Molecular Neurobiology Lab

Areas of Investigation 

The research carried out by the Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology has focused in particular on the role of glutamate excitotoxicity in the degeneration of spinal motor neurons registered by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The Laboratory has demonstrated that certain receptors activated by the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate express different isoforms and subunits in the spinal cord of an experimental model of familial ALS.

For our studies, we have used primary neuronal cultures using biochemistry and molecular biology methods. We have also shown that these differences make the AMPA receptors most active and able them to generate a faster and longer depolarization of the neuron.

Using an experimental model of ALS we have shown that altering the function and expression of the glutamate system alters the shape, the number and the size of cortical dendritic spines, as well as modify the expression of its own receptor and neuronal function. The work was done in collaboration with the CNR in Rome and Pisa, and with the Laboratory of Experimental Neurology of the Santa Lucia Foundation.


Dendritic Spines and Hydrogen Sulfate

The Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology also demonstrated an excessive and toxic presence of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) in ALS, both familial and sporadic. H2S is produced mainly by glial cells, and is highly toxic, especially in spinal motor neurons. The work was done in collaboration with the Laboratory of Experimental Neurology and with the Laboratory of Proteomics of Santa Lucia Foundation. Currently in progress is other biochemistry, molecular and cellular toxicity work both "in vitro" and "in vivo".

A parallel line of research is devoted to the study of Fronto-Temporal Dementia (FTD). In particular, we analyze the role of TDP-43 protein in the maintenance of the physiological properties of cortical and hippocampal neurons. The TDP-43 protein is related to the development of FTD and ALS.

  • Institute of Biology and Neurobiology, National Research Council (CNR), Rome (Italy)
  • Institute of Neurological Sciences, National Research Council (CNR), Catania (Italy)
  • International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Trieste (Italy)
  • Tor Vergata University of Rome (Italy)
Ongoing Research Projects 
  • Risk and Modifying factors in Frontal Temporal Dementia (FTD-RiMod)
  • PathensTDP - Defining the role of hnRNP proteins in enhancing TDP-43 pathology

Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology

Fondazione Santa Lucia Irccs

Via del Fosso di Fiorano, 64 00143 Rome

European Centre for Brain Research (CERC) – Floor 2 – Rooms 201, 204