Umberto Galderisi

Professor of Molecular Biology

Name Umberto
Surname Galderisi
Institution Università degli Studi della Campania Luigi Vanvitelli
Telephone +39 081 566 75 85
Address Dept. of Experimental Medicine, Via Luigi De Crecchio 7 – 80138 Napoli, Italy
Umberto Galderisi


  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Stem Cells and DNA Repair Capacity: Muse Stem Cells Are Among the Best Performers.

    Publication Date: 01/01/2018 on Advances in experimental medicine and biology
    by Squillaro T, Alessio N, Di Bernardo G, Özcan S, Peluso G, Galderisi U
    DOI: 10.1007/978-4-431-56847-6_5

    Stem cells persist for long periods in the body and experience many intrinsic and extrinsic stresses. For this reason, they present a powerful and effective DNA repair system in order to properly fix DNA damage and avoid the onset of a degenerative process, such as neoplastic transformation or aging. In this chapter, we compare the DNA repair ability of pluripotent stem cells (ESCs, iPSCs, and Muse cells) and other adult stem cells. We also describe personal investigations showing a robust and effective capacity of Muse cells in sensing and repairing DNA following chemical and physical stress. Muse cells can repair DNA through base and nucleotide excision repair mechanisms, BER and NER, respectively. Furthermore, they present a pronounced capacity in repairing double-strand breaks by the nonhomologous end joining (NHEJ) process. The studies addressing the role of DNA damage repair in the biology of stem cells are of paramount importance for comprehension of their functions and, also, for setting up effective and safe stem cell-based therapy.

  • Deregulation of MicroRNAs mediated control of carnitine cycle in prostate cancer: molecular basis and pathophysiological consequences.

    Publication Date: 26/10/2017 on Oncogene
    by Valentino A, Calarco A, Di Salle A, Finicelli M, Crispi S, Calogero RA, Riccardo F, Sciarra A, Gentilucci A, Galderisi U, Margarucci S, Peluso G
    DOI: 10.1038/onc.2017.216

    Cancer cells reprogram their metabolism to maintain both viability and uncontrolled proliferation. Although an interplay between the genetic, epigenetic and metabolic rewiring in cancer is beginning to emerge, it remains unclear how this metabolic plasticity occurs. Here, we report that in prostate cancer cells (PCCs) microRNAs (miRNAs) greatly contribute to deregulation of mitochondrial fatty acid (FA) oxidation via carnitine system modulation. We provide evidence that the downregulation of hsa-miR-124-3p, hsa-miR-129-5p and hsa-miR-378 induced an increase in both expression and activity of CPT1A, CACT and CrAT in malignant prostate cells. Moreover, the analysis of human prostate cancer and prostate control specimens confirmed the aberrant expression of miR-124-3p, miR-129-5p and miR-378 in primary tumors. Forced expression of the miRNAs mentioned above affected tumorigenic properties, such as proliferation, migration and invasion, in PC3 and LNCaP cells regardless of their hormone sensitivity. CPT1A, CACT and CrAT overexpression allow PCCs to be more prone on FA utilization than normal prostate cells, also in the presence of high pyruvate concentration. Finally, the simultaneous increase of CPT1A, CACT and CrAT is fundamental for PCCs to sustain FA oxidation in the presence of heavy lipid load on prostate cancer mitochondria. Indeed, the downregulation of only one of these proteins reduces PCCs metabolic flexibility with the accumulation of FA-intermediate metabolites in the mitochondria. Together, our data implicate carnitine cycle as a primary regulator of adaptive metabolic reprogramming in PCCs and suggest new potential druggable pathways for prevention and treatment of prostate cancer.

  • Misidentified Human Gene Functions with Mouse Models: The Case of the Retinoblastoma Gene Family in Senescence.

    Publication Date: 01/10/2017 on Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)
    by Alessio N, Capasso S, Ferone A, Di Bernardo G, Cipollaro M, Casale F, Peluso G, Giordano A, Galderisi U
    DOI: 10.1016/j.neo.2017.06.005

    Although mice models rank among the most widely used tools for understanding human genetics, biology, and diseases, differences between orthologous genes among species as close as mammals are possible, particularly in orthologous gene pairs in which one or more paralogous (i.e., duplicated) genes appear in the genomes of the species. Duplicated genes can possess overlapping functions and compensate for each other. The retinoblastoma gene family demonstrates typical composite functionality in its three member genes (i.e., RB1, RB2/P130, and P107), all of which participate in controlling the cell cycle and associated phenomena, including proliferation, quiescence, apoptosis, senescence, and cell differentiation. We analyzed the role of the retinoblastoma gene family in regulating senescence in mice and humans. Silencing experiments with each member of the gene family in mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) and fibroblasts from mouse and human tissues demonstrated that RB1 may be indispensable for senescence in mouse cells, but not in human ones, as an example of species specificity. Furthermore, although RB2/P130 seems to be implicated in maintaining human cell senescence, the function of RB1 within any given species might differ by cell type, as an example of cell specificity. For instance, silencing RB1 in mouse fibroblasts induced a reduced senescence not observed in mouse MSCs. Our findings could be useful as a general paradigm of cautions to take when inferring the role of human genes analyzed in animal studies and when examining the role of the retinoblastoma gene family in detail.

  • Adult-onset brain tumors and neurodegeneration: Are polyphenols protective?

    Publication Date: 08/09/2017 on Journal of cellular physiology
    by Squillaro T, Schettino C, Sampaolo S, Galderisi U, Di Iorio G, Giordano A, Melone MAB
    DOI: 10.1002/jcp.26170

    Aging is a primary risk factor for both neurodegenerative disorders (NDs) and tumors such as adult-onset brain tumors. Since NDs and tumors are severe, disabling, progressive and often incurable conditions, they represent a pressing problem in terms of human suffering and economic costs to the healthcare systems. The current challenge for physicians and researchers is to develop new therapeutic strategies in both areas to improve the patients' quality of life. In addition to genetics and environmental stressors, the increase in cellular oxidative stress as one of the potential common etiologies has been reported for both disorders. Recently, the scientific community has focused on the beneficial effects of dietary antioxidant classes, known as nutraceuticals, such as carotenoids, vitamins, and polyphenols. Among these compounds, polyphenols are considered to be one of the most bioactive agents in neurodegeneration and tumor prevention. Despite the beneficial activity of polyphenols, their poor bioavailability and inefficient delivery systems are the main factors limiting their use in medicine and functional food. The development of polymeric nanoparticle-based delivery systems able to encapsulate and preserve polyphenolic compounds may represent a promising tool to enhance their stability, solubility, and cell membrane permeation. In the present review we provide an overview of the main polyphenolic compounds used for ND and brain tumor prevention and treatment that explores their mechanisms of action, recent clinical findings and principal factors limiting their application in medicine.

  • Irradiation of Mesenchymal Stromal Cells With Low and High Doses of Alpha Particles Induces Senescence and/or Apoptosis.

    Publication Date: 01/09/2017 on Journal of cellular biochemistry
    by Alessio N, Esposito G, Galano G, De Rosa R, Anello P, Peluso G, Tabocchini MA, Galderisi U
    DOI: 10.1002/jcb.25961

    The use of high-linear energy transfer charged particles is gaining attention as a medical tool because of the emission of radiations with an efficient cell-killing ability. Considerable interest has developed in the use of targeted alpha-particle therapy for the treatment of micrometastases. Moreover, the use of helium beams is gaining momentum, especially for treating pediatric tumors. We analyzed the effects of alpha particles on bone marrow mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs), which have a subpopulation of stem cells capable of generating adipocytes, chondrocytes, and osteocytes. Further, these cells contribute toward maintenance of homeostasis in the body. MSCs were irradiated with low and high doses of alpha particles or X-rays and a comparative biological analysis was performed. At a low dose (40 mGy), alpha particles exhibited a limited negative effect on the biology of MSCs compared with X-rays. No significant perturbation of cell cycle was observed, and a minimal increase in apoptosis or senescence was detected. Self-renewal was preserved as revealed by the CFU assay. On the contrary, with 2000 mGy alpha particles, we observed adverse effects on the vitality, functionality, and stemness of MSCs. These results are the consequence of different proportion of cells targeted by alpha particles or X-rays and the quality of induced DNA damage. The present study suggests that radiotherapy with alpha particles may spare healthy stem cells more efficaciously than X-ray treatments, an observation that should be taken into consideration by physicians while planning irradiation of tumor areas close to stem cell niches, such as bone marrow. J. Cell. Biochem. 118: 2993-3002, 2017. © 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

  • Patients with bicuspid and tricuspid aortic valve exhibit distinct regional microrna signatures in mildly dilated ascending aorta.

    Publication Date: 01/06/2017 on Heart and vessels
    by Albinsson S, Della Corte A, Alajbegovic A, Krawczyk KK, Bancone C, Galderisi U, Cipollaro M, De Feo M, Forte A
    DOI: 10.1007/s00380-016-0942-7

    MicroRNAs are able to modulate gene expression in a range of diseases. We focused on microRNAs as potential contributors to the pathogenesis of ascending aorta (AA) dilatation in patients with stenotic tricuspid (TAV) or bicuspid aortic valve (BAV). Aortic specimens were collected from the 'concavity' and the 'convexity' of mildly dilated AAs and of normal AAs from heart transplant donors. Aortic RNA was analyzed through PCR arrays, profiling the expression of 84 microRNAs involved in cardiovascular disease. An in silico analysis identified the potential microRNA-mRNA interactions and the enriched KEGG pathways potentially affected by microRNA changes in dilated AAs. Distinct signatures of differentially expressed microRNAs are evident in TAV and BAV patients vs. donors, as well as differences between aortic concavity and convexity in patients only. MicroRNA changes suggest a switch of SMC phenotype, with particular reference to TAV concavity. MicroRNA changes potentially affecting mechanotransduction pathways exhibit a higher prevalence in BAV convexity and in TAV concavity, with particular reference to TGF-β1, Hippo, and PI3K/Akt/FoxO pathways. Actin cytoskeleton emerges as potentially affected by microRNA changes in BAV convexity only. MicroRNAs could play distinct roles in BAV and TAV aortopathy, with possible implications in diagnosis and therapy.

  • Alterations in the carnitine cycle in a mouse model of Rett syndrome.

    Publication Date: 02/02/2017 on Scientific reports
    by Mucerino S, Di Salle A, Alessio N, Margarucci S, Nicolai R, Melone MA, Galderisi U, Peluso G
    DOI: 10.1038/srep41824

    Rett syndrome (RTT) is a neurodevelopmental disease that leads to intellectual deficit, motor disability, epilepsy and increased risk of sudden death. Although in up to 95% of cases this disease is caused by de novo loss-of-function mutations in the X-linked methyl-CpG binding protein 2 gene, it is a multisystem disease associated also with mitochondrial metabolic imbalance. In addition, the presence of long QT intervals (LQT) on the patients' electrocardiograms has been associated with the development of ventricular tachyarrhythmias and sudden death. In the attempt to shed light on the mechanism underlying heart failure in RTT, we investigated the contribution of the carnitine cycle to the onset of mitochondrial dysfunction in the cardiac tissues of two subgroups of RTT mice, namely Mecp2(+/-) NQTc and Mecp2(+/-) LQTc mice, that have a normal and an LQT interval, respectively. We found that carnitine palmitoyltransferase 1 A/B and carnitine acylcarnitine translocase were significantly upregulated at mRNA and protein level in the heart of Mecp2(+/-) mice. Moreover, the carnitine system was imbalanced in Mecp2(+/-) LQTc mice due to decreased carnitine acylcarnitine transferase expression. By causing accumulation of intramitochondrial acylcarnitines, this imbalance exacerbated incomplete fatty acid oxidation, which, in turn, could contribute to mitochondrial overload and sudden death.