Marina Melone

Professor of Neurology
Director of the CIRN

Name Marina
Surname Melone
Institution Università degli Studi della Campania Luigi Vanvitelli
Telephone +39 081 566 6810
Mobile +39 333 956 6365
Address Department of Medical, Surgical, Neurological, Metabolic Sciences, and Aging, 2nd Division of Neurology, Center for Rare Diseases, University of Campania "Luigi Vanvitelli", Napoli, Italy
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Marina Melone


  • Mesenchymal stromal cells from amniotic fluid are less prone to senescence compared to those obtained from bone marrow: An in vitro study.

    Publication Date: 15/06/2018 on Journal of cellular physiology
    by Alessio N, Pipino C, Mandatori D, Di Tomo P, Ferone A, Marchiso M, Melone MAB, Peluso G, Pandolfi A, Galderisi U
    DOI: 10.1002/jcp.26845

    Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) are considered to be an excellent source in regenerative medicine. They contain several cell subtypes, including multipotent stem cells. MSCs are of particular interest as they are currently being tested using cell and gene therapies for a number of human diseases. They represent a rare population in tissues; for this reason, they require, before being transplanted, an in vitro amplification. This process may induce replicative senescence, thus affecting differentiation and proliferative capacities. Increasing evidence suggests that MSCs from fetal tissues are significantly more plastic and grow faster than MSCs from bone marrow. Here, we compare amniotic fluid mesenchymal stromal cells (AF-MSCs) and bone marrow mesenchymal stromal cells (BM-MSCs) in terms of cell proliferation, surface markers, multidifferentiation potential, senescence, and DNA repair capacity. Our study shows that AF-MSCs are less prone to senescence with respect to BM-MSCs. Moreover, both cell models activate the same repair system after DNA damage, but AF-MSCs are able to return to the basal condition more efficiently with respect to BM-MSCs. Indeed, AF-MSCs are better able to cope with genotoxic stress that may occur either during in vitro cultivation or following transplantation in patients. Our findings suggest that AF-MSCs may represent a valid alternative to BM-MSCs in regenerative medicine, and, of great relevance, the investigation of the mechanisms involved in DNA repair capacity of both AF-MSCs and BM-MSCs may pave the way to their rational use in the medical field.

  • Nano-delivery systems for encapsulation of dietary polyphenols: an experimental approach for neurodegenerative diseases and brain tumors.

    Publication Date: 24/05/2018 on Biochemical pharmacology
    by Squillaro T, Cimini A, Peluso G, Giordano A, Melone M
    DOI: 10.1016/j.bcp.2018.05.016

    Neurodegenerative diseases (NDs) and brain tumors are severe, disabling, and incurable disorders that represent a critical problem regarding human suffering and the economic burden on the healthcare system. Because of the lack of effective therapies to treat NDs and brain tumors, the challenge for physicians is to discover new drugs to improve their patients' quality of life. In addition to risk factors such as genetics and environmental influences, increased cellular oxidative stress has been reported as one of the potential common etiologies in both disorders. Given their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory potential, dietary polyphenols are considered to be one of the most bioactive natural agents in chronic disease prevention and treatment. Despite the protective activity of polyphenols, their inefficient delivery systems and poor bioavailability strongly limit their use in medicine and functional food. A potential solution lies in polymeric nanoparticle-based polyphenol delivery systems that are able to enhance their absorption across the gastrointestinal tract, improve their bioavailability, and transport them to target organs. In the present manuscript, we provide an overview of the primary polyphenols used for ND and brain tumor prevention and treatment by focusing on recent findings, the principal factors limiting their application in clinical practice, and a promising delivery strategy to improve their bioavailability.

  • Targeted therapy of human glioblastoma via delivery of a toxin through a peptide directed to cell surface nucleolin.

    Publication Date: 01/05/2018 on Journal of cellular physiology
    by Dhez AC, Benedetti E, Antonosante A, Panella G, Ranieri B, Florio TM, Cristiano L, Angelucci F, Giansanti F, Di Leandro L, d'Angelo M, Melone M, De Cola A, Federici L, Galzio R, Cascone I, Raineri F, Cimini A, Courty J, Giordano A, Ippoliti R
    DOI: 10.1002/jcp.26205

    Targeted anticancer therapies demand discovery of new cellular targets to be exploited for the delivery of toxic molecules and drugs. In this perspective, in the last few years, nucleolin has been identified as an interesting surface marker to be used for the therapy of glioblastoma. In this study, we investigated whether a synthetic antagonist of cell-surface nucleolin known as N6L, previously reported to decrease both tumor growth and tumor angiogenesis in several cancer cell lines, including glioblastoma cells, as well as endothelial cells proliferation, could be exploited to deliver a protein toxin (saporin) to glioblastoma cells. The pseudopeptide N6L cross-linked to saporin-S6 induced internalization of the toxin inside glioblastoma cancer cells. Our results in vitro demonstrated the effectiveness of this conjugate in inducing cell death, with an ID four orders of magnitude lower than that observed for free N6L. Furthermore, the preliminary in vivo study demonstrated efficiency in reducing the tumor mass in an orthotopic mouse model of glioblastoma.

  • Stress and stem cells: adult Muse cells tolerate extensive genotoxic stimuli better than mesenchymal stromal cells.

    Publication Date: 10/04/2018 on Oncotarget
    by Alessio N, Squillaro T, Özcan S, Di Bernardo G, Venditti M, Melone M, Peluso G, Galderisi U
    DOI: 10.18632/oncotarget.25039

    Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) are not a homogenous population but comprehend several cell types, such as stem cells, progenitor cells, fibroblasts, and other types of cells. Among these is a population of pluripotent stem cells, which represent around 1-3% of MSCs. These cells, named multilineage-differentiating stress enduring (Muse) cells, are stress-tolerant cells. Stem cells may undergo several rounds of intrinsic and extrinsic stresses due to their long life and must have a robust and effective DNA damage checkpoint and DNA repair mechanism, which, following a genotoxic episode, promote the complete recovery of cells rather than triggering senescence and/or apoptosis. We evaluated how Muse cells can cope with DNA damaging stress in comparison with MSCs. We found that Muse cells were resistant to chemical and physical genotoxic stresses better than non-Muse cells. Indeed, the level of senescence and apoptosis was lower in Muse cells. Our results proved that the DNA damage repair system (DDR) was properly activated following injury in Muse cells. While in non-Muse cells some anomalies may have occurred because, in some cases, the activation of the DDR persisted by 48 hr post damage, in others no activation took place. In Muse cells, the non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) enzymatic activity increases compared to other cells, while single-strand repair activity (NER, BER) does not. In conclusion, the high ability of Muse cells to cope with genotoxic stress is related to their quick and efficient sensing of DNA damage and activation of DNA repair systems.

  • Neurofibromatous neuropathy: An ultrastructural study.

    Publication Date: 27/03/2018 on Ultrastructural pathology
    by Terracciano C, Pachatz C, Rastelli E, Pastore FS, Melone MAB, Massa R
    DOI: 10.1080/01913123.2018.1454562

    Plexiform neurofibroma is pathognomonic of neurofibromatosis 1 (NF1). An NF1-associated peripheral neuropathy has been described in a small minority of NF1 patients but its histopathological features are poorly characterized. We report the case of a 46-year-old woman presenting with bilateral supraclavicular painful masses without other stigmata of NF1. MRI showed bilateral plexiform lesions extending from cervical roots to the elbows. Nerve conduction studies documented a sensory motor polyneuropathy. Morphometric analysis of sural nerve biopsy showed a preferential loss of large-caliber myelinated fibers with a g ratio of 0.515, and the presence of regeneration clusters. By electron microscopy, marked and diffuse endoneurial fibrosis with an altered relationship between Schwann cells (SC) and collagen fibrils was observed. Moreover both myelinating and non-myelinating SC were characterized by the presence of various cell degradation products. These changes suggest that, in neurofibromatous neuropathy, a widespread axonal atrophy and degeneration take place independently on the presence of tumoral infiltration, possibly due to an impairment in SC-axon cross talk. In this case, the coexistence of plexiform neurofibromas with a peripheral neuropathy strongly suggests a diagnosis of NF1 even without fulfillment of clinical criteria. We propose that in the presence of plexiform neurofibromas, electrophysiological studies should be performed also in asymptomatic patients, in order to detect the existence of a subclinical neuropathy.

  • The role of enhancer of zeste homolog 2: From viral epigenetics to the carcinogenesis of hepatocellular carcinoma.

    Publication Date: 25/03/2018 on Journal of cellular physiology
    by Sanna L, Marchesi I, Melone MAB, Bagella L
    DOI: 10.1002/jcp.26545

    Nowadays, epigenetics covers a crucial role in different fields of science. The enhancer of zeste homolog 2 (EZH2), the catalytic subunit of the Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 (PRC2), is a big proponent of how epigenetic changes can affect the initiation and progression of several diseases. Through its catalytic activity, responsible for the tri-methylation of lysine 27 of the histone H3 (H3K27me3), EZH2 is a good target for both diagnosis and therapy of different pathologies. A large number of studies have demonstrated its crucial role in cancer initiation and progression. Nevertheless, only recently its function in virus diseases has been uncovered; therefore, EZH2 can be an important promoter of viral carcinogenesis. This review explores the role of EZH2 in viral epigenetics based on recent progress that demonstrated the role of this protein in virus environment. In particular, the review focuses on EZH2 behavior in Hepatitis B Virus, analyzing its role in the rise of Hepatocellular Carcinoma.

  • Neural stem cells from a mouse model of Rett syndrome are prone to senescence, show reduced capacity to cope with genotoxic stress, and are impaired in the differentiation process.

    Publication Date: 22/03/2018 on Experimental & molecular medicine
    by Alessio N, Riccitiello F, Squillaro T, Capasso S, Del Gaudio S, Di Bernardo G, Cipollaro M, Melone MAB, Peluso G, Galderisi U
    DOI: 10.1038/s12276-017-0005-x

    Several aspects of stem cell life are governed by epigenetic variations, such as DNA methylation, histone modifications, and chromatin remodeling. Epigenetic events are also connected with the impairment of stem cell functions. For example, during senescence, there are significant changes in chromatin organization that alter transcription. The MECP2 protein can bind methylated cytosines and contribute to regulating gene expression at one of the highest hierarchical levels. Researchers are particularly interested in this protein, as up to 90% of Rett syndrome patients have an MECP2 gene mutation. Nevertheless, the role of MECP2 in this disease remains poorly understood. We used a mouse model of Rett syndrome to evaluate whether residual MECP2 activity in neural stem cells (NSCs) induced the senescence phenomena that could affect stem cell function. Our study clearly demonstrated that the reduced expression of MECP2 is connected with an increase in senescence, an impairment in proliferation capacity, and an accumulation of unrepaired DNA foci. Mecp2 NSCs did not cope with genotoxic stress in the same way as the control cells did. Indeed, after treatment with different DNA-damaging agents, the NSCs from mice with mutated Mecp2 accumulated more DNA damage foci (γ-H2AX+) and were more prone to cell death than the controls. Senescence in Mecp2 NSCs decreased the number of stem cells and progenitors and gave rise to a high percentage of cells that expressed neither stem/progenitor nor differentiation markers. These cells could be senescent and dysfunctional.

  • Huntingtin protein: A new option for fixing the Huntington's disease countdown clock.

    Publication Date: 08/03/2018 on Neuropharmacology
    by Caterino M, Squillaro T, Montesarchio D, Giordano A, Giancola C, Melone MAB
    DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2018.03.009

    Huntington's disease is a dreadful, incurable disorder. It springs from the autosomal dominant mutation in the first exon of the HTT gene, which encodes for the huntingtin protein (HTT) and results in progressive neurodegeneration. Thus far, all the attempted approaches to tackle the mutant HTT-induced toxicity causing this disease have failed. The mutant protein comes with the aberrantly expanded poly-glutamine tract. It is primarily to blame for the build-up of β-amyloid-like HTT aggregates, deleterious once broadened beyond the critical ∼35-37 repeats threshold. Recent experimental findings have provided valuable information on the molecular basis underlying this HTT-driven neurodegeneration. These findings indicate that the poly-glutamine siding regions and many post-translation modifications either abet or counter the poly-glutamine tract. This review provides an overall, up-to-date insight into HTT biophysics and structural biology, particularly discussing novel pharmacological options to specifically target the mutated protein and thus inhibit its functions and toxicity.

  • Successful long-term therapy with flecainide in a family with paramyotonia congenita.

    Publication Date: 27/02/2018 on Journal of neurology, neurosurgery, and psychiatry
    by Terracciano C, Farina O, Esposito T, Lombardi L, Napolitano F, De Blasiis P, Ciccone G, Todisco V, Tuccillo F, Bernardini S, Di Iorio G, Melone MAB, Sampaolo S
    DOI: 10.1136/jnnp-2017-317615
  • The carnitine system and cancer metabolic plasticity.

    Publication Date: 14/02/2018 on Cell death & disease
    by Melone MAB, Valentino A, Margarucci S, Galderisi U, Giordano A, Peluso G
    DOI: 10.1038/s41419-018-0313-7

    Metabolic flexibility describes the ability of cells to respond or adapt its metabolism to support and enable rapid proliferation, continuous growth, and survival in hostile conditions. This dynamic character of the cellular metabolic network appears enhanced in cancer cells, in order to increase the adaptive phenotype and to maintain both viability and uncontrolled proliferation. Cancer cells can reprogram their metabolism to satisfy the energy as well as the biosynthetic intermediate request and to preserve their integrity from the harsh and hypoxic environment. Although several studies now recognize these reprogrammed activities as hallmarks of cancer, it remains unclear which are the pathways involved in regulating metabolic plasticity. Recent findings have suggested that carnitine system (CS) could be considered as a gridlock to finely trigger the metabolic flexibility of cancer cells. Indeed, the components of this system are involved in the bi-directional transport of acyl moieties from cytosol to mitochondria and vice versa, thus playing a fundamental role in tuning the switch between the glucose and fatty acid metabolism. Therefore, the CS regulation, at both enzymatic and epigenetic levels, plays a pivotal role in tumors, suggesting new druggable pathways for prevention and treatment of human cancer.