PHARMACOLOGY RESEARCH FACULTY
Selected Publications
  • Girotti, M., Donegan, JJ. and Morilak, DA. (2011) Chronic Intermittent Cold Stress Sensitizes Neuro-Immune Reactivity in the Rat Brain. Psychoneuroendocrinology Sep;36(8):1164-74.
  • Bhaskaran, S., Butler, JA., Becerra, S., Fassio V, Girotti, M.. (2011) Breaking Caenorhabditis elegans The Easy Way Using the Balch Homogenizer – An Old Tool For a New Application. Anal Biochem. Jun 15;413(2):123-32
  • Girotti, M., Weinberg, MS. and Spencer, RL. (2009) Diurnal Expression of Functional and Clock-Related Genes in the Rat Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis. System-Wide shifts in Response to Restricted Feeding. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 296(4) E888-97.
  • Weinberg, MS., Bhatt, AP.,Girotti, M., Masini, CV., Day, HE., Campeau, S. and Spencer, RL. (2009) Repeated ferret odor exposure induces different temporal patterns of same-stressor habituation and novel-stressor sensitization in both HPA-axis activity and forebrain c-fos expression in the rat. Endocrinology 150(2):749-61.
  • Tucker, DE., Ghosh, M., Ghomashchi, F., Loper, R., Suram, S., St John, B., Girotti, M., Bollinger, JG., Gelb, MH. and Leslie, CC. (2009) Role of phosphorylation and basic residues in the catalytic domain of cytosolic phospholipase A2alpha in regulating interfacial kinetics and binding and cellular function. J Biol Chem. 284(14) 9596-611.
  • Pace, TW., Gaylord, RI., Jarvis, E., Girotti, M. and Spencer, RL. (2009) Differential glucocorticoid effects on stress-induced gene expression in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus and ACTH secretion in the rat. Stress 12(5): 400-411.
  • Noor, S., Goldfine, H., Tucker, DE., Suram, S., Lenz, L., Akira, S., Uematzu, S., Girotti, M., Bonventre, JV., Breuel, K., Williams, DL. and Leslie, CC. (2008) Activation of cytosolic phospholipase A2 alpha in resident peritoneal macrophages by Listeria monocytogens involves lysteriolysin O and TLR2. J Biol Chem 283(8); 4744-4755.
  • Weinberg, MS., Girotti, M. and Spencer, RL. (2007) Comparison of restraint-induced fra-2 and c-fos expression in the rat forebrain: relationship to stress duration. J Biol Chem 283(8); 4744-4755.
  • Girotti, M.Weinberg, MS. and Spencer, RL. (2007) Differential responses of hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis immediate early genes to corticosterone and circadian drive. Endocriniology 148 (5); 2542-52.
Milena Girotti
 

Milena Girotti

Instructor/Research
Ph.D., Department of Biochemistry
University of Bristol
Bristol, England, U.K.

Office: 210-567-5069
Email: girotti@uthscsa.edu

 
 

Keywords


cytokines, inflammation, stress, HPA axis, mood disorders, interleukin 6

 

Research Summary


I study the role of inflammatory signals in normal brain function and in psychopathology with a specific focus on interleukin 6 (IL-6). This cytokine is involved in the peripheral inflammatory response to pathogens and initiates the fever response. However, it also functions as a growth and proliferation factor under normal, non-inflammatory conditions. IL-6 is not just produced by peripheral immune cells, but it is also present within the central nervous system, in glia (astrocytes and microglia) and in neurons; therefore this cytokine likely has CNS-specific functions, which are presently largely unknown. The hypothalamus is one of the brain areas where IL-6 is particularly abundant and some evidence indicates that IL-6 is involved in the regulation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, the main stress response system of the body. Since abnormal responses of the HPA axis are observed in several psychopathologies that are exacerbated by chronic stress (such as depression, anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder), it is possible that hypothalamic IL-6 expression or its downstream signaling molecules, JAk2/STAT3, are altered in these conditions.

 

Currently we are exploring:

  1. Whether rats that receive chronic stress have altered IL-6 expression and/or STAT3 activation in the hypothalamus.
  2. Whether inhibition of IL-6 signaling within the rat hypothalamus changes the HPA axis response (levels of the stress hormones corticosterone and ACTH) to chronic stress.
  3. The cellular (co-) localization of IL-6 and activated (phosphorylated) STAT3 within the hypothalamus in control and stressed rats.
 

In the future, we will explore the involvement of the IL-6/STAT3 pathway in regulating the function of other stress-related brain areas, such as prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. We will also explore how interventions that either up-regulate or down-regulate this pathway may serve as possible adjuvant therapies to antidepressant or anti-psychotic drugs.


• Accomplishments, Awards and Honors •

NARSAD Young Investigator Grant Award (2013-2015)


• Appointments, Boards, Committees and Memberships •

Member of the American Neuroendocrine Society - current


Member of the Society for Neuroscience - 2004 to present


• Lectures, Posters and Presentations •

Society for Neuroscience Annual Conference - San Diego, CA - Fall 2010
Girotti, M., Donegan, JJ. and Morilak, DA.
Chronic intermittent cold stress alters the profile of pro-inflammatory signals in response to lipopolysaccharide and footshock in the rat hypothalamus (Poster Presentation)


Society for Neuroscience Annual Conference - San Diego, CA - Fall 2010
Donegan, JJ., Girotti, M. and Morilak, DA.
Chronic metabolic stress sensitizes the immune responses to LPS in the rat prefrontal cortex


17th Annual Pharmacology Graduate Student Symposium - San Antonio, TX - Fall 2010
Girotti, M.
Effects of chronic intermittent cold stress on the profile of inflammatory signals following acute immune and non-immune challenges in the rat brain (Oral Presentation)


Neurobiology of Stress Workshop - Boulder, CO. - Summer 2010
Girotti, M., Donegan, JJ. and Morilak DA. Effects of chronic intermittent cold stress on pro-inflammatory signals elicited by acute footshock in the rat hypothalamus (Poster Presentation)


Neurobiology of Stress Workshop - Boulder, CO. - Summer 2010
Donegan, JJ., Girotti, M. and Morilak DA. Chronic intermittent cold stress causes sensitized responses to lipopolysaccharide in the hypothalamus and prefrontal cortex of rats (Poster Presentation)


Society for Neuroscience Annual Conference - Chicago, IL - Fall 2009
Girotti, M., Donegan, JJ., Joshi, A. and Morilak, DA.
Chronic intermittent cold stress alters the profile of inflammatory signals following acute immune and non-immune challenges in the rat hypothalamus (Poster Presentation)


American Neuroendocrine Society Stress Workshop - San Francisco, CA. - Summer 2008
Girotti, M., Janas, A., Canizzaro, T., Weinberg, M. and Spencer, RL.
Effects of acute restraint stress on the expression of the clock genes per1 and bmal in rat paraventricular hypothalamic nucleus (Poster Presentation)


Society for Neuroscience Annual Conference - San Diego, CA. - Fall 2007
Girotti, M., Weinberg, M. and Spencer RL
Effect of restricted feeding on immediate early gene and clock gene expression in the HPA axis and in the medio-ventral hypothalamus (Poster Presentation)