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Andrea Nistri

Neurons and networks

Andrea NistriFull Professor

Andrea Nistri is Full professor of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology at SISSA since 1997.

In 1975 he became Assistant Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Florence. From 1977 to 1979 he was Visiting Professor of Applied Human Physiology at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada. From 1977 to 1979 he was Medical Research Council Fellow at McGill University, Montreal, Canada.

From 1987 to 1992 he was reader in Pharmacology at Queen Mary Westfield College, University of London and at St. Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College, University of London.

From 1994 to 1997 Andrea Nistri was Full professor of Pharmacology at University of Pavia. From 1997 to 2000 he was Head of the Biophysics Sector at SISSA.

His main research interests are integration of signals at the level of single neurons, functional mechanisms of neural networks in the spinal cord, modulation of neurotransmitter receptors related to pain mechanisms.


Research Lines

Integration of signals at the level of single neurons

An important fuction of brain neurons is to integrate synaptic signals, and to transform them into distinct programmes of electric discharge at high frequencies, often of rhythmic pattern. This action is susceptible to modulation by chemicals released by surrounding neurons in the same area. To clarify the basic mechanism underlying these phenomena, electrophysiological recordings from brainstem motoneurons are used. In particular, we are investigating the relative contribution of synaptic inhibition mediated by GABA and/or glycine, of glutamate mediated synaptic excitation, and of voltage-dependent intrinsic conductances. Patch clamp, intracellular and extracellular recording techniques are currently employed to understand the basic mechanisms of repeated electrical oscillations produced by brain neurons in health and neurodegenerative disease models.

Functional mechanisms of neural networks in the spinal cord

The in vitro spinal cord preparation, under certain conditions, can generate complex physiological programmes, such as the initial processing of pain stimuli or the generation of locomotor patterns of activity. Using electrophysiological techniques which allow recording of bioelectrical activity from single neurons as well as from clusters of neurons, we study how sensorial information of a painful nature is progressively reinforced, thus generating persistent pain. Furthermore, we study the expression of rhythmic patterns of activity related to locomotion which rely on alternation of excitation among distinct groups of motoneurons. Mechanisms which enable the spinal network to perform persistent rhythmic activity after suppression of spinal inhibition are also under investigation. In this context our research is mainly directed to the role of various neurotransmitters such as glutamate, GABA, and glycine in the operation of spinal networks in normal conditions or after an experimental lesion of the spinal cord. This project is in collaboration with IMFR (Udine) for clinical rehabilitation of spinal lesion people (SPINAL programme).

Modulation of neurotransmitter receptors related to pain mechanisms

This project addresses the issue of how intracellularly synthetized and released factors can modulate the efficiency of signal transmission in the CNS, facilitating or depressing the propagation of weak or strong signals, respectively. For this project, cultured neurons are studied using molecular biology, immunocytochemistry, fast imaging, and patch-clamp techniques. In this way we can detect expression of ligand-gated channels and measure their functional properties. The modulation of ATP mediated neurotransmission is presently examined with particular emphasis on receptors that can mediate pain during an attack of migraine and are also involved in chronic pain of neuropathic origin.

Selected publications

PLoS ONE 2013, 8(1):e52394.

TNFα Levels and Macrophages Expression Reflect an Inflammatory Potential of Trigeminal Ganglia in a Mouse Model of Familial Hemiplegic Migraine

Franceschini A, Vilotti S, Ferrari MD, van den Maagdenberg Arn MJM, Nistri A, Fabbretti E.

Neuromethods 2013, 76, 39-62.

Acute Spinal Cord Injury In Vitro: Insight Into Basic Mechanisms.

Mladinic M, Nistri A, Taccola G.


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