Prof. Neville Vassallo

Prof. Neville Vassallo

Prof. Neville Vassallo


Associate Professor

Room 315
3rd Floor
Centre for Molecular Medicine & Biobank
University of Malta
  +356 2340 3294
  • Protein misfolding disorders
  • Neurodegenerative diseases
  • Protein aggregation
  • Mitochondria
  • Lipid membranes
  • Drug discovery

CAMILLERI, A., GHIO, S., CARUANA, M., WECKBECKER, D., SCHMIDT, F., KAMP, F., LEONOV, A., RYAZANOV, S., GRIESINGER, C., GIESE, A., CAUCHI, R. and VASSALLO, N., 2020. Tau-induced mitochondrial membrane perturbation is dependent upon cardiolipin. Biochimica Biophysica Acta Biomembranes, 1862(2), pp. 183064.

GHIO, S., CAMILLERI, A., CARUANA, M., RUF, V., SCHMIDT, F., LEONOV, A., RYAZANOV, S., GRIESINGER, C., CAUCHI, R., KAMP, F., GIESE, A. and VASSALLO, N., 2019. Cardiolipin Promotes Pore-Forming Activity of Alpha-Synuclein Oligomers in Mitochondrial Membranes. ACS Chemical Neuroscience, 10(8), pp. 3815.

MARTINEZ HERNANDEZ, A., URBANKE, H., GILLMAN, A.L., LEE, J., RYAZANOV, S., AGBEMENYAH, H.Y., BENITO, E., JAIN, G., KAURANI, L., GRIGORIAN, G., LEONOV, A., REZAEI-GHALEH, N., WILKEN, P., ARCE, F.T., WAGNER, J., FUHRMANN, M., CARUANA, M., CAMILLERI, A., VASSALLO, N., ZWECKSTETTER, M., BENZ, R., GIESE, A., SCHNEIDER, A., KORTE, M., LAL, R., GRIESINGER, C., EICHELE, G. and FISCHER, A., 2018. The diphenylpyrazole compound anle138b blocks Abeta channels and rescues disease phenotypes in a mouse model for amyloid pathology. EMBO molecular medicine, 10(1), pp. 32-47.

BRIFFA, M., GHIO, S., NEUNER, J., GAUCI, A.J., CACCIOTTOLO, R., MARCHAL, C., CARUANA, M., CULLIN, C., VASSALLO, N. and CAUCHI, R.J., 2017. Extracts from two ubiquitous Mediterranean plants ameliorate cellular and animal models of neurodegenerative proteinopathies. Neuroscience letters, 638, pp. 12-20.

CARUANA, M., CAUCHI, R. and VASSALLO, N., 2016. Putative Role of Red Wine Polyphenols against Brain Pathology in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease. Frontiers in nutrition, 3, pp. 31.

GHIO, S., KAMP, F., CAUCHI, R., GIESE, A. and VASSALLO, N., 2016. Interaction of alpha-synuclein with biomembranes in Parkinson's disease--role of cardiolipin. Progress in lipid research, 61, pp. 73-82.

CAMILLERI, A. and VASSALLO, N., 2014. The centrality of mitochondria in the pathogenesis and treatment of Parkinson's disease. CNS neuroscience & therapeutics, 20(7), pp. 591-602.

CAMILLERI, A., ZARB, C., CARUANA, M., OSTERMEIER, U., GHIO, S., HOGEN, T., SCHMIDT, F., GIESE, A. and VASSALLO, N., 2013. Mitochondrial membrane permeabilisation by amyloid aggregates and protection by polyphenols. Biochimica et biophysica acta, .

CARUANA, M., NEUNER, J., HOGEN, T., SCHMIDT, F., KAMP, F., SCERRI, C., GIESE, A. and VASSALLO, N., 2012. Polyphenolic compounds are novel protective agents against lipid membrane damage by alpha-synuclein aggregates in vitro. Biochimica et biophysica acta, 1818(11), pp. 2502-2510.

HOGEN, T., LEVIN, J., SCHMIDT, F., CARUANA, M., VASSALLO, N., KRETZSCHMAR, H., BOTZEL, K., KAMP, F. and GIESE, A., 2012. Two different binding modes of alpha-synuclein to lipid vesicles depending on its aggregation state. Biophysical journal, 102(7), pp. 1646-1655.

CARUANA, M., HOGEN, T., LEVIN, J., HILLMER, A., GIESE, A. and VASSALLO, N., 2011. Inhibition and disaggregation of alpha-synuclein oligomers by natural polyphenolic compounds. FEBS letters, 585(8), pp. 1113-1120.

GAUCI, A.J., CARUANA, M., GIESE, A., SCERRI, C. and VASSALLO, N., 2011. Identification of polyphenolic compounds and black tea extract as potent inhibitors of lipid membrane destabilization by Abeta(4)(2) aggregates. Journal of Alzheimer's disease : JAD, 27(4), pp. 767-779.

PRILLER, C., DEWACHTER, I., VASSALLO, N., PALUCH, S., PACE, C., KRETZSCHMAR, H.A., VAN LEUVEN, F. and HERMS, J., 2007. Mutant presenilin 1 alters synaptic transmission in cultured hippocampal neurons. The Journal of biological chemistry, 282(2), pp. 1119-1127.

Research Focus:
Protein misfolding and aggregation are pathognomonic of a large number of age-related degenerative diseases, collectively characterised by the deposition of protein as amyloid fibrils in human tissue. Primary examples of proteinopathies include neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’ disease, Huntington’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and prion disorders, but also non-neurological conditions such as type-2 diabetes mellitus. Particularly interesting is the fact that pre-fibrillar amyloid protein aggregates share common features of cytotoxicity, especially their ability to destabilise the integrity of biological membranes. Since 2008, I have been leading a research group exploring the mechanisms and consequences of the interactions between amyloidogenic proteins and membranes, with a special focus on mitochondrial membranes. To date, we have conducted in vitro biochemical, molecular and cellular (mammalian and yeast cells) studies using recombinant human amyloid-β, α-synuclein, tau, the islet amyloid polypeptide (IAPP) and E.coli HypF-N. Moreover, using the powerful technique of single-channel bilayer electrophysiology, we look at the formation of ion-conducting pores in membrane bilayers by oligomeric assemblies of the amyloid proteins. Another important area of research activity we are involved in is the search for small-molecule compounds, both from natural and synthetic sources, that are able to interfere with the protein aggregation process, antagonise protein-lipid interactions and block pore activity in the membranes.

International Collaborators:
- Prof. Fabrizio Chiti; Department of Experimental and Clinical Biomedical Sciences “Mario Serio,” Section of Biochemistry, Universita` di Firenze, Italy.
- Prof. Dr. Armin Giese; Zentrum für Neuropathologie, Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich, Germany, and CSO of MODAG GmbH, Germany.
- Prof. Christian Griesinger; Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen, Germany.
- Prof. Dr. Jochen Herms; Zentrum für Neuropathologie, Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich, and German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE), Munich, Germany.

Collaborations with Industry:
- Institute of Cellular Pharmacology, Mosta Technopark, Malta.
- MODAG GmBH, Wendelsheim, Germany.

Professional Affiliations:
- Member of the American Physiological Society
- Member of the American Chemical Society
- Member of the European/International Society for Neurochemistry