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Cell Biology of Neural Development




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The main objective of our group is to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms of neural differentiation, from the early process of nervous sytem formation (known as neurulation), to neuronal differentiation. For this, we mainly use zebrafish (Danio rerio) and chick (Gallus gallus) embryos.












Optical section of a 3 days-old zebrafish embryo retina, 
where retinal ganglion cells )magenta), actin filaments (yellow) 
and DNA (cyan) were labeled. Flavio Zolessi




Two-day old chick embryo section, showing the optic cup 
and the invaginating lens placode, labeled to show the presence of 
MARCKS protein (green) and actin filaments (red)
Flavio Zolessi







Principal Investigator: Flavio R. Zolessi

Current members: Gonzalo Aparicio (PhD student, PEDECIBA), Camila Davison (PhD student, PEDECIBA), Magela Rodao (Master student, PEDECIBA)Lucía Veloz (PhD student, PEDECIBA); Santiago Bosch (Master student, PEDECIBA); Lucía Mustto (undergraduate student); Santiago Licandro (undergraduate student).

Associated researchers and students: Dr. Paola Lepanto (IPMon; former PhD student); Mag. Ileana Sosa (IPMon; former Master student); Mag. Marcela Díaz (Microscopy Unit, IPMon).

Previous members: Dr. Daniel Prieto (IIBCE: former Master student), Dr. Lucía Ruiz (former undergraduate student).



Main recent publications:

Preprint: https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.09.25.314062v3

Lupo G, Piper M, Zolessi FR (2021) Editorial: Context-dependent regulation of neurogenesis: common themes and unique features of the neurogenic process in different model systems. Front. Cell Dev. Biol. 9:678475. doi: 10.3389/fcell.2021.678475.

Zolessi FR, Berois N, Brauer MM, Castillo E (2021) Building the embryo of developmental biology in Uruguay. Intl J Devl Biol 65: 71 - 76. doi: 10.1387/ijdb.200141fz 

Aparicio G, Rodao M, Badano JL, Zolessi FR (2021) Photoreceptor progenitor dynamics in the zebrafish embryo retina and its modulation by primary cilia and N-cadherin. Int. J. Dev. Biol. 65: 439 - 455. 
doi: 10.1387/ijdb.200113fz. Preprint: https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.02.13.947663v1

Lepanto P., Zolessi F.R., Badano J.L. (2019) Studying human genetic variation in zebrafish. En: Cellular and Animal Models in Human Genomics Research (Translational and Applied Genomics Series). Eds.: Walz K, Young JI. San Diego: Elsevier Inc./Academic Press. Pág. 89-117.


Optical section of a zebrafish embryo (3 days), showing part of the retina, 
optic nerve and optic chiasm.  Retinal ganglion cells were labeled both using 
specific antibody (blue) and by transient transgenic GFP expression (yellow)
Camila Davison

Aparicio G, Arruti C, Zolessi FR (2018) MARCKS phosphorylation by PKC strongly impairs cell polarity in the chick neural plate. Genesis, Mar 30. doi: 10.1002/dvg.23104.

Prieto D., Zolessi F.R. (2017) Functional diversification of the four MARCKS family members in zebrafish neural development. J. Exp. Zool. (Mol. Dev. Evol.) 328(1-2):119-138. doi: 10.1002/jez.b.22691.

Lepanto P., Badano J.L., Zolessi F.R. (2016) Neuron’s little helper: the role of primary cilia in neurogenesis. Neurogenesis. 3:1, e1253363. 

Lepanto P., Davison C., Casanova G., Badano J.L., Zolessi F.R. (2016) Characterization of primary cilia during the differentiation of retinal ganglion cells in the zebrafish. Neural Dev. 11(1):10. doi: 10.1186/s13064-016-0064-z. F1000 recommended. 



Zolessi F.R. (2016) Vertebrate neurogenesis: cell polarity (v. 3). Encyclopedia of Life Sciences (Wiley). DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0000826.pub3

Prieto D., Aparicio G., Machado, M., Zolessi F.R. (2015) Application of the DNA-Specific Stain Methyl Green in the Fluorescent Labeling of Embryos. J. Vis. Exp. (99), e52769, doi: 10.3791/52769. Free access to article and video at PMC.


Paolini A, Duchemin AL, Albadri S, Patzel E, Bornhorst D, González Avalos P, Lemke S, Machate A, Brand M, Sel S, Di Donato V, Del Bene F, Zolessi FR, Ramialison M, Poggi L. (2015) Asymmetric inheritance of the apical domain and self-renewal of retinal ganglion cell progenitors depend on Anillin function. Development 142(5): 832-9. doi: 10.1242/dev.118612


Section of a neurulating chick embryo, showing part of the neural plate,
where actin filaments (red) and DNA (cyan) were labeled. Gonzalo Aparicio

Prieto D., Aparicio G., Morande P.E., Zolessi F.R. (2014) A fast, low cost, and highly efficient fluorescent DNA labeling method using methyl green. Histochem Cell Biol 142(3):335-45. doi: 10.​1007/​s00418-014-1215-0

Tinoco L.W., Fraga J.L., AnoBom C.D., Zolessi F.R., Obal G., Toledo A., Pritsch O., Arruti C. (2014) Structural characterization of a neuroblast-specific phosphorylated region of MARCKS. Biochim Biophys Acta 1844(4): 837-849.