Dr Merja Joensuu

Amplify Fellow

Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology

Amplify Fellow

Queensland Brain Institute
+61 7 334 64598


I received my PhD from The University of Helsinki (UH), Finland, in 2014 where I studied molecular mechanisms of endoplasmic reticulum morphogenesis and dynamics in the laboratory of Adjunct Professor Eija Jokitalo at the Institute of Biotechnology (IB) using advanced imaging techniques. After graduation, I did a short postdoctoral training in the Nuclear Actin Lab (IB/UH) lead by Dr Maria Vartianen and, in 2015, I relocated to The University of Queensland (UQ), Brisbane, Australia. During my postdoctoral training at the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) at UQ, and changed my research field from basic cell biology to neuroscience and super-resolution imaging. I was awarded a 3-year Academy of Finland Postdoctoral Fellowship (2016) and an ARC DECRA Award (2019) to study the role of a lipid modifying enzyme on neuronal function. In 2022, I became a UQ Amplify Fellow and Group Leader in a joint Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) and QBI position at UQ. My lab aims to understand the role of proteins and lipids in neuronal function and dysfunction, as well as mechanisms of neuroparalysis and viral infections.

Research Impacts

My laboratory focuses on how lipids and proteins affect cellular and neuronal membrane trafficking, and how neurotoxins and viruses exploit cellular endocytic machinery to gain access into cells. We use in vitro cell and primary neuron cultures as our main model system, allowing us to address the effects of pharmacological perturbations and genetic disease conditions on cellular functions. My team uses a combination of imaging techniques, including electron microscopy, confocal imaging and live-cell super-resolution microscopy, as well as molecular approaches, to understand how cells function in health and disease, which is critical for discovering novel therapeutic strategies for the treatment of disease, viral infections and neurointoxication pathologies.


  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Helsinki*


  • Jiang, Anmin, Kudo, Kye, Gormal, Rachel S., Ellis, Sevannah, Guo, Sikao, Wallis, Tristan P., Longfield, Shanley F., Robinson, Phillip J., Johnson, Margaret E., Joensuu, Merja and Meunier, Frédéric A. (2024). Dynamin1 long- and short-tail isoforms exploit distinct recruitment and spatial patterns to form endocytic nanoclusters. Nature Communications, 15 (1) 4060. doi: 10.1038/s41467-024-47677-8

  • Longfield, Shanley F., Gormal, Rachel S., Feller, Matis, Parutto, Pierre, Reingruber, Jürgen, Wallis, Tristan P., Joensuu, Merja, Augustine, George J., Martínez-Mármol, Ramón, Holcman, David and Meunier, Frédéric A. (2024). Synapsin 2a tetramerisation selectively controls the presynaptic nanoscale organisation of reserve synaptic vesicles. Nature Communications, 15 (1) 2217, 1-18. doi: 10.1038/s41467-024-46256-1

  • Akefe, Isaac O, Saber, Saber H, Matthews, Benjamin, Venkatesh, Bharat G, Gormal, Rachel S, Blackmore, Daniel G, Alexander, Suzy, Sieriecki, Emma, Gambin, Yann, Bertran-Gonzalez, Jesus, Vitale, Nicolas, Humeau, Yann, Gaudin, Arnaud, Ellis, Sevannah A, Michaels, Alysee A, Xue, Mingshan, Cravatt, Benjamin, Joensuu, Merja, Wallis, Tristan P and Meunier, Frédéric A (2024). The DDHD2-STXBP1 interaction mediates long-term memory via generation of saturated free fatty acids. The EMBO Journal, 43 (4), 1-35. doi: 10.1038/s44318-024-00030-7

View all Publications


View all Supervision


Book Chapter

  • Small, Christopher, Martínez-Mármol, Ramon, Amor, Rumelo, Meunier, Frederic A. and Joensuu, Merja (2021). Combining single molecule super-resolution imaging techniques to unravel the nanoscale organization of the presynapse. Exocytosis and endocytosis: methods and protocols. (pp. 265-286) edited by Florence Niedergang, Nicolas Vitale and Stéphane Gasman. New York, NY, United States: Humana Press. doi: 10.1007/978-1-0716-1044-2_18

  • Joensuu, Merja, Martínez-Mármol, Ramon, Mollazade, Mahdie, Padmanabhan, Pranesh and Meunier, Frédéric A. (2020). Single-molecule imaging of recycling synaptic vesicles in live neurons. Single molecule microscopy in neurobiology. (pp. 81-114) edited by Nobuhiko Yamamoto and Yasushi Okada. New York, NY United States: Humana Press. doi: 10.1007/978-1-0716-0532-5_5

Journal Article

Conference Publication

  • Sanders, Shanley F., Mollazade, Mahdie, Wallis, Tristan P., Gormal, Rachel S., Joensuu, Merja, Wark, Jesse R., Waardenberg, Ashley J., Small, Christopher, Graham, Mark E., Martinez-Marmol, Ramon and Meunier, Frederic A. (2023). Tau - A master regulator of recycling synaptic vesicle clustering at the presynapse. ISN-ESN 2023 Meeting, Porto, Portugal, 8 - 11 August 2023. Chichester, West Sussex, United Kingdom: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing. doi: 10.1111/jnc.15897

  • Joensuu, Merja, Blum, Ailisa, Mollazade, Mahdie, Lanoue, Vanessa, Padmanabhan, Pranesh, Small, Christopher, Mahrhold, Stefan, Krez, Nadja, Rummel, Andreas and Meunier, Frederic A. (2018). Super-resolving botulinum neurotoxin type A molecules: from surface landing to internalization in synaptic vesicles. TOXINS 2019: Basic Science and Clinical Aspects of Botulinum and Other Neurotoxins, Copenhagen, Denmark, 16-19 January 2019. Kidlington, Oxford, United Kingdom: Pergamon Press. doi: 10.1016/j.toxicon.2018.11.122

  • Harper, Callista B., Wang, Tong, Joensuu, Merja, Papadopulos, Andreas and Meunier, Frederic A. (2017). Nanoscale imaging of botulinum neurotoxin type a retrograde axonal trafficking. TOXINS: Basic Science and Clinical Aspects of Botulinum and other Neurotoxins, Madrid, Spain, 18-21 January 2017. Oxford, United Kingdom: Pergamon Press. doi: 10.1016/j.toxicon.2016.11.106

Other Outputs

  • Joensuu, Merja and Meunier, Frederic (2023). BoNT/A binding and endocytosis in primary neurons. The University of Queensland. (Dataset) doi: 10.48610/06039ff

  • Gormal, Rachel, Meunier, Frederic, Martinez-Marmol, Ramon, Mollazade, Mahdie, Wallis, Tristan, Joensuu, Merja, Sanders, Shanley and Small, Christopher (2023). Longield et al_2023_NatComm_Raw. The University of Queensland. (Dataset) doi: 10.48610/a9c9def

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor