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Personal profile


With a background in biochemistry, I completed my PhD in 2017, under the supervision of Prof Gary Williamson in his food biochemistry lab in the School of Food Science & Nutrition, University of Leeds, UK. My thesis investigated the chronic effects of dietary (poly)phenols on mitochondrial dysfunction and glucose uptake in cellular models of the liver and skeletal muscle. The research was funded by a prestigious European Research Council Advanced Grant 322467: ‘POLYTRUE?’ and combined cell biology, biochemistry, molecular biology and nutrition to elucidate the effects and mechanisms of dietary (poly)phenols in relation to metabolic disease risk factors. I established an understanding of how quercetin can protect from high glucose-induced oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction, set up a human skeletal muscle cell model for the investigation into effects of sugars and (poly)phenol compounds on sugar transport, cellular metabolism and protein/gene expression, and used this model to investigate the influence of gut microbiome-derived phenolic catabolites on the uptake and metabolism of glucose in muscle, demonstrating a novel link between diet, the gut microbiome and skeletal muscle energy source utilisation via an insulin pathway-dependent mechanism.

After my PhD I continued to work under Prof Williamson as a Post-Doctoral Research Assistant, continuing to investigate the effects of (poly)phenols on cellular metabolism, including:

  • The effects of quercetin on carbohydrate and lipid metabolism in hepatocytes and myocytes exposed to high glucose and inducers of oxidative stress, with markers of gene expression, metabolic flux and oxidative stress; and the effects of quercetin on blood metabolites in vivo, all in relation to risk factors of type 2 diabetes and gout.
  • The effects of chronic (poly)phenol treatments on lipid accumulation in adipocytes, including lipid storage, glucose metabolism, transcriptomics and lipidomics.
  • The effects of phenolics on the transcriptome and metabolome of hepatocytes and OAT-expressing hepatocytes, and the effects of the transfection on the basal transcriptome, metabolome and functionality such as glucose uptake.

I arrive at Monash University to start my first Research Fellow position and continue to work under Prof Williamson. We aim to advance the understanding of the health benefits of phytonutrients naturally present in food, using mechanism-based cell and molecular approaches and human intervention studies to address the urgent need for preventive action against type 2 diabetes through attainable nutrition.

Education/Academic qualification

Food Biochemistry, Phd, University of Leeds

1 Oct 201320 Nov 2017

Award Date: 20 Nov 2017

Biochemistry, BSc (Hons), Lancaster University

1 Oct 200713 Jul 2010

Award Date: 13 Jul 2010

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Research Output

The Ability of Quercetin and Ferulic Acid to Lower Stored Fat is Dependent on the Metabolic Background of Human Adipocytes

Little, R., Houghton, M. J., Carr, I. M., Wabitsch, M., Kerimi, A. & Williamson, G., 30 Apr 2020, (Accepted/In press) In : Molecular Nutrition and Food Research. 16 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

The effect of quercetin on endothelial cells is modified by heterocellular interactions

Tumova, S., Houghton, M. J. & Williamson, G., 1 May 2020, In : Food & Function. 11, 5, p. 3916-3925 10 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Open Access

Gut microbiome catabolites as novel modulators of muscle cell glucose metabolism

Houghton, M. J., Kerimi, A., Mouly, V., Tumova, S. & Williamson, G., 1 Feb 2019, In : The FASEB Journal. 33, 2, p. 1887-1898 12 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)

Quercetin preserves redox status and stimulates mitochondrial function in metabolically-stressed HepG2 cells

Houghton, M. J., Kerimi, A., Tumova, S., Boyle, J. P. & Williamson, G., 1 Dec 2018, In : Free Radical Biology and Medicine. 129, p. 296-309 14 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)

The effect of bioactive phenolics on chronic mitochondrial stress associated with the onset of diabetes

Houghton, M. J., Boyle, J. P., Tumova, S. & Williamson, G., 2014, p. 41-42. 1 p.

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract