Marina Melone

Professor of Neurology
Former 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


  • RB and RB2/P130 genes cooperate with extrinsic signals to promote differentiation of rat neural stem cells.

    Publication Date: 01/03/2007 on Molecular and cellular neurosciences
    by Jori FP, Galderisi U, Napolitano MA, Cipollaro M, Cascino A, Giordano A, Melone MA
    DOI: 10.1016/j.mcn.2006.11.009

    Mechanisms governing commitment and differentiation of the cells of the nervous system begin to be elucidated: how extrinsic and intrinsic components are related remains poorly understood. To investigate this issue, we overexpressed genes of the retinoblastoma (Rb) family RB and RB2/p130, which play an important role during nerve cell maturation, in rat neural stem cells (NSCs). Immunostaining of neurons, astrocytes and oligodendrocytes in cultures overexpressing pRb or pRb2/p130 revealed that these genes affect lineage specification of differentiating NSCs. We observed modifications in percentage of differentiated cells indicating a shift towards the phenotype induced by culture conditions. Results were confirmed by detection of the expression levels of differentiation markers by RT-PCR. Analysis of BrdU incorporation and detection of an early marker of apoptosis suggest that the effect of pRb and pRb2/p130 overexpression is not dependent on the inhibition of cell proliferation, nor does it rely on the regulation of cell survival. Our findings suggest that Rb family genes are involved in fate determination of the cells of the nervous system. However, their role seems subsidiary to that of the extrinsic signals that promote lineage specification and appear to be mediated by a direct effect on the acquisition of a specific phenotype.

  • Neurofibromatosis type 1 and optic pathway glioma. A long-term follow-up.

    Publication Date: 01/02/2007 on Minerva pediatrica
    by Lama G, Esposito Salsano M, Grassia C, Calabrese E, Grassia MG, Bismuto R, Melone MA, Russo S, Scuotto A

    Optic pathway gliomas (OPG) are the predominant intracranial tumours associated with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1). The aim of this study was to evaluate the prevalence and the outcome of OPG in 200 NF1 patients (122 males and 78 females, aged 1-25 years) followed up to 16 years (mean of 6 years).

  • Spastic paraplegia with thin corpus callosum: description of 20 new families, refinement of the SPG11 locus, candidate gene analysis and evidence of genetic heterogeneity.

    Publication Date: 01/07/2006 on Neurogenetics
    by Stevanin G, Montagna G, Azzedine H, Valente EM, Durr A, Scarano V, Bouslam N, Cassandrini D, Denora PS, Criscuolo C, Belarbi S, Orlacchio A, Jonveaux P, Silvestri G, Hernandez AM, De Michele G, Tazir M, Mariotti C, Brockmann K, Malandrini A, van der Knapp MS, Neri M, Tonekaboni H, Melone MA, Tessa A, Dotti MT, Tosetti M, Pauri F, Federico A, Casali C, Cruz VT, Loureiro JL, Zara F, Forlani S, Bertini E, Coutinho P, Filla A, Brice A, Santorelli FM
    DOI: 10.1007/s10048-006-0044-2

    We studied 20 Mediterranean families (40 patients) with autosomal recessive hereditary spastic paraplegia and thin corpus callosum (ARHSP-TCC, MIM 604360) to characterize their clinical and genetic features. In six families (17 patients) of Algerian Italian, Moroccan, and Portuguese ancestry, we found data consistent with linkage to the SPG11 locus on chromosome 15q13-15, whereas, in four families (nine patients of Italian, French, and Portuguese ancestry) linkage to the SPG11 locus could firmly be excluded, reinforcing the notion that ARHSP-TCC is genetically heterogeneous. Patients from linked and unlinked families could not be distinguished on the basis of clinical features alone. In SPG11-linked kindred, haplotype reconstruction allowed significant refinement to 6 cM, of the minimal chromosomal interval, but analysis of two genes (MAP1A and SEMA6D) in this region did not identify causative mutations. Our findings suggest that ARHSP-TCC is the most frequent form of ARHSP in Mediterranean countries and that it is particularly frequent in Italy.

  • tBid induces alterations of mitochondrial fatty acid oxidation flux by malonyl-CoA-independent inhibition of carnitine palmitoyltransferase-1.

    Publication Date: 01/06/2005 on Cell death and differentiation
    by Giordano A, Calvani M, Petillo O, Grippo P, Tuccillo F, Melone MA, Bonelli P, Calarco A, Peluso G
    DOI: 10.1038/sj.cdd.4401636

    Recent studies suggest a close relationship between cell metabolism and apoptosis. We have evaluated changes in lipid metabolism on permeabilized hepatocytes treated with truncated Bid (tBid) in the presence of caspase inhibitors and exogenous cytochrome c. The measurement of beta-oxidation flux by labeled palmitate demonstrates that tBid inhibits beta-oxidation, thereby resulting in the accumulation of palmitoyl-coenzyme A (CoA) and depletion of acetyl-carnitine and acylcarnitines, which is pathognomonic for inhibition of carnitine palmitoyltransferase-1 (CPT-1). We also show that tBid decreases CPT-1 activity by a mechanism independent of both malonyl-CoA, the key inhibitory molecule of CPT-1, and Bak and/or Bax, but dependent on cardiolipin decrease. Overexpression of Bcl-2, which is able to interact with CPT-1, counteracts the effects exerted by tBid on beta-oxidation. The unexpected role of tBid in the regulation of lipid beta-oxidation suggests a model in which tBid-induced metabolic decline leads to the accumulation of toxic lipid metabolites such as palmitoyl-CoA, which might become participants in the apoptotic pathway.

  • Autosomal dominant hereditary spastic paraplegia: DHPLC-based mutation analysis of SPG4 reveals eleven novel mutations.

    Publication Date: 01/05/2005 on Human mutation
    by Patrono C, Scarano V, Cricchi F, Melone MA, Chiriaco M, Napolitano A, Malandrini A, De Michele G, Petrozzi L, Giraldi C, Santoro L, Servidei S, Casali C, Filla A, Santorelli FM
    DOI: 10.1002/humu.9340

    We set up a new denaturing high-performance liquid chromatography (DHPLC)-based protocol to screen patients with autosomal dominant hereditary spastic paraplegia (AD-HSP) for mutations in SPG4. Six patients had a complicated form and 49 a pure HSP phenotype. We also analyzed 19 unrelated patients presenting with an HSP phenotype (pure in 17 and complicated in two subjects) but no clear family history, as such patients may be cases of dominant inheritance with low penetrance. The overall frequency of SPG4 mutations in our study of HSP (in which prior linkage data were unavailable) was 32.4%, rising to 46.9% when only pure AD-HSP patients were considered. This figure falls well within the range reported in different populations. Rather as expected, the clinical data available for the patients did not support an easy genotype-phenotype correlation. Moreover, the clinical picture was not influenced by the length of the predicted residual gene product. As well as identifying novel variants in SPG4, this study constitutes the molecular characterization of the largest cohort of Italian AD-HSP patients studied to date. In addition, it provided an efficient, cost-effective, and reliable detection protocol for mutational screening of SPG4, which might facilitate medical genetic counseling.

  • Differential carnitine/acylcarnitine translocase expression defines distinct metabolic signatures in skeletal muscle cells.

    Publication Date: 01/05/2005 on Journal of cellular physiology
    by Peluso G, Petillo O, Margarucci S, Grippo P, Melone MA, Tuccillo F, Calvani M
    DOI: 10.1002/jcp.20239

    Import of acylcarnitine into mitochondrial matrix through carnitine/acylcarnitine-translocase (CACT) is fundamental for lipid catabolism. To probe the effect of CACT down-expression on lipid metabolism in muscle, human myocytes were stably transfected with CACT-antisense construct. In presence of low concentration of palmitate, transfected cells showed decreased palmitate oxidation and acetyl-carnitine content, increased palmitoyl-carnitine level, and reduced insulin-dependent decrease of fatty acylcarnitine-to-fatty acyl-CoA ratio. The augmented palmitoyl-carnitine synthesis, also in the presence of insulin, could be related to an altered regulation of carnitine-palmitoyl-transferase 1 (CPT 1) by malonyl-CoA, whose synthesis is dependent by the availability of cytosolic acetyl-groups. Indeed, all the described effects were completely overcome by CACT neo-expression by recombinant adenovirus vector or by addition of acetyl-carnitine to cultures. Acetyl-carnitine effect was related to an increase of malonyl-CoA and was abolished by down-expression, via antisense RNA strategy, of acetyl-CoA carboxylase-beta, the mitochondrial membrane enzyme involved in the direct CPT 1 inhibition via malonyl-CoA synthesis. Thus, in our experimental model the modulation of CACT expression has consequences for CPT 1 activity, while the biologic effects of acetyl-carnitine are not associated with a generic supply of energy compounds but to the anaplerotic property of the molecule.

  • Molecular pathways involved in neural in vitro differentiation of marrow stromal stem cells.

    Publication Date: 01/03/2005 on Journal of cellular biochemistry
    by Jori FP, Napolitano MA, Melone MA, Cipollaro M, Cascino A, Altucci L, Peluso G, Giordano A, Galderisi U
    DOI: 10.1002/jcb.20315

    In recent years several reports have claimed to demonstrate trans-differentiation, namely that stem cells have been derived from a given tissue and have differentiated into phenotypes characteristic of different tissues following transplantation or in vitro treatment. For example, the mesenchymal stem cells, also referred to as marrow stromal stem cells (MSCs), present in bone marrow, have been induced to differentiate into neurons. We decided to investigate this phenomenon more in depth by a molecular and morphological follow-up. We analyzed the biochemical pathways that are currently induced to trigger neuron-like commitment and maturation of MSCs. Our studies suggest that: (i) the increase in cAMP, induced to differentiate MSCs, activates the classical PKA pathway and not through the exchange protein directly activated by cAMP (EPAC), a guanine nucleotide exchange factor for the small GTPase Rap1 and Rap2; (ii) MEK-ERK signaling could contribute to neural commitment and differentiation; (iii) CaM KII activity seems dispensable for neuron differentiation. On the contrary, its inhibition could contribute to rescuing differentiating cells from death. Our research also indicates that the currently used in vitro differentiation protocols, while they allow the early steps of neural differentiation to take place, are not able to further sustain this process.

  • Huntington's disease: new frontiers for molecular and cell therapy.

    Publication Date: 01/02/2005 on Current drug targets
    by Melone MA, Jori FP, Peluso G

    Huntington's disease (HD) is an incurable, adult-onset, dominantly inherited neurodegenerative disease, caused by a CAG expansion in the 5' coding region of the gene HD [encoding huntingtin (htt), which is ubiquitously expressed in all tissues]. The disease progresses inexorably with devastating clinical effects on motor, cognitive and psychological functions; death occurring approximately 18 years from the time of onset. These clinical symptoms primarily relate to the progressive death of medium-spiny GABA-ergic neurons of the striatum and in the deep layers of the cortex; during the later stages of the disease, the degeneration extends to a variety of brain regions, including the hypothalamus and hippocampus. The mechanism by which mutant htt leads to neuronal cell death and the question of why striatal neurons are targeted both remain to be further investigated. Certainly htt is required for cell survival and impairment of wild-type htt function can be involved in neurodegeneration, but considerable evidence also shows that trinucleotide repeat expansion into glutamine (polyQ domain) endows the protein with a newly acquired toxic activity. The increasing availability of HD animal models have allowed not only to investigate the function of htt, but also to screen and test potential therapeutic drugs in the promising area of neurotherapeutics. So, thorough analysis of these molecular and biochemical events, assessing the validity of candidate mechanisms, provides a means to identify effective therapeutic strategies for cellular repair. Here, the rationale and efficacy of different therapies are compared and alternative therapies are reviewed including intrastriatal transplantation of human fetal striatal tissue to support the cell replacement strategy in HD. Since functional restoration through neuronal replacement probably could be combined with neuroprotective strategies for optimum clinical benefit, in vivo and ex vivo gene therapy for delivery of neuroprotective growth factor molecules are also considered.

  • Identification of seven novel mutations in ABCD1 by a DHPLC-based assay in Italian patients with X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy.

    Publication Date: 01/02/2005 on Human mutation
    by Montagna G, Di Biase A, Cappa M, Melone MA, Piantadosi C, Colabianchi D, Patrono C, Attori L, Cannelli N, Cotrufo R, Salvati S, Santorelli FM
    DOI: 10.1002/humu.9303

    We report the molecular findings in 14 patients (12 families) with X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy (X-ALD, MIM# 300100), a well-defined peroxisomal disorder attributed to mutations in the ABCD1 gene on chromosome Xq28. With the aims of determining the spectrum of mutations and developing an efficient molecular genetic test for analysis of at-risk women whose carrier status is unknown, and to offer molecular confirmation of their status to obligate heterozygotes, regardless of their clinical status, we carried out molecular screening by setting up a denaturing high-performance liquid chromatography (DHPLC)-based protocol. We identified eleven hemizygous base changes in ABCD1, including seven new mutations (c.145underscore;146ins4, c.264C>G, c.919C>T, c.994C>T, c.1027G>A, c.1508T>C, and c.1540A>C, resulting in the p.Pro193fs, p.Cys88Trp, p.Gln307X, p.Gln332X, p.Gly343Ser, p.Leu503Pro, and p.Ser514Arg changes, respectively). Adding new variants to the repertoire of ABCD1 mutations in X-ALD, our data provide an efficient, cost-effective, and reliable DHPLC detection protocol for mutation screening of X-ALD families.

  • RB and RB2/p130 genes demonstrate both specific and overlapping functions during the early steps of in vitro neural differentiation of marrow stromal stem cells.

    Publication Date: 01/01/2005 on Cell death and differentiation
    by Jori FP, Melone MA, Napolitano MA, Cipollaro M, Cascino A, Giordano A, Galderisi U
    DOI: 10.1038/sj.cdd.4401499

    Marrow stromal stem cells (MSCs) are stem-like cells that are currently being tested for their potential use in cell therapy for a number of human diseases. MSCs can differentiate into both mesenchymal and nonmesenchymal lineages. In fact, in addition to bone, cartilage and fat, it has been demonstrated that MSCs are capable of differentiating into neurons and astrocytes. RB and RB2/p130 genes are involved in the differentiation of several systems. For this reason, we evaluated the role of RB and RB2/p130 in the differentiation and apoptosis of MSCs under experimental conditions that allow for MSC differentiation toward the neuron-like phenotype. To this end, we ectopically expressed either RB or RB2/p130 and monitored proliferation, differentiation and apoptosis in rat primary MSC cultures induced to differentiate toward the neuron-like phenotype. Both RB and RB2/P130 decreased cell proliferation rate. In pRb-overexpressing cells, the arrest of cell growth was also observed in the presence of the HDAC-inhibitor TSA, suggesting that its antiproliferative activity does not rely upon the HDAC pathway, while the addition of TSA to pRb2/p130-overexpressing cells relieved growth inhibition. TUNEL reactions and studies on the expression of genes belonging to the Bcl-2 family showed that while RB protected differentiating MSCs from apoptosis, RB2/p130 induced an increase of apoptosis compared to controls. The effects of both RB and RB2/p130 on programmed cell death appeared to be HDAC- independent. Molecular analysis of neural differentiation markers and immunocytochemistry revealed that RB2/p130 contributes mainly to the induction of generic neural properties and RB triggers cholinergic differentiation. Moreover, the differentiation potentials of RB2/p130 and RB appear to rely, at least in part, on the activity of HDACs.