School of Life Sciences
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Maria Toledo-Rodriguez

Assistant Professor, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences

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Biography

I studied pharmacy at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain and received an MSc in life sciences and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel. During my PhD, I worked with Professors Bernard Attali and Henry Markram investigating the genetic principles that guide morphological and electrical diversity of neocortical neurons. During my postdoctoral fellowship, at the laboratory of Professor Carmen Sandi (Swiss Institute of Technology Lausanne, EPFL), I studied the effect of stress during adolescence searching for key neurobiological mechanisms involved in the vulnerability to psychopathology during adolescence. Interestingly, I found a differential impact on males and females for specific emotional behaviors. Since moving to the University of Nottingham I leveraged on my knowledge and experience of molecular biology and pre-clinical models and focused on the epigenetic basis of vulnerability to mental disease and how to boost resilience. In particular I focus on the positive effects of exercise on mental wellbeing.

Expertise Summary

Epigenetics

Molecular biology

Immunohistochemistry

Neurogenesis

Preclinical models of stress

Exercise

Teaching Summary

Module Conveyor: B13606, Communicating Neurosciences

Contributor: B12416, The Ageing Brain

Contributor: B12304, Neurosciences Laboratory Studies

Senior Tutor for Neurosciences

Research Summary

The research in our laboratory focuses on understanding resilience to disease at the cellular and molecular level. In particular we focus on the epigenetic mechanisms underlying the beneficial… read more

Selected Publications

Current Research

The research in our laboratory focuses on understanding resilience to disease at the cellular and molecular level. In particular we focus on the epigenetic mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects of exercise on mental and physical health.

We study how the impact of voluntary exercise on mental health and behaviour (memory, anxiety and depression) is mediated at the molecular (epigenetics and gene expression) and cellular (neurogenesis) levels.

Our laboratory also studies how exercise affects ageing and whether the effects of exercise are similar in young and old individuals.

Finally, a minor focus of our laboratory is to study the molecular and cellular effects of exercise in adipose tissue and muscle and to find out how they relate to the changes found in the brain.

In collaboration with Dr. L Conforti we are studying: a) the effects of modulating NAD levels in stem cell proliferation/survival and gene expression and b) whether the positive effects of exercise at the epigenetic, molecular, cellular and behavioural level are dependent on NAD biosynthetic enzyme NMNAT1.

In collaboration with Dr. L Leach we are investigating the epigenetic mechanisms underlying the effects of gestational diabetes.

Current projects study the epigenetic mechanisms underlying the positive effects of exercise on:

· adult neurogenesis

· anxiety,

· memory

· age-related cognitive impairment

For this purposes we use a holistic approach combining the following techniques:

· Gene expression (Quantitative PCR)

· Epigenetics:

o DNA methylation (bisulfite sequencing, MeDIP, immunohistochemistry, Western blot)

o Histone modifications (Chromatine immunoprecipitation, immunohistochemistry, Western blot)

o Non coding RNA [miRNA] (Quantitative PCR)

· Adult neurogenesis / stem cells

· Protein expression (immunohistochemistry, Western blot)

· Hormone levels (ELISA)

· Tissue culture

· Physiological assessment (distance run, food intake, locomotor activity at different settings)

· Behavioural assessment (learning & memory, anxiety, depression, natural rodent behaviour)

Collaborators:

  • Dr L Conforti
  • Dr L Leach
  • Prof. F Ebling

School of Life Sciences

University of Nottingham
Medical School
Queen's Medical Centre
Nottingham NG7 2UH

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