Non-Coding RNA Explosion: Novel Implications in Neurotrophin Biology


The main focus of the project is the identification of non-coding RNAs (ncRNA) that regulate the expression of Neurotrophins (NT) and NT receptors (NTR). ncRNAs are a novel class of regulatory molecules that have been shown to be involved in almost all biological phenomena, including development and physiology of the nervous system.
Neurotrophins (NT) (BDNF, NGF and NT sensu stricto) are growth factors that control development, differentiation, synaptic plasticity and survival of several types of neuronal and glial cells in the embryonic and adult central nervous system and sensory organs. Based on the NT role in development and physiology of the nervous system, the present project aims at extending our knowledge on NTs molecular pathways, with emphasis on the their relationships with stress, aging and diseases.
The project will take advantage of as bioinformatic, molecular, genetic, biochemical and behavioural multidisciplinary approaches, with the aim to acquire new insights on the genetic regulatory networks and on the functions exerted by NT and NT receptors during the correct development and in conditions of thermal, social and nutritional stress. A distinctive feature of this research proposal is the use of three different model systems: cells, mouse and zebrafish.
In summary, the main purpose of the present project is to study the molecular, cellular and behavioural phenotype of NTs and NTRs, with emphasis on the relationships of these molecules with stress, ncRNAs and neurodegenerative diseases (NDs).
We are knocking out the BDNF, one of the most known neurotrophin together NGF, in zebrafish using the CRISPR/Cas9 thecnology to he improve our understanding of the role played by NTs during embryonic development and adult brain physiology, with particular attention to the biomedical impact in terms of diagnosis and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

What we do

We built a national network, in which the Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn of Napoli is the leader Institute, with the aim to merge multidisciplinary approaches and competences to reveal the importance of NT during vertebrate’s brain development.


Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Napoli (Unit 1); Dipartimento di Biologia e Biotecnologie "Charles Darwin", Università di Roma Sapienza (Unit 2); Dipartimento di Scienze Biologiche, Università di Napoli Federico II (Unit 3); Laboratorio di Bioinformatica, Università del Sannio (Unit 4).

Research Area

Organismal Biology

Project Lifetime

21 March 2013 to 20 March 2018

SZN Role

Coordinator of the whole project and Research Unit 1

Principal Investigator

Salvatore D’Aniello

Funding Institution

Futuro In Ricerca (FIRB), http://futuroinricerca.miur.it; Ministero dell’Istruzione, dell’Università e della Ricerca (MIUR), http://www.istruzione.it        
Grant no. RBFR12QW4I

Contribution to SZN

€369.443 (MIUR contribution)


D’Agostino Y, Locascio A, Ristoratore F, Sordino P, Spagnuolo A, Borra M* and D’Aniello S* (2015). A rapid and cheap methodology for CRISPR/Cas9 zebrafish mutant screening. Molecular Biotechnology, in press.

Meet the team

Salvatore D’Aniello, Ricercatore
Ylenia D’Agostino, PhD student
Annamaria Locascio, Ricercatore
Filomena Ristoratore, Ricercatore
Paolo Sordino, Ricercatore
Antonietta Spagnuolo, primo Ricercatore

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