Neurodevelopmental disorders represent a major area of unmet medical need, with a dramatic burden for society. Intellectual disability (ID) and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are the most common of such disorders (3-5% of the population). The majority of the genes mutated in these pathologies regulate processes involved in neuronal morphology, synapse biology and regulation of protein synthesis and turnover. Epigenetic mechanisms, as dynamic regulators of gene expression during development and adult life, are deeply involved in those processes as well as in ID/ASD, and possibly represent an interesting doorway to better understand the pathogenetic mechanisms involved in human conditions

Curriculum Vitae

  • Education:

2013: Ph.D. in Molecular Medicine, Neuroscience, Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, Milan, Italy.

2007: M.Sc. in Biological Sciences (section: Cellular and Molecular Biology) at Insubria University, Varese, Italy.

2004: B.Sc. in Biological Sciences (section: Cellular and Molecular Biology) at Insubria University, Varese, Italy.

 

  • Professional Experience:

2015-ongoing: Lecturer for NeuroBiology Course, “Vita e Salute” San Raffaele University, Milan, Italy.

2014-ongoing: Staff Scientist at Stem Cell And Neurogenesis Unit, Division of neuroscience, San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Milan, Italy.

2013-2014: Post doctoral fellow, European Institute of Oncology, Milan, Italy.

2012-2015: Lecturer for Genetic and Developmental Biology Course, “Vita e Salute” San Raffaele University, Milan, Italy.

2012-2013: Post doctoral fellow Stem Cell And Neurogenesis Unit, Division of neuroscience, San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Milan, Italy.

2011: Visiting PhD student, National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) – Medical Research Council (MRC), Mill Hill, London,UK.

2008-2012: PhD student at Stem Cell And Neurogenesis Unit, Division of neuroscience, San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Milan, Italy.

 

  • Grants, fellowships and awards:

2016-ongoing: Italian Ministry of Health, Young Researcher Award Grant, 3 yrs

2015-ongoing: Telethon Foundation, Research Project Grant, 3 yrs

2013-2014: SEMM’s (European School of Molecular Medicine) Structured International Post Doc Program (SIPOD), National Fellowship 2012: Cajal Club’s KRIEG CORTICAL KUDOS scholar prize

2008-2011: Italian Ministry of University and Research, PhD fellowship

Research Activity

Our laboratory has a long-standing interest in the genetic factors that can settle the development of the cerebral cortex as paradigmatic example of neurogenetic processes. Thus, we have generated and studied a series of in vivo and in vitro models of loss/gain of functions of genes associated with dysregulation of corticogenesis.

In particular, we have tackled the importance of different classes of neural progenitors, and the behaviour of the young neurons emerging from them. Starting from this point we would gain insights into the pathological mechanisms involved in the extablishment of neurodevelopmental disorders, in particular those involved in mental illness and dysabilities.

Exploiting our experience in handling basic biological questions in this field we are currently exploring new genetic and epigenetic candidates to be, when mutated, disease promoting factors.

Publications

  1. Colasante G, Lignani G, Rubio A, Medrihan L, Yekhlef L, Sessa A, Massimino L, Giannelli SG, Sacchetti S, Caiazzo M, Leo D, Alexopoulou D, Dell’Anno MT, Ciabatti E, Orlando M, Studer M, Dahl A, Gainetdinov RR, Taverna S, Benfenati F, Broccoli V. Rapid Conversion of Fibroblasts into Functional Forebrain GABAergic Interneurons by Direct Genetic Reprogramming. Cell Stem Cell. (2015) vol. 17(6) pp 719-34.
  2. Broccoli V, Colasante G, Sessa A, Rubio A. Histone modifications controlling native and induced neural stem cell identity. Curr Opin Genet Dev. (2015) vol. 34 pp 95-101.
  3. Caiazzo M, Giannelli S, Valente P, Lignani G, Carissimo A, Sessa A, Colasante G, Bartolomeo R, Massimino L, Ferroni S, Settembre C, Benfenati F, Broccoli V. Direct Conversion of Fibroblasts into Functional Astrocytes by Defined Transcription Factors. Stem Cell Reports. (2015) vol. 4 (1) pp 25-36.
  4. Aloia L, Di Stefano B, Sessa A, Morey L, Santanach A, Gutierrez A, Aznar Benitah S, Graf T, Broccoli V, Di Croce L. Zrf1 is required to establish and maintain neural progenitor identity. Genes&Dev. (2014) vol. 28 (2) pp 182-197.
  5. Colasante G, Simonet JC, Calogero R, Crispi S, Fulp CT, Sessa A, Cho G, Golden JA, Broccoli V. ARX regulates cortical intermediate progenitor cell expansion and upper layer neuron formation through repression of Cdkn1c. Cer. Cortex. (2015) vol. 25 pp 322-335 – Epub Aug 22 2013.
  6. Ricciardi S, Ungaro F, Hambrock M, Rademacher N, Stefanelli G, Brambilla D, Sessa A, Magagnotti C, Bachi A, Giarda E, Verpelli C, Kilstrup-Nielsen C, Sala C, Kalscheuer VM, Vania Broccoli V. CDKL5 ensures excitatory synapse stability by reinforcing NGL-1-PSD95 interaction in the postsynaptic compartment and is impaired in patient iPS cell-derived neurons. Nat. Cell. Bio. (2012) vol. 14 (9) pp 911-23.
  7. Marinaro C, Pannese M, Weinandy F, Sessa A, Bergamaschi A, Taketo MM,  Broccoli V, Comi G, Götz M, Martino G and Muzio L. Hipk1 modulates the canonical Wnt signaling in postnatal SVZ progenitor cells. Cer. Cortex (2012) vol. 12 (10) pp 2415-27 (Epub 2011).
  8. Sessa A, Mao CA, Colasante G, Nini A, Klein WH, Broccoli V. Tbr2-positive intermediate (basal) neuronal progenitors safeguard cerebral cortex expansion by controlling amplification of pallial glutamatergic neurons and attraction of subpallial GABAergic interneurons. Genes&Dev. (2010) vol. 24 (16) pp 1816-26.
  9. Colasante G & Sessa A. Last But Not Least: Cortical Interneurons from Caudal Ganglionic Eminence. Neurosci. (2010) vol. 30 pp 7449-7450.
  10. Kim S*, Lehtinen MK*, Sessa A, Zappaterra M, Cho S-H, Gonzalez D, Boggan B, Austin CA, Wijnholds J, Gambello MJ, Malicki J, LaMantia AS, Broccoli V# and Walsh CA#. The apical complex couples cell fate and cell survival to cerebral cortical development. Neuron (2010) vol. 66 (1) pp 69-84.
  11. Colasante G, Sessa A, Crispi S, Calogero R, Consalez GG, Mansouri A, Collombat P and Broccoli V. Arx acts as a regional key selector gene in the ventral telencephalon mainly through its transcriptional repression activity. Dev. Biol. (2009) vol. 334 (1) pp 59-71.
  12. Sessa A*, Mao C-a*, Hadjantonakis A-K, Klein W and Broccoli V. Tbr2 Directs Conversion of Radial Glia into Basal Precursors and Guides Neuronal Amplification by Indirect Neurogenesis in the Developing Neocortex. Neuron (2008) vol. 60 (1) pp. 56-69.
  13. Gosens I, Sessa A, den Hollander AI, Letteboer SJ, Belloni V, Arends ML, Le Bivic A, Cremers FP, Broccoli V. and Roepman R. FERM protein EPB41L5 is a novel member of the mammalian CRB-MPP5 polarity complex. Exp. Cell. Res. (2007) vol. 313 (19) pp. 3959-70.
  14. Mastrototaro G, Zaghi M and Sessa A. Epigenetic Mistakes in Neurodevelopmental Disorders. J Mol Neurosci (2017) Apr;61(4):590-602.
  15. Mazzara PG, Massimino L, Pellegatta M, Ronchi G, Ricca A, Iannielli A, Giannelli SG, Cursi M, Cancellieri C, Sessa A, Del Carro U, Quattrini A, Geuna S, Gritti A, Taveggia C, Broccoli V. Two factor-based reprogramming of rodent and human fibroblasts into Schwann cells. Nat Commun. (2017) Feb 7;8:14088. doi: 10.1038/ncomms14088.
  16. Vasconcelos FF, Sessa A, Laranjeira C, Raposo AASF, Teixeira V, Hagey DW, Tomaz DM, Muhr J, Broccoli V and Castro DS. MyT1 counteracts the neural progenitor program to promote vertebrate neurogenesis. Cell Rep. (2016) Oct 4;17(2):469-483.
  17. Sessa A, Ciabatti E, Drechsel D, Massimino L, Colasante G, Giannelli S, Satoh T, Akira S, Guillemot F and Broccoli V. The Tbr2 molecular network controls cortical neuronal differentiation through complementary genetic and epigenetic pathways. Cereb Cortex. (2016) Sep 6. [Epub ahead of print]