Dr Emily Johnston

Emily Johnston



For her PhD Emily worked with Prof. Neil Bruce at the University of York. Her PhD research involved characterizing a mutant plant with enhanced tolerance to explosives pollution, with a view to enhance phytoremediation of persistent and toxic explosives pollution at military training ranges and manufacturing waste sites. Emily has also studied detoxification gene regulation in plants, and explored methods of increasing high-value metal nanoparticle formation in plants, for extraction and use as catalysts in industry. 


Emily is part of a large collaborative project to engineer budding yeast for saponin production. Saponins (plant-derived, structurally diverse glycosylated triterpenoids and sterols) are of high-value with potential uses in therapeutics (as anti-inflammatories and in the stabilisation and delivery of bioactive compounds), in cleaning products (as surfactants, emulsions and fragrances) and in foods (as gelling agents, beer foam stabilisers, flavourings and as preservatives). In this project we are characterizing the activity of novel plant saponin biosynthesis genes, and developing a strategy for producing high yields of saponins from budding yeast.


Johnston EJ*, Mosses T, Rosser SJ. The wide‐ranging phenotypes of ergosterol biosynthesis mutants, and implications for microbial cell factories (2019) Yeast. doi: 10.1002/yea.3452.

Johnston EJ, Rylott EL, Beynon E, Lorenz E, Chechik V, Bruce NC. Monodehydroascorbate reductase mediates TNT toxicity in Arabidopsis (2015) Science 349:1072-1075.

Rylott EL, Johnston EJ, Bruce NC. Harnessing microbial gene pools to remediate persistent organic pollutants using genetically modified plants- a viable technology? (2015) Journal of Experimental Biology 66:6519-6533.

Rylott EL, Gunning V, Tzafestas K, Sparrow H, Johnston EJ, Brentnall AS, Potts JR, Bruce NC. Phytodetoxification of the environmental pollutant and explosive 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (2015) Plant Signaling & Behavior 10:e977714.

Gunning V, Tzafestas K, Sparrow H, Johnston EJ, Brentnall AS, Potts JR, Bruce NC. Arabidopsis glutathione transferases U24 and U25 exhibit a range of detoxification activities with the environmental pollutant and explosive 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (2014) Plant Physiology 165:854-865.


Phone No: 0131 650 54 16

Email: emily.johnston@ed.ac.uk

Researchgate: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Emily_Johnston5