Enrico Cherubini


Cortical microcircuits




After obtaining the degree in Medicine (1968) and the specialization in Child Neurology (1972) from the University of Roma, Enrico Cherubini spent one year in Marseille, where under the supervision of Prof. H. Gastaut, a leading Figure in the field of Epilepsy, he got l’attestation d’Etude d’Electroencephalographie Clinique.

After 15 years abroad at UCLA (Los Angeles), MIT (Boston) and Paris as Directeur de Recherche INSERM, in 1991 he moved back to Italy as Full Professor of Physiology at the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste where he was head of Biophysics Dept firstly and Neurobiology Dept later. In October 2013 he retired from SISSA and became the Scientific Director of EBRI in Roma.


He was member of the Grant Review Committee of Human Frontiers Science Program (HFSP). He was member of several  National (CNR, MIUR) and International Advisory and Evaluation Committees, including INSERM, CNRS, ANR, Ministere de la Recherche (Francia), European Committees, MRC, Oxford (UK), Riken Institute (Japan), Institut Pasteur in Montevideo (Uruguay). 

From 2011 to 2013 he was President of the Italian Society for Neurosciences.


He is a world recognized expert in synaptic transmission and synaptic plasticity in the developing hippocampus. Over the years he published a series of fundamental studies on the functional role of GABA in sculpting neuronal circuits immediately after birth when this neurotransmitter exerts on his targets a depolarizing and excitatory action.  Changes in GABAergic signaling (from hyperpolarizing to depolarizing) during development have contributed to better understand developmental processes such as cell migration, differentiation and synaptogenesis.

 He is interested to know how alterations of GABAergic signaling influence neuro-developmental disorders including Autism Spectrum Disorders known to affect 1 over 150 children. He supervised the work of many PhD students and Pos Doc fellows. Some of them achieved academic positions in Italy or abroad.


He was recipient of Grants from National (CNR, MIUR, Telethon) and International funding Agencies (ICTP, Novartis, Servier, INTAS, EU, CEI, American Alzheimer Association).


Current funding:

Telethon: (2016-2018) “Impairment of GABAergic signaling and synaptic plasticity as key determinants for neuro-developmental disorders: a study from NL3R451C knock-in mice, an animal model of autism”

Human Brain Project: (HBP, 2014-2018) “The systematic generation of antibodies against Neuroligins and their interaction partners: a proof of concept study”

Regione Lazio: (2015-2016) “Super-resolution Microscopy: a new technology for studying molecular and cellular dynamics in Biomedical Research”


He published more than 250 papers on peer-reviewed International Journals including Nature, Nature Communications, PNAS, EMBO J, J Neurosci, JBC, J Physiol, TINS, etc.

The article on spontaneous GABAA-mediated network oscillations in the immature hippocampus (GDPs, J Physiol 1989) has been recognized as a ”Classical Perspectives article”, among the 10 more cited articles in  J Physiol in the last 60 years (NC Spitzer, J Physiol 588:757-758, 2010).

Total number of citations:  9397; h-index: 47 (Google Scholar)



Selected Publications:

Antonelli R et al. Pin1-dependent signalling negatively affects GABAergic transmission by modulating neuroligin2/gephyrin interaction. Nat. Commun. 5:5066 doi: 10.1038/ncomms6066 (2014).

Caiati MD et al. PrPC controls via PKA the direction of synaptic plasticity in the immature hippocampus. J Neurosci 33:2973-2983 (2013). Highlighted in Nature News doi:10.1038/nature.2013.12428

Cherubini E. GABAergic Signaling at Newborn Mossy Fiber-CA3 Synapses Short- and Long-Term Activity-Dependent Plasticity Processes, In: Rubestain JLR and Rakic P Eds: Comprehensive Developmental Neuroscience, Academic Press, pp. 879-893 (2013).

Pizzarelli R & Cherubini E Alterations of GABAergic signaling in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Neuronal Plasticity, 297153. Epub 2011 Jun 23 (2011).

Sivakumaran S et al. At immature mossy fiber-CA3 synapses correlated pre and postsynaptic activity persistently enhances GABA release and network excitability via BDNF and cAMP-dependent PKA. J. Neurosci.29:2637-2647 (2009).

Mohajerani M et al. Correlated network activity enhances synaptic efficacy via BDNF and the ERK pathway at immature CA3-CA1 connections in the hippocampus. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 104: 13176–13181 (2007).

Safiulina VF et al. Low expression of Kv7/M channels facilitates intrinsic and network bursting in the developing rat hippocampus. J Physiol 586:5437-5453 (2008). See Clinical Perspective: D M Kullmann J Physiol 586: 5281 (2008).

Kasyanov AM et al. GABA-mediated giant depolarizing potentials as coincidence detectors for enhancing synaptic efficacy in the developing hippocampus. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 101: 3967-3972 (2004). Highlighted in PNAS: Spitzer NC 101:5311-5312 (2004).

Maggi L et al. Nicotine activates immature “silent” connections in the developing hippocampus. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 100: 2059-2064 (2003).

Gasparini S et al. Silent synapses in the developing hippocampus: lack of functional AMPA receptors or low probability of glutamate release? Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 97: 9741-9746 (2000).

Cherubini E et al. GABA: an excitatory transmitter in early postnatal life. TINS, 14: 515-519 (1991).

Cherubini E et al. A bee venom peptide induces long term potentiation of synaptic transmission in the hippocampus. Nature 328: 70-73 (1987).

 Ben-Ari Y et al.  Giant synaptic potentials in immature rat CA3 hippocampal neurones.  J Physiol 416: 303-325 (1989).