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

Front Neurosci. 2020 May 19;14:440. eCollection 2020. | doi: 10.3389/fnins.2020.00440. | PMID: 32508565 Free PMC article. Review.

Alzheimer's Disease: What Can We Learn From the Peripheral Olfactory System?

Dibattista M, Pifferi S, Menini A, Reisert J.

Chem Senses. 2020 Oct 9;45(7):609-622. doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjaa041. PMID: 32564071 Free PMC article.

More Than Smell-COVID-19 Is Associated With Severe Impairment of Smell, Taste, and Chemesthesis

Global Consortium for Chemosensory Research

Biomaterials. 2020 Oct;257:120177. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2020.120177. Epub 2020 Jul 3. PMID: 32682149

Textured nanofibrils drive microglial phenotype

Song Q, Pifferi S, Shi L, Chen C, Proietti Zaccaria R, Menini A, Cao J, Zhang Q, Torre V.

J Gen Physiol. 2019 May 2. pii: jgp.201812310.

TMEM16A calcium-activated chloride currents in supporting cells of the mouse olfactory epithelium

Henriques T, Agostinelli E, Hernandez-Clavijo A, Maurya DK, Rock JR, Harfe BD, Menini A, Pifferi S.

Sci Rep. 2019 Jun 20;9(1):8834.

Bitter tastants and artificial sweeteners activate a subset of epithelial cells in acute tissue slices of the rat trachea

Lasconi C, Pifferi S, Hernandez-Clavijo A, Merigo F, Cecchini MP, Gonzalez-Velandia KY, Agostinelli E, Sbarbati A, Menini A.

eNeuro. 2018 Aug 13;5(4). pii: ENEURO.0223-18.2018.

Sensory Adaptation to Chemical Cues by Vomeronasal Sensory Neurons

Wong WM, Nagel M, Hernandez-Clavijo A, Pifferi S, Menini A, Spehr M, Meeks JP.

Channels (Austin). 2017 Sep 3;11(5):399-414.

The long tale of the calcium activated Cl- channels in olfactory transduction

Dibattista M, Pifferi S, Boccaccio A, Menini A, Reisert J.

J Gen Physiol. 2016 Oct;148(4):293-311.

The Ca2+-activated Cl- channel TMEM16B regulates action potential firing and axonal targeting in olfactory sensory neurons

Pietra G, Dibattista M, Menini A, Reisert J, Boccaccio A.

J Gen Physiol. 2015 Apr;145(4):285-301.

Conditional knockout of TMEM16A/anoctamin1 abolishes the calcium-activated chloride current in mouse vomeronasal sensory neurons

Amjad A, Hernandez-Clavijo A, Pifferi S, Maurya DK, Boccaccio A, Franzot J, Rock J, Menini A.

PLoS One 10(1):e0116483

Assessment of the olfactory function in Italian patients with type 3 von Willebrand disease caused by a homozygous 253 Kb deletion involving VWF and TMEM16B/ANO2

Cenedese V, Mezzavilla M, Morgan A, Marino R, Ettorre CP, Margaglione M, Gasparini P, Menini A.

Biochim Biophys Acta 1848(4):1005-13.

Multiple effects of anthracene-9-carboxylic acid on the TMEM16B/anoctamin2 calcium-activated chloride channel

Cherian OL, Menini A, Boccaccio A.

J Neurosci. 2015 Jan 7;35(1):146-60.

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.

PLoS One. 2015 Jun 11;10(6):e0129171.

Development of the Olfactory Epithelium and Nasal Glands in TMEM16A-/- and TMEM16A+/+ Mice

Maurya DK, Henriques T, Marini M, Pedemonte N, Galietta LJ, Rock JR, Harfe BD, Menini A.

J Gen Physiol. 2014 Jun;143(6):703-18.

Interactions between permeation and gating in the TMEM16B/anoctamin2 calcium-activated chloride channel

 Betto G, Cherian OL, Pifferi S, Cenedese V, Boccaccio A, Menini A.

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.

In: Mucignat-Caretta C, editor. Neurobiology of Chemical Communication. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press; 2014. Chapter 10.

Vomeronasal Receptors and Signal Transduction in the Vomeronasal Organ of Mammals

Francia S, Pifferi S, Menini A, Tirindelli R.

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.

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. 

Chemical Senses 2012, 37(9), 849-58.

Responses to sulfated steroids of female mouse vomeronasal sensory neurons.

Celsi F, D'Errico A, Menini A.

Journal of General Physiology 2012, 139(4), 285-94

The voltage dependence of the TMEM16B/anoctamin2 calcium-activated chloride channel is modified by mutations in the first putative intracellular loop

Cenedese V, Betto G, Celsi F, Cherian OL, Pifferi S, Menini A.

Biophysical Journal 2012, 102(12), 2677-86.

A dynamical feedback model for adaptation in the olfactory transduction pathway.

De Palo G, Boccaccio A, Miri A, Menini A, Altafini C.

Journal of General Physiology 2012, 140(1), 3-15

Calcium-activated chloride channels in the apical region of mouse vomeronasal sensory neurons

Dibattista M, Amjad A, Maurya DK, Sagheddu C, Montani G, Tirindelli R, Menini A.

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

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

Pifferi S, Cenedese V, Menini A. 

Frontiers in Neuroscience Series, CRC Press, Taylor and Francis Group, Boca Raton, Fl, USA, pp 448.

The Neurobiology of Olfaction

Anna Menini (editor)

The Neurobiology of Olfaction. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press; Chapter 8.

Signal Transduction in Vertebrate Olfactory Cilia.

Pifferi S, Menini A, Kurahashi T.


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