Muscle Contractility And Neuromuscular Plasticity


The neuromuscular system displays a remarkable plasticity throughout the lifespan in its ability to respond and adapt to mechanical stimuli, metabolic demands, environmental challenges both in health and disease. Our research group is dedicated to the study of the mechanism regulating skeletal muscle mass in response to increased loading, unloading and ageing in health and disease and the implications thereof for neuromuscular function.

The experimental work carried out in the research groups is focused on two main research themes:

Muscle contractility of skeletal muscle fibres and their molecular basis:

▸ Analysis of fiber‐type remodelling and fibres ability to undergo adaptive changes (switch in fiber types), in response to physical activity (exercise), inactivity, disuse, disease, aging. Description of molecular composition, functional and biochemical properties of single fibres with particular attention to the myo-fibrillar apparatus and the sarcoplasmic reticulum.

▸ Pathogenic mechanisms in muscular dystrophies: not only DMD and its murine model (mdx mice) but also FSHD and its murine model (FRG1 mice)

Neuromuscular system plasticity:

a) Response to use (physical activity) disuse, ageing and disease with a particular attention to diabetes mellitus and neurodegenerative syndromes. Specific focus is given to the changes in muscle fibre innervation and neuromuscular junction (NMJ) integrity with ageing (sarcopenia) and with inactivity (spaceflight, bed rest, step reduction), and their relation with alterations in muscle morphology and neuromuscular function.

b) Role of skeletal muscle structural remodelling (from whole muscle to the sarcomere) in the loss of muscle force due ageing and disuse and in response to exercise countermeasures


The above research lines are based on the following techniques:

State-of-the-art ultrasound imaging in static and dynamic conditions, including Extended Field of View (panoramic) ultrasound for detailed analysis of muscle architecture.

High density electromyography (HD-EMG) to analyse MU behaviour in vivo and Motor Unit Number Estimation (MUNE) through needle and surface EMG.

NMJ degeneration through the assessment of c-terminal agrin fragment in serum (by Elisa assay)

Muscle fibre denervation/reinnervation based on the presence of N-CAM positive muscle fibres (obtained from biopsies) using light and immunofluorescence microscopy

Generation of new transgenic muscle-specific mouse strains elucidating mechanisms of muscle growth

Analysis of murine muscle function in vivo, ex vivo, and in vitro

Five recent publications

▸ Marabita M, Baraldo M, Solagna F, Ceelen JJM, Sartori R, Nolte H, Nemazanyy I, Pyronnet S, Kruger M, Pende M, Blaauw B. S6K1 is required for increasing skeletal muscle force during hypertrophy, Cell Reports, 2016 Oct 4;17(2):501-513.

▸ Baraldo M, Geremia A, Pirazzini M, Nogara L, Solagna F, Türk C, Nolte H, Romanello V, Megighian A, Boncompagni S, Kruger M, Sandri M, Blaauw B. Skeletal muscle mTORC1 regulates neuromuscular junction stability. Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle, 2020 Feb;11(1):208-225

▸ Quinlan JI, Maganaris CN, Franchi MV, Smith K, Atherton PJ, Szewczyk NJ, Greenhaff PL, Phillips BE, Blackwell JI, Boereboom C, Williams JP, Lund J, Narici MV. Muscle and Tendon Contributions to Reduced Rate of Torque Development in Healthy Older Males. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2018 Mar 14;73(4):539-545.

▸ Pratt J, De Vito G, Narici M, Boreham C. Neuromuscular Junction Aging: A Role for Biomarkers and Exercise. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2020, PMID: 32832976.

▸ Franchi MV, Ruoss S, Valdivieso P, Mitchell KW, Smith K, Atherton PJ, Narici MV, Flück M. Regional regulation of focal adhesion kinase after concentric and eccentric loading is related to remodelling of human skeletal muscle. Acta Physiol (Oxf). 2018 Jul;223(3):e13056.


▸ Telethon




▸ Ricerca Finalizzata