School of Pharmacy

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Anna Piccinini

Assistant Professor of Inflammation Biology, Faculty of Science



I obtained a master's degree in Pharmacy from the University of Trieste, Italy, in 2003. I completed my PhD with Professor Andreas Kungl at the Karl-Franzens University of Graz, Austria, in 2007, investigating glycosaminoglycan-mediated regulation of leukocyte extravasation in inflammation (e.g. Koenen et al., Nat Med. 2009; Piccinini et al., J Biol Chem. 2010; Liehn et al., J Am Coll Cardiol. 2010). I undertook postdoctoral training in the lab of Professor Kim Midwood at Imperial College London (2008-2011) and the University of Oxford (2011-2015), focusing on how inflammatory signaling pathways triggered by changes in the extracellular matrix affect chronic autoimmune disorders and uncontrolled inflammation (e.g. Midwood et al., Nat Med. 2009; Goh et al., J Immunol. 2020; Ruhmann et al., Arthritis Rheum. 2012; Piccinini et al., Science Signaling 2016). My work on the role of the extracellular matrix in the immune response to infection (Piccinini el al., Cell Reports 2012) was recognized by the prestigious 'Young Investigator Award' and the invitation to deliver the inaugural 'John Scott Lecture' at the British Society for Matrix Biology meeting in 2013.

In 2015 I moved to the University of Nottingham within the Gene Regulation & RNA Biology Laboratory at the School of Pharmacy and I was awarded an Anne McLaren Fellowship to start my own research group, with a focus on understanding the molecular mechanisms by which the extracellular matrix and other microenvironmental cues influence innate immune cell phenotype and function. In 2019 I was appointed Assistant Professor in Inflammation Biology.

Expertise Summary

Cell & Molecular Biology; Matrix Biology

Innate Immunity & Inflammation; Toll-like Receptor Signaling

Autoimmunity; Arthritis

microRNA Regulation of Inflammatory Signaling Pathways

Macrophage Fusion & Foreign Body Response

Primary Cell Culture (2D and 3D); Monocytes/Macrophages; Fibroblasts

Cell-based Assays; Immunoassays; RNA Seq; Proteomics

siRNA Technology; CRISPR CAS9 Genome Editing

Extracellular Vesicles Isolation and Characterization



Teaching Summary

I teach on multiple modules across a number of degree courses offered by the School of Pharmacy.

Pharmaceutical Sciences MSci Degree

  • Biologics (year 3) - Module Convenor (teaching: protein-based biologics)
  • Infection and Immunity (year 2) - Module contributor (teaching: recombinant DNA technology)
  • Research Project (year 3) - Module contributor

M.Pharm. Pharmacy Degree:

  • Endocrine (year 2) - Module contributor (teaching: pharmaceutics)
  • Research Project (year 3) - Module contributor
  • Professional Leadership & Management - Module contributor

Research Summary

Anna Piccinini's research team is based within the Gene Regulation & RNA Biology Laboratory (GRRB). Our research is focused on how the cell microenvironment influences innate immune cell… read more

Selected Publications

Current group members

Assistant Prof. Anna M. Piccinini - Group Leader

Grace Needham - PhD student (University of Nottingham)

Cahyani Gita Ambarsari - PhD student (Indonesia Endowment Fund for Education)

Past group members

Owen Dawson - PhD student (now at Porterhouse Medical)

Chloe Stewart - PhD student (now at University of Oxford)

Fabio Albanese - PhD student (now at MI:RNA Diagnostics)

Hannah Tomlin - PhD student (now at Porterhouse Medical)

Nicole Zordan - PhD student (now at Amphista Therapeutics Limited, Cambridge, UK)

Giulio Brunetti - MRes student (moved to Trinity College Dublin; now at Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland)

Xingyu Guo - MSc student (now at Trinity College Dublin)

Ella Vickers - MSc student (now at Nucleus Global, Inizio Medical)

Jasper Koh Jing Ran - Visiting student from National University of Singapore (now at Kawin)

Alessandro Nunziata - Visiting student from University of Rome Tor Vergata (now at TFS HealthScience)

Charalampos Yiangou - Student summer intern

Er Pey Ling - Student summer intern

Current Research

Anna Piccinini's research team is based within the Gene Regulation & RNA Biology Laboratory (GRRB). Our research is focused on how the cell microenvironment influences innate immune cell phenotype and function. We are particularly interested in the molecular mechanisms by which the extracellular matrix and other factors, including stromal cells and foreign biomaterials, affect macrophage polarization and function.

Current projects:


We are generally interested in how immune and stromal cells function and interact with their environment, in the context of inflammation and immunity. One focus of current research is understanding the interactions of macrophages, key cell players in infection and tissue repair, with tissue-specific networks of extracellular matrix and matrix-associated molecules, and understand how these regulate macrophage gene expression and, ultimately, phenotype and function. For this, we are using a combination of physiological, 3D cell culture systems, which recapitulate the extracellular matrix tissue microenvironment of interest and allow the culture of primary human monocytes and their differentiation into macrophages, CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing (in collaboration with Prof. David Heery, UoN), RNA-Seq and proteomics (in collaboration with Dr Simone Scilabra, Fondazione Ri.Med, Italy). This research is topical as huge international, collaborative efforts using high-throughput methods such as single-cell transcriptomics are being made to identify all cell types in the human body whilst we still lack understanding of their local tissue structure and function. This research has been funded by an Anne McLaren fellowship, a Wellcome grant and a BBRSC-DTP studentship.


Another major interest is how the cellular microenvironment regulates macrophage fusion and multinucleation to form foreign body giant cells (FBGCs) during the innate immune response to implanted biomaterials, or foreign body response (FBR). We have established an in vitro model of FBGC formation using primary human cells that we are applying to identify major molecular and cellular factors that promote macrophage fusion and FBR (in collaboration with Dr Maria Marlow, UoN; Stewart et al., Frontiers in Immunology 2024). This research has been funded by the EPSRC.


We are also interested in understanding how the extracellular matrix glycoprotein tenascin-C regulates the expression of the microRNA miR-155 in myeloid cells during inflammation. Following on from postdoctoral work which I conducted in Prof. Kim Midwood lab (Piccinini et al., Cell Reports 2012), we are using state-of-the-art molecular biology approaches to unravel the exact molecular mechanism by which tenascin-C regulates the biogenesis of miR-155 and determine whether this matrix protein may also affect other microRNAs. This research has been funded by an Anne McLaren fellowship and a BBRSC-DTP studentship.


I collaborate with Dr Mischa Zelzer (Biointerface and Materials Engineering, UoN), Prof. Bindi Brook and Dr Etienne Farcot (Mathematics, UoN) in a multidisciplinary project focused on understanding integrin binding dynamics and its effect on cell response. With Dr Catherine Jopling (UoN) and Dr Cornelia de Moor (UoN), we investigate microRNA regulation of mRNAs that are induced at the level of transcription and undergo rapid changes in poly(A) tail length during the inflammatory response. I also enjoy a number of collaborations with clinicians from the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, with projects focusing on cellular senescence (with Dr Aloysious Aravinthan) and urinary extracellular vesicles (with Dr Jon Jin Kim) in hepatic and renal disorders, respectively.

School of Pharmacy

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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