Margaret Johnson. Assistant Professor
Chemistry Building 274
(205) 934-8137

Research and Teaching Interests: Solution NMR-based Structural Biochemistry, Biomolecular Structure and Function, Poly(ADP-ribose) and Nucleic Acids, Evidence-based Instructional Strategies, Educational Outreach

Office Hours: By appointment

  • BSc, Simon Fraser University, Biochemistry
  • PhD, Simon Fraser University, Biochemistry
  • Postdoctoral, Scripps Research Institute, Structural Biology

Dr. Margaret Johnson is a structural biologist with more than 10 years’ experience in magnetic resonance applied to problems in human disease. She obtained her PhD under the direction of B. Mario Pinto investigating the phenomenon of peptide-carbohydrate mimicry. She then trained as a CIHR postdoctoral fellow in solution NMR-based structural biology in the laboratory of Kurt Wüthrich at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego.

From 2009-2012 she was NMR research associate at the University of Alberta/Alberta Glycomics Centre under the direction of David R. Bundle. Her work has been recognized in the Protein Structure Initiative/Nature Structural Genomics Knowledgebase, JBC Paper of the Week, Boehringer Ingelheim Award of the Canadian Society for Chemistry, and the Governor General's Gold Medal.

Dr. Johnson’s group explores the relationships between sequence, structure, folding and function in biomolecules. We are particularly interested in unusual nucleic acids such as poly(ADP-ribose) and guanine quadruplexes. These structures are key biochemical signals that control biochemical processes in cells and pathogens. For example, G-quadruplex interactions impact gene expression, the cell cycle, and viral replication. Poly(ADP-ribose), a post-translational modification that has been termed the “third nucleic acid”, contributes to DNA damage repair and stress responses in eukaryotes. A better understanding of nucleic acid biochemistry can therefore lead to determining new signaling pathways, diagnostics and therapeutics for emerging viruses, cancer, cardiovascular disease and other pathological conditions. The group aims to isolate novel nucleic acid-binding proteins and understand the molecular recognition of unusual nucleic acid structures by these proteins.
Classes taught by Dr. Johnson include Chemistry 115, General Chemistry: a survey of general chemical principles including atomic structure, quantum theory, chemical bonding, and stoichiometry; Biochemistry 461, Biochemistry II; and Structural Biology/Biophysics Journal Club. Classes taught by Dr. Johnson include class participation through problem-solving, team discussions, and i>clicker 2 Classroom Response Systems.

Dr. Johnson also leads an educational outreach program, HotScience, for high school students to learn biochemical and biophysical principles in a fun environment during the summer.
  • Mills, K. V.; Johnson, M. A.; Perler, F.B. Protein splicing: how inteins escape from precursor proteins. J. Biol. Chem. 2014, 289, 14498-14505 (JBC Thematic Minireview Series).
  • Johnson, M. A.; Bundle, D.R. Designing a new antifungal glycoconjugate vaccine. Chem. Soc. Rev. 2013, 42, 4327-4344
  • Dang, A. T.; Johnson, M, A.; Bundle, D.R. Synthesis of a Candida albicans tetrasaccharide spanning the b1,2-mannan phosphodiester a-mannan junction. Org. Biomol. Chem. 2012, 10, 8348-8360.
  • Lin, H.; Kitova, E. N.; Johnson, M. A.; Eugenio, L., Ng, K. K. S.; Klassen, J.S. Electrospray ionization-induced protein unfolding. J. Am. Soc. Mass Spectrom. 2012, 23, 2122-2131.
  • Johnson, M. A.; Cartmell, J.; Weisser, N. E.; Woods, R. J.; Bundle, D. R. Molecular recognition of Candida albicans (1→2)-β-mannan oligosaccharides by a protective monoclonal antibody reveals the immunodominance of internal saccharide residues. J. Biol. Chem. 2012, 287, 18078-18090.
Full list of publications
  • American Chemical Society
  • American Heart Association
  • UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • UAB Center for Structural Biology
  • Boehringer Ingelheim Award of the Canadian Society for Chemistry, 2007
  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2003-2006
  • Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Postdoctoral Fellowship (declined), 2003-2005
  • Governor General’s Gold Medal for academic excellence in a graduate thesis, 2003
  • NSERC Postgraduate Scholarship, 1997-2001