In 1987, I finished a five-year course in the School of Pharmacy at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil. In 1989, I earned a master's degree from the Departmento de Farmacologia Basica e Clinica at the same University. During my training, I received a broad and in-depth education in classical pharmacology, and conducted experimental research aimed at evaluating the antiinflamatory and anagesic properties of novel compounds designed and synthesized at the Departamento de Tecnologia Farmaceutica at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro. The results of my research were then published in peer-reviewed journals.
In 1989, I started a pre-doctoral training in electrophysiological techniques applied to the CNS at the Instituto de Biofisica Carlos Chagas Filho at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro. Under the guidance of Dr. Edson X. Albuquerque and Dr. Yasco Aracava, I assessed the effects of ethanol and drugs used to treat alcohol addiction on NMDA and nicotinic receptors in hippocampal neurons. At the end of one year, I moved to Dr. Albuquerque's laboratory at the Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, where I started pursuing my doctoral education in 1993.
During my PhD, I received training from Dr. Edson Albuquerque at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Dr. Alfred Maelicke at the University of Mainz, Germany. Under their guidance, I studied the modulation of neuronal nicotinic receptors by compounds now referred to as "nicotinic allosteric potentiating ligands" and approved to treat Alzheimer's disease.
After finishing my Ph.D. in 1996, I received post-doctoral training from Drs. Albuquerque and Maelicke, and, in 2001, I joined the faculty of the Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. Currently, I am pursuing a scientific career as an Assistant Professor in the Division of Translational Toxicology of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health.
Research in the laboratory has a strong translational component and is focused on nicotinic cholinergic systems in the brain. We examine, by means of electrophysiological, pharmacological and molecular biological techniques, how toxicants and clinically used drugs modify the function and structure of nicotinic cholinergic systems and their integration with other systems in the developing and mature brain of male and female rodents.
I have ongoing collaborations with Dr. Edson X. Albuquerque (Dept. Epidemiol. Public Health) and Dr. William Randall (Dept. Pharmacol. Exp. Ther.) on studies of function and expression of nicotinic receptors in the human and the rodent brains. I also collaborate with Dr. Rao Gullapalli (Dept. Diag. Radiol.) and with Dr. Jacek Mamczarz (Dept. Epidemiol. Public Health) on imaging and behavioral studies, respectively, of animals exposed to industrial and environmental toxicants.
Lab Techniques and Equipment:
Electrophysiology. Various modalities of the patch-clamp technique, including the cell attached, the whole cell and the outside out, are used to characterize pharmacologically and functionally the activity of different receptors in neurons of the central nervous system. They are also used to study synaptic activity, integration and plasticity in preparations ranging from primary and organotypic cultures to fresh slices.
Molecular biology and biochemistry. Immunocytochemistry, western blots, binding and enzymatic assays are used primarily to complement the functional studies and to identify developmental or drug-induced changes in receptor expression and enzymatic activity associated with alterations in receptor function and synaptic integration.
Neuroimaging. Analyses of neuronal structures, including dendrites and dendritic spines, is performed in fresh slices and in whole brain using the Golgi technique, immunocytochemistry with Lucifer Yellow, or chemical processing of biocytin. The neurolucida software is used to reconstruct the image of the neurons and to quantify dendritic length and spines.
Miriam Akkerman, Research Assistant
William P. Fawcett, PhD, Postdoctoral fellow
Mabel Zelle, Research Assistant
Pereira, E.F.R., Aracava, Y., Alkondon, M., Akkerman, M., Merchenthaler, I., Albuquerque, E.X. (2010) Molecular and cellular actions of galantamine: clinical implications for treatment of organophosphorus poisoning. J. Mol. Neurosci. 40: 196-203.