Researchers at UCD


Niamh O'Sullivan


Conway Institute of Biomolecular & Biomedical Research

Tel: +353 (0)1 716-6762


2013 - Present: Lecturer in Genetics and Neuroscience, School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science, University College Dublin

2012 - 2013: Junior Research Fellow, Division of Brain Science, Imperial College London
2009 - 2012: Marie Curie Fellow (O'Kane lab), Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge

2005 -2009: Post-doctoral researcher (Murphy Lab), Conway Institute, University College Dublin

2005: PhD (SBBS), University College Dublin

2001: BA (Genetics), Trinity College Dublin

Research Links:


Honours and Awards

Year: 2016.
Title: Wellcome Trust Seed Award in Science
Year: 2014.
Title: The role of ER-mitochondrial contacts in in vivo and in vitro models of neurodegenerative disease.
Year: 2012.
Title: Junior Research Fellowship
Year: 2009.
Title: Marie Curie Intra European Fellowship
Year: 2008.
Title: Horizon Scanning Grant


Association: Neuroscience Ireland, Function/Role: Board Member
Association: Junior European Drosophila Investigators, Function/Role: Member
Association: British Neuroscience Association, Function/Role: Member

Outreach Activities

Description of our latest published research findings available on the Atlas of Science website which aims to bring science to the broader audience :
I am involved in organising and presenting the first Irish Pint of Science festival ( This volunteer-led initiative aims to make science more accessible and fun by presenting current research in the pub.!rii=b1%5F20781313%5F1031%5F17%2D05%2D2015%5F

I presented a talk at the TEDxUCD event. TEDxUCD aims to feature exceptional talks and performances from members of the UCD community of staff, students, alumni and friends. 



Book Chapters

O'Sullivan NC, Sheridan GK, Murphy KJ; (2012) 'Transcriptional profiling of hippocampal memory-associated synaptic plasticity: Old friends and new faces' In: O'Sullivan NC, Sheridan GK, Murphy KJ; (eds). Transcription Factors CREB and NF-κB: Involvement in Synaptic Plasticity and Memory Formation. E-Book: Bentham. [Details]

Peer Reviewed Journals

Byrne DJ, Harmon MJ, Simpson JC, Blackstone C, O'Sullivan NC (2017) 'Roles for the VCP co-factors Npl4 and Ufd1 in Neuronal Function in Drosophila melanogaster'. Journal of Genetics and Genomics, . [Details]
Yalçın B, Zhao L, Stofanko M, O'Sullivan NC, Kang ZH, Roost A, Thomas MR, Zaessinger S, Blard O, Patto AL, Sohail A, Baena V, Terasaki M, O'Kane CJ. (2017) 'Modeling of axonal endoplasmic reticulum network by spastic paraplegia proteins'. eLife, 6 :e23882. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Fowler P, O'Sullivan NC (2016) 'ER-shaping proteins are required for ER and mitochondrial network organisation in motor neurons'. Human Molecular Genetics, . Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Fowler PC, Byrne DJ, O'Sullivan NC (2016) 'Rare disease models provide insight into inherited forms of neurodegeneration'. Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases, 1 (3):17-21. Available Online [Details]
Menzies FM, Garcia-Arencibia M, Imarisio S, O'Sullivan NC, Ricketts T, Kent BA, Rao MV, Lam W, Green-Thompson ZW, Nixon RA, Saksida LM, Bussey TJ, O'Kane CJ, Rubinsztein DC (2015) 'Calpain inhibition mediates autophagy-dependent protection against polyglutamine toxicity'. Cell Death and Differentiation, . [DOI] [Details]
Sheridan GK, Wdowicz A, Pickering M, Watters O, Halley P, O'Sullivan NC, Mooney C, O'Connell DJ, O'Connor JJ, Murphy KJ (2014) 'CX3CL1 is up-regulated in the rat hippocampus during memory-associated synaptic plasticity'. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 8 :1-15. Available Online [DOI] Link to full text [Details]
O'Sullivan NC, Dräger N, O'Kane CJ (2013) 'Characterization of the Drosophila atlastin interactome reveals VCP as a functionally related interactor'. Journal of Genetics and Genomics, 40 (6):297-306. [DOI] [Details]
O'Sullivan NC, Jahn TR, Reid E, O'Kane CJ. (2012) 'Reticulon-like-1, the Drosophila orthologue of the hereditary spastic paraplegia gene reticulon 2, is required for organization of endoplasmic reticulum and of distal motor axons'. Human Molecular Genetics, . Available Online [Details]
Murphy KJ, Ter Horst JP, Cassidy AW, DeSouza IE, Morgunova M, Li C, Connole LM, O'Sullivan NC, Loscher JS, Brady AT, Rombach N, Connellan J, McGettigan PA, Scully D, Fedriani R, Lukasz B, Moran MP, McCabe OM, Wantuch CM, Hughes ZA, Mulvany SK, Higgins DG, Pangalos MN, Marquis KL, O'Connor WT, Ring RH, von Schack D, Regan CM. (2012) 'Temporal dysregulation of cortical gene expression in the isolation reared Wistar rat'. Neurochemistry, . Available Online [Details]
Monopoli MP, Raghnaill MN, Loscher JS, O'Sullivan NC, Pangalos MN, Ring RH, von Schack D, Dunn MJ, Regan CM, Pennington S, Murphy KJ; (2011) 'Temporal proteomic profile of memory consolidation in the rat hippocampal dentate gyrus'. Proteomics, 11 (21):4189-4201. [DOI] [Details]
McKee AG, Loscher JS, O'Sullivan NC, Chadderton N, Palfi A, Batti L, Sheridan GK, O'Shea S, Moran M, McCabe O, Fernández AB, Pangalos MN, O'Connor JJ, Regan CM, O'Connor WT, Humphries P, Farrar GJ, Murphy KJ. (2010) 'AAV-mediated chronic over-expression of SNAP-25 in adult rat dorsal hippocampus impairs memory-associated synaptic plasticity'. Journal of Neurochemistry, 112 (4):991-1004. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
O'Sullivan NC, Pickering M, Di Giacomo D, Loscher JS, Murphy KJ; (2010) 'Mkl transcription cofactors regulate structural plasticity in hippocampal neurons'. Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991), 20 (8):1915-1925. [DOI] [Details]
O'Sullivan NC, Croydon L, McGettigan PA, Pickering M, Murphy KJ. (2010) 'Hippocampal region-specific regulation of NF-kappaB may contribute to learning-associated synaptic reorganisation'. Brain Research, . Available Online [Details]
O'Sullivan NC, McGettigan PA, Sheridan GK, Pickering M, Conboy L, O'Connor JJ, Moynagh PN, Higgins DG, Regan CM, Murphy KJ. (2007) 'Temporal change in gene expression in the rat dentate gyrus following passive avoidance learning'. Neurochemistry, . Available Online [Details]


Research Interests

My research lab investigates the molecular mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration in human disorders. In particular, I am interested in the role of endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-shaping proteins in motor neuron axons and how loss of these proteins may give rise to neurodegeneration.

Hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP) is an inherited neurodegenerative disorder in which the long axonal tracts in the cortical spinal tract degenerate. Pathogenic mutations in ER-shaping proteins are the leading cause of HSP, pointing to a crucial role for these proteins, and the smooth ER which they shape, in axonal maintenance. However, the mechanism(s) by which disruption of smooth ER in long motor neurons gives rise to neurodegeneration in HSP has not been extensively studied axons in vivo. 
My lab uses Drosophila melanogaster, the fruit fly, to model neurodegenerative diseases such as HSP. Disease models in simple organisms, like Drosophila, harness the power of genetics to define cellular pathways underlying the specific degradation of post-mitotic neurons in these disorders.

Research Projects

Sponsor : The Wellcome Trust (WT)
Title : Uncovering the role of ER-shaping proteins in neurodegenerative disease
Start Date / End Date : 05-SEP-16 / 04-SEP-18
Sponsor : The Wellcome Trust (WT)
Title : In vivo and in situ modelling of endoplasmic reticulum shaping defects on mitochondrial function in hereditary spastic paraplegias
Start Date / End Date : 01-OCT-16 / 30-SEP-20
Sponsor : The Wellcome Trust (WT)
Title : Mitochondrial organisation in a novel model of hereditary spastic paraplegia
Start Date / End Date : 02-JUN-15 / 26-JUL-15
Sponsor : University College Dublin (UCD)
Title : 'Investigating the role of ER proteins in motor neuron degeneration' presentation at BNA2015
Start Date / End Date : 01-APR-15 / 30-SEP-16
Sponsor : University College Dublin (UCD)
Title : In vivo investigation of pathogenic mechanisms of motor neuron disease.
Start Date / End Date : 19-MAY-14 / 01-SEP-14
Sponsor : The Wellcome Trust (WT)
Title : Investigation of the role of cross-talk between protein- and RNA-processing pathways in motor neuron degeneration
Start Date / End Date : 16-JUN-14 / 10-AUG-14
Sponsor : University College Dublin (UCD)
Title : The role of ER-mitochondrial contacts in in vivo and in vitro models of neurodegenerative disease.
Start Date / End Date : 01-APR-14 / 31-MAR-16
Sponsor : University College Dublin (UCD)
Title : Start Up Funds
Start Date / End Date : 01-MAY-13 / 30-JUN-18

Current Postgraduate Students

Dwayne Byrne, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)   -   Thesis Supervisor
Philippa Fowler, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)   -   Thesis Supervisor


Internal Collaborators

- Prof. Jeremy Simpson, UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science 

- Dr. Caroline Herron, UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science

External Collaborators

- Dr. Craig Blackstone, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, USA