Logo Università degli Studi di Milano


Neurobiology and Neuropharmacology  

Laboratory of neuronal and synaptic pharmacology

Since many years, our research activity focused on the study of cellular changes associated with neurological and psychiatric diseases. We also put a big effort in the identification of new cellular targets for the development of pharmacological approaches useful for the treatment of human diseases such as autism and epilepsy. Recently, we have defined and characterized a new role for the ATM protein kinase (Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated) in the control of neuronal transmission and in mechanisms crucial for the development of the GABAergic system. ATM is a serine/threonine kinase widely studied for its role as a "DNA repair protein" and therefore essential in the response mechanisms to DNA damage, but recent evidences demonstrate additional ATM contributions in post-mitotic neurons. We have published that in hippocampal cells ATM regulates the development of the inhibitory system, thus participating in the correct establishment of the excitatory/inhibitory balance, a fundamental condition for the proper brain functioning and indeed demonstrated altered in neurological and psychiatric diseases. Our data highlight the molecular mechanisms underlying these results and indicate a specific role of ATM in the hippocampus and cerebral cortex, while previous studies investigate its cerebellar function. Our data, in addition to bridging the scientific gap regarding the function of ATM kinase in the hippocampus compared to the cerebellum, give a biological basis to the cognitive alterations described in patients with Ataxia Telangiectasia (AT, the hereditary disease due to mutations in the ATM gene) and indicate that ATM may be an important biological target in neurodevelopmental diseases, as recently demonstrated by our group in autism.

In the near future, our research activity will be aimed at understanding the contribution of other “DNA repair proteins” in the mechanisms underlying synaptic transmission and plasticity processes in order to highlight new biological targets and new therapeutic approaches.

Experimental approaches: Behavioural tests, in vitro electrophysiology, cell biology, conventional and confocal microscopy.

Location: via Vanvitelli n. 32, Milano

Contact: Prof. Flavia Antonucci,
Laboratory of neuronal and synaptic pharmacology
Dipartimento di Biotecnologie Mediche e Medicina Traslazionale (BIOMETRA)
tel: 02 50317095 – lab: 02 50317016
mail: Flavia.Antonucci@unimi.it







Back to top