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Research Group
Cellular plasticity and neuropathology
Unit Unit Molecular Neurobiology and Neuropathology »

Principal Investigator Graduate students / Research Assistant Master Students
Research Fields
Our research focuses on cellular plasticity of microglia and brain macrophages. The ability of a cell to adopt an alternative fate when exposed to different conditions is now emerging as an important process in normal physiology and in disease conditions, such as ageing and neurodegenerative diseases.

In the brain, glial cells play fundamental roles in neuronal physiology including regulation of neurotransmission and synapse formation and maintenance. In addition, neuroglia constitutes the intrinsic brain defense system. Stroke, trauma, infection or chronic neurodegeneration trigger a pronounced glial response. This dual role is associated to a profound phenotypic switch from “basal” to “reactive”. Critically, microglia and other macrophages of the brain, and astrocytes must orchestrate complex genetic programs in response to a variety of stimuli that dictate the induction of alternations in their phenotype to serve the appropriate functions. We are interested in the identification of the mechanisms underlying phenotypic and functional plasticity of microglia and brain macrophages. We have particular interest in elucidating the molecular mechanisms underlying the transition between cell states and maintenance of cell identity. To study these mechanisms, we combine mouse genetics, genomics and standard histological, cellular and molecular biology methods.

The long-term goal of our research is to elucidate how gene regulatory interactions control cellular state and identity. We use neuroglia cells to elucidate the boundaries of epigenome and transcriptome plasticity in differentiated cells. Our research may provide direct mechanistic links to neuroinflammatory processes in brain aging and neurodegenerative diseases.

Representative Publications

Lopez-Atalaya JP , Askew KE , Sierra A , Gomez-Nicola D. " Development and maintenance of the brain’s immune. Toolkit: Microglia and non-parenchymal brain macrophages. " Dev Neurobiol . doi: 1002/dneu.22545 , - in press ( 2017 )

Lopez-Atalaya JP , Barco A " Can changes in histone acetylation contribute to memory formation? " Trends Genet . 30(12) , 529 - 539 ( 2014 )

Lopez-Atalaya JP , Ito S, Valor LM, Benito E and Barco A " Genomic targets, and histone acetylation and gene expression profiling of neural HDAC inhibition. " Nucleic Acids Res . 41(17) , 8072 - 8084 ( 2013 )

Lopez-Atalaya JP , Gervasini C, Mottadelli F, Spena S, Piccione M, Scarano G, Selicorni A, Barco A, Larizza L " Histone acetylation deficits in lymphoblastoid cell lines from patients with Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome. " J Med Genet . 49(1) , 66 - 74 ( 2012 )

Lopez-Atalaya JP , Ciccarelli A, Viosca J, Valor LM, Jimenez-Minchan M, Canals S, Giustteto M and Barco A " CBP is required for environmental enrichment-induced neurogenesis and cognitive enhancement " EMBO Journal . 30(20) , 4287 - 4298 ( 2011 )
Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas
Universidad Miguel Hernández

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