1994  High School Diploma, Liceo Classico Sperimentale “A. Pigafetta”, Vicenza, Italy

2000  Graduated cum laude in Biological Sciences, University of Padova, Italy 

2004  PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology and Pathology, University of Padova, Italy 

2004-2008 Post-doctoral research activity, Dept. of Biomedical Sciences, University of Padova, Italy 

2005  Short-term EMBO fellowship at the Cancer Research Institute, London

2008 – present: Assistant Professor, General Pathology, University of Padova

Member of the Ph.D. program in Biomedical Sciences, University of Padova

I have been working for several years on a group of snake presynaptic neurotoxins from Elapid snakes endowed with PLA2 activity. Our laboratory has clarified their molecular  mechanism of action by discovering that: i) lysophospholipids and fatty acids are generated at the plasma membrane by the enzymatic activity of these neurotoxins; ii) their action mimicks the activity of the toxins; iii) they induce conformational changes in the lipid bilayer, thus favouring the exocytosis of the ready-to-release pool of vesicles and inhibiting vesicle retrieval; iv) they alter plasma membrane permeability to calcium, with massive calcium influx within nerve terminals. In turn, this triggers nerve degeneration and paralysis of the neuromuscular junction (NMJ). A remarkable aspect is the reversibility of the neuroparalysis: within few days the NMJ recovers functionally both in mice and humans.

I am currently studying the molecular mechanisms underlying peripheral nerve regeneration, focusing on the role of a special class of glial cells, named terminal or peripheral Schwann cells (PSCs). Following damage of the presynaptic nerve terminal, these cells undergo important morphological and functional changes aimed at assisting nerve recovery.  I am investigating the mediators involved in the cross-talk between nerve and PSCs, the signaling pathways activated in PSCs during regeneration and their changes in terms of micro- and mRNAs.

  1. Duregotti E, Negro S, Scorzeto M, Zornetta I, Dickinson BC, Chang CJ, Montecucco C, Rigoni M. Mitochondrial alarmins released by degenerating motor axon terminals activate perisynaptic Schwann cells. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.(2015) 112(5):E497-505. 
  2. Rigoni, M., Paoli, M., Milanesi, E., Caccin, P., Rasola, A., Bernardi, P., and Montecucco, C. (2008) Snake PLA2 neurotoxins enter neurons, bind specifically to mitochondria and open their transition pores. J Biol Chem 283, 34013-34020.
  3. Rigoni, M., Pizzo, P., Schiavo, G., Weston, A.E., Zatti, G., Caccin, P., Rossetto, O., Pozzan, T. and Montecucco, C. (2007) Calcium influx and mitochondrial alterations at synapses exposed to snake neurotoxins or their phospholipid hydrolysis products. J Biol Chem 282, 11238-11245.
  4. Rigoni, M., Caccin, P., Gschmeissner, S. , Rossetto, O., Schiavo, G. and Montecucco, C. (2005) Equivalent effects of snake PLA2 neurotoxins and lysophospholipid-fatty acid mixtures. Science 310, 1678-1680.
  5. Rigoni, M.,  Schiavo, G.,  Weston, A.,  Caccin, P.,  Allegrini, F., Valtorta, F.,  Pennuto, M., Montecucco, C. and Rossetto, O. (2004) Snake presynaptic neurotoxins with phospholipase A2 activity induce punctate swellings of neurites and exocytosis of synaptic vesicles. J Cell Sci 117, 3561-3570.

Complete list of pubblications

Italian Ministry of Health, Young Investigator Grant  

Fondazione Cariparo, PhD fellowship

University of Padova