Research home

Anna Menini

Olfactory system
Research in Anna Menini's laboratory focuses on the olfactory system, which has become a "hot" topic in neuroscience after the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology awarded in 2004 to Linda Buck and Richard Axel.
The group includes a post-doc researcher and six PhD students, who are trying to understand how odorants from the external environment bind to specific receptors, and how the signal is then transmitted to the brain.

Anna MeniniFull Professor

Anna Menini received her Laurea in Physics, summa cum laude, from the University of Genova, Italy, where she also obtained her PhD in Physics (Biophysics). She was a Research Associate at the Department of Physiology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, USA, then “Ricercatore” and “Primo Ricercatore” in Biophysics at the Istituto di Cibernetica e Biofisica, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Genova, Italy. She has also been an Invited Fellow Researcher of the Japan Society for Promotion of Science at the Department of Physiological Sciences, Okazaki National Research Institutes, Okazaki, Japan. Since November 2002 she is Full Professor of Physiology at SISSA. Her research interests include sensory neuroscience and ion channels in health and disease.


Research Lines

Molecular mechanisms of olfactory transduction

Our research group is interested in understanding how the brain represents the external world. We are working in the cellular and molecular neuroscience of sensory systems, with a focus on olfaction. The olfactory system detects and discriminates among a large number of structurally diverse odorant molecules that carry information about the environment. The initial steps of olfaction occur in olfactory sensory neurons located in the olfactory epithelium of the nasal cavity.

Some animals also have a separate accessory olfactory system, whose primary sensory neurons are found in the sensory epithelium of the vomeronasal organ. We study the molecular mechanisms that transform the chemical odorant signal into the electrical messages that are transmitted to the brain.

To address these questions we use an interdisciplinary approach and the following techniques: patch-clamp electrophysiology, calcium imaging, molecular biology, immunohistochemistry and computational studies.

Calcium-activated chloride channels

We study a family of proteins called TMEM16 or anoctamins. TMEM16-A and –B have been shown to function as calcium-activated chloride channels. We use the patch-clamp technique combined with site-specific mutagenesis, immunohistochemistry and computational studies to understand the physiological role of these channels in sensory systems.

Selected publications

J Neurosci. 2015 Jan 7;35(1):146-60. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0613-14.2015

Circuit formation and function in the olfactory bulb of mice with reduced spontaneous afferent activity

Lorenzon P, Redolfi N, Podolsky MJ, Zamparo I, Franchi SA, Pietra G, Boccaccio A, Menini A, Murthy VN, Lodovichi C.

Chemical Senses 2014 39(7):617-29. 23

Transplanted human adipose tissue-derived stem cells engraft and induce regeneration in mice olfactory neuroepithelium in response to dichlobenil subministration

Franceschini V, Bettini S, Pifferi S, Menini A, Siciliano G, Ognio E, Brini AT, Di Oto E, Revoltella RP.

Scientific Reports 2013, 3, 1251.

Common dynamical features of sensory adaptation in photoreceptors and olfactory sensory neurons.

De Palo G, Facchetti G, Mazzolini M, Menini A, Torre V, Altafini C. 

J Neurosci. 2013 Jul 10;33(28):11464-78

TrkB signaling directs the incorporation of newly generated periglomerular cells in the adult olfactory bulb

Bergami M, Vignoli B, Motori E, Pifferi S, Zuccaro E, Menini A, Canossa M.

Experimental Physiology 2012, 97(2), 193-199.

Anoctamin 2/TMEM16B: a calcium-activated chloride channel in olfactory transduction.

Pifferi S, Cenedese V, Menini A. 


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