., Tate, W., Abraham, C., & Williams, J. (2016). Secreted amyloid precursor protein-alpha regulates synthesis of the AMPA receptor subunit GluA1. Proceedings of the Society for Neuroscience 46th Annual Meeting. 397.08/E29. SfN. Retrieved from https://www.sfn.org/

Williams, J. M., Guevremont, D., Mockett, B., Peppercorn, K., Tate, W. P., & Abraham, W. C. (2016). Secreted amyloid precursor protein-alpha regulates glutamate receptor trafficking in the hippocampus. Alzheimer's & Dementia, 12(7, Suppl.), (pp. P1040-P1041). doi: 10.1016/j.jalz.2016.06.2160

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