Elizabeth Johnson
Elizabeth Johnson
Assistant Professor
Division of Nutritional Sciences

301/303 Biotechnology Building


Dr. Liz Johnson is an Assistant Professor of Molecular Nutrition at Cornell University in the Division of Nutritional Sciences.  Her work focuses on understanding how sphingolipid production by the gut microbiome influences host phenotypes as well as how the sphingolipid content of host diets affects the establishment of the microbiome.   She studied biology at Spelman College before pursuing a PhD investigating cell cycle transcriptomics at Princeton University.  Liz went on to study lipid dependent host-microbe interactions during her postdoctoral training in the lab of Ruth Ley before joining the faculty at Cornell in 2018.

The Johnson Lab has expertise in genomic, lipidomic, and molecular biology based methods for understanding how bioactive lipids shape host-microbe interactions.  Currently projects in the lab focus on host-microbe molecule exchange and bioactive lipids in infant nutrition.  

Sphingolipids are potent bioactive signaling molecules that are produced by both mammals and some of the the beneficial microbes that colonize the mammalian gut.  Beneficial microbes are known to have an effect on host health but the mechanisms defining these processes are not well understood.  We are dedicated to understanding how sphingolipids contribute to host phenotypes that are defined by microbiome composition.

Research in the Johnson Lab is focused on understanding how bioactive lipids contribute to diet-microbiome and microbiome-host interactions.  We use techniques in molecular biology, mass spectrometry, microbial genetics, and genomics to understand the consequences of lipid transfer between host and the microbiome.  Specifically we are interested in how lipid-dependent host-microbe interactions define the initial colonization and development of the infant gut microbiome with the goal of supporting microbiome-conscious early-life nutrition.  


(*these authors contributed equally, †corresponding author, Johnson Lab members are underlined)

  1. Le HH*, Lee MT*, Besler K, Comrie JMC, Johnson EL†.  Characterization of interactions of dietary cholesterol with the murine and gut microbiome. Nature Microbiology (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41564-022-01195-9
  2. Lee MT*, Le HH*, Besler K*, Johnson EL†.  Characterization of 3-ketosphinganine reductase activity encoded at the BT_0972 locus in Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron. Journal of Lipid Research (2022). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jlr.2022.100236
  3. Le HH*, Lee MT*, Besler K, Johnson EL†. Host hepatic metabolism is modulated by gut microbiome derived sphingolipids. Cell Host & Microbe (2022). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chom.2022.05.002
  4. Sibinga NA, Lee MT, Johnson EL, Selvaraj V, Marquis H. Longitudinal samping of the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) microbiome reveals effects of dietary ceropin A and Yersinina ruckeri infection. Frontiers in Marine Science (2022). https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2022.901389
  5. Lee, MTLe HH, and Johnson EL†. A BOSSS method for managing insights into diet-microbiome interactions.  Trends in Biochemical Sciences (2021). DOI: doi.org/10.1016/j.tibs.2021.08.004.
  6. Lee, MT, Le, HHJohnson, EL†.  Dietary sphinganine is selectively assimilated by members of the mammalian gut microbiome.  Journal of Lipid Research (2020). doi: 10.1194/jlr.RA120000950.
  7. Le HHJohnson, EL(2020) Going Keto? Say βHB-ye Bye to Your Gut Bifidobacteria.  Cell Host and Microbe 28:1. doi.org/10.1016/j.chom.2020.06.012.
  8. Di Rienzi SC, Johnson EL, Waters JL, Kennedy EA, Jacobson J, Lawrence P, Wang DH, Worgall TS, Brenna JT, Ley RE. The microbiome affects liver sphingolipids and plasma fatty acids in a murine model of the Western diet based on soybean oil. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry (2021).doi.org/10.1016/j.jnutbio.2021.108808.
  9. Johnson, EL, S. L. Heaver, J. L. Waters, B. I. Kim, A. Bretin, A. L. Goodman, A. T. Gewirtz, T. S. Worgall, and R. E. Ley. 2020. Sphingolipids produced by gut bacteria enter host metabolic pathways impacting ceramide levels. Nature Communications 11: 2471. doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-16274-w.
  10. Heaver SL, Johnson EL, Ley RE. (2018) Sphingolipids in host-microbial interactions. Curr Opin Microbiol. doi.org/10.1016/j.mib.2017.12.011.
  11. Johnson EL, Heaver SL, Walters WA, Ley RE. (2016) Microbiome and metabolic disease: revisiting the bacterial phylum Bacteroidetes. Journal of Molecular Medicine. doi.org/doi: 10.1007/s00109-016-1492-2.
  12. Mitra M, Johnson EL, Swamy VS, Nersesian LE, Corney DC, Robinson DG, Taylor DG, Ambrus AM, Jelinek D, Wang W, Batista SL, Coller HA. (2018) Alternative polyadenylation factors link cell cycle to migration. Genome Biologydoi.org/10.1186/s13059-018-1551-9.
  13. Lee HN, Mitra M, Bosompra O, Corney DC, Johnson EL, Rashed N, Ho LD, Coller HA. (2018) RECK isoforms have opposing effects on cell migration. Molecular Biology of the Cell. doi:10.1091/mbc.E17-12-0708.
  14. Johnson EL, Robinson DG, Coller HA. (2017) Widespread changes in mRNA stability contribute to quiescence-specific gene expression patterns in a fibroblast model of quiescence. BMC Genomics. doi.org/10.1091/mbc.E17-12-0708.
  15. Suh EJ, Remillard MY, Legesse-Miller A, Johnson EL, Lemons JM, Chapman TR, Forman JJ, Kojima M, Silberman ES, Coller HA. (2012) A microRNA network regulates proliferative timing and extracellular matrix synthesis during cellular quiescence in fibroblasts. Genome Biology. doi.org/10.1186/gb-2012-13-12-r121.
  16. Legesse-Miller A, Raitman I, Haley EM, Liao A, Sun LL, Wang DJ, Krishnan N, Lemons JM, Suh EJ, Johnson EL, Lund BA, Coller HA. (2012) Quiescent fibroblasts are protected from proteasome inhibition-mediated toxicity. Molecular Biology of the Cell. doi.org/10.1091/mbc.e12-03-0192.
  17. Wang DJ, Legesse-Miller A, Johnson EL, Coller HA. (2012) Regulation of the let-7a-3 promoter by NF-kappaB. PLoS One. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0031240.
  18. Johnson EL, Suh EJ, Chapman TR, Coller HA. (2012) Identifying functional miRNA targets using overexpression and knockdown methods. Regulatory RNAs. Chapter 12. Springer-Verlag. B.Mallick (eds). doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-22517-8_12.
  19. Lemons JM, Feng XJ, Bennett BD, Legesse-Miller A, Johnson EL, Raitman I, Pollina EA, Rabitz HA, Rabinowitz JD, Coller HA. (2010) Quiescent fibroblasts exhibit high metabolic activity. PLoS Biol. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1000514.
  20. Johnson EL, Cunningham TW, Marriner SM, Kovacs JL, Hunt BG, Bhakta DB, Goodisman MA (2009) Resource allocation in a social wasp: effects of breeding system and life cycle on reproductive decisions. Mol Ecol. doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-294X.2009.04240.x.

2014, Ph.D. , Molecular Biology, Princeton University

2008, Biology, Spelman College

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