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Andrea Barberis

Senior Researcher Tenured - Principal Investigator

Research Line

Synaptic Plasticity of Inhibitory Networks


IIT Central Research Labs Genova


Via Morego 30
+39 010 2896 517
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Andrea Barberis graduated in Biology at the University of Genoa in 1996, studying the permeation of heavy metal ions in L-type calcium channels in cerebellar granule cells. From 1998 to 2002 he accomplished his PhD studies at the Department of Biophisics–SISSA International School for Advanced Studies- under the supervision of Enrico Cherubini studying the gating of recombinant and synaptic GABAA receptors. From 2002 to 2003 he collaborated with Enrico Cherubini (SISSA) and Jerzy Mozrzymas (University of Medicine, Poland) studying the variability of the synaptic quantal size in relation to the kinetics of the agonist release in the synaptic cleft in hippocampal cultured neurons. During his post-doc in the Stefano Vicini’s lab at Gergetown University (Washington DC, USA, 2003-2005) he studied the gating properties of different GABAA subtypes by analyzing their single channel behavior in equilibrium and non-equilibrium conditions and he investigated the developmental changes of the GABA transient in the synaptic cleft in cerebellar granule cells. He also partecipated to several projects including the study of the role of pre-synaptic glutamate receptors at GABAergic synapses in cerebellar granule cells and the tonic inhibition in GABA-alpha1 subunit deficient mice. From 2005 to 2007 he had a CNRS post-doc in the Christophe Mulle’s lab (Bordeaux, France) studying the gating properties of kainate receptors.    

Currently, he has a team leader position at Italian Institute of Technology (IIT). Barberis' lab focuses on the study of the GABAergic synapse at high spatial and temporal resolution. His research projects aim to understand the post-synaptc determinants of plasticity at inhibitory synapses. In Barberis’ group, standard electrophysiology is implemented by the use of diffraction limited UV laser uncaging and advanced imaging techniques including single particle tracking.

Andrea Barberis has solid background in neurophysiology and has keen interest in studying the behavior of ionotropic fast ligand gated receptor channels. He contributed optimizing ultra-fast perfusion systems and emphasizing the impact of non-equilibrium conditions activation of GABAA receptors in the GABAergic synaptic transmission.



1)       Study of the biophysic properties of GABAA receptors at GABAergic synapses. This issue is addressed by using UV laser GABA-caged photolysis with high spatial and temporal resolution.

2)       Study of the role of Gephyrin in the plasticity at GABAergic synapses by investigating the lateral mobility of GABAA receptors in cultured hippocampal neurons

3)       Study of the role of the chloride transporter KCC2 in the regulation of GABAAR subtypes expression 




Selected Publications

     Chiu CQ, Barberis A, Higley MJ.Preserving the balance: diverse forms of long-term GABAergic synaptic plasticity. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2019 Mar 5. doi: 10.1038/s41583-019-0141-5.                 Review.


     Maffei A, Charrier C, Caiati MD, Barberis A, Mahadevan V, Woodin MA, Tyagarajan SK. Emerging Mechanisms Underlying Dynamics of GABAergic Synapses. 2017 Nov                                   8;37(45):10792-10799. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1824-17.2017. Review


     Orlando M, Ravasenga T, Petrini EM, Falqui A, Marotta R, Barberis A. Correlating Fluorescence and High-Resolution Scanning Electron Microscopy (HRSEM) for the study of GABAA               receptor clustering induced by inhibitory synaptic plasticity. Sci Rep. 2017 Oct 23;7(1):13768. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-14210-5.


de Luca E, Ravasenga T, Petrini EM, Polenghi A, Nieus T, Guazzi S, Barberis A. Inter-Synaptic Lateral Diffusion of GABAA Receptors Shapes Inhibitory Synaptic Currents. Neuron. 2017 Jul 5;95(1):63-69.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2017.06.022.


Dante S, Petrelli A, Petrini EM, Marotta R, Maccione A, Alabastri A, Quarta A, De Donato F, Ravasenga T, Sathya A, Cingolani R, Proietti Zaccaria R, Berdondini L, Barberis A, Pellegrino T. Selective Targeting of Neurons with Inorganic Nanoparticles: Revealing the Crucial Role of Nanoparticle Surface Charge. ACS Nano. 2017 Jul 25;11(7):6630-6640. doi: 10.1021/acsnano.7b00397. Epub 2017 Jun 23.

Sancataldo G., Scipioni L., Ravasenga T., Lanzano L., Diaspro A., Barberis A., Duocastella M. Three-dimensional multiple-particle tracking with nanometric precision over tunable axial ranges. 2017; Optica, vol. 4, (no. 3), pp. 367-373, 2334-2536 DOI;;

Pennacchietti F., Vascon S., Nieus T., Rosillo C., Sabyasachi D., Tyagarjan S., Diaspro A., Del Bue A., Petrini E. M., Barberis A., Cella Zanacchi F. Nanoscale molecular reorganization of the inhibitory postsynaptic density is a determinant of GABAergic synaptic potentiation. 2017; The Journal of Neuroscience, pp. 0514-0516 DOI 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0514-16.

Antonelli R., De Filippo R., Middei S., Stancheva S. H., Pastore B., Ammassari-Teule M., Barberis A., Cherubini E., Zacchi P. Pin1 Modulates the Synaptic Content of NMDA Receptors via Prolyl-Isomerization of PSD-95, 2016; The Journal of Neuroscience, 1529-2401 DOI 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3124-15.2016

Barberis A., Bacci A. Editorial: Plasticity of GABAergic synapses. 2015; Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, vol. 9, (no. 262), 1662-5102; DOI 10.3389/fncel.2015.00262

Tsushima H., Emanuele M., Polenghi A., Esposito A., Vassalli M., Barberis A., Difato F., Chieregatti E. HDAC6 and RhoA are novel players in Abeta-driven disruption of neuronal polarity; 2014; Nature Communications, vol. 6, pp. 7781, 2041-1723 DOI 10.1038/ncomms8781 

Petrini EM, Barberis A. Diffusion dynamics of synaptic molecules during inhibitory postsynaptic plasticity. Front Cell Neurosci. (2014) Sep 23;8:300. doi: 10.3389/fncel.2014.00300. eCollection 2014. Review.

Petrini EM, Barberis A. Methods for the study of synaptic receptor functional properties. Methods Mol Biol. (2014) 1183:117-41. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-1096-0_7.

Petrini EM, Ravasenga T, Hausrat TJ, Iurilli G, Olcese U, Racine V, Sibarita JB, Jacob TC, Moss, SJ, Benfenati F, Medini P, Kneussel M, and Barberis A (2014) Synaptic recruitment of gephyrin regulates surface GABAA receptors dynamics for the expression of inhibitory LTP, Nat Communications., 2014 Jun 4;5:3921. doi: 10.1038/ncomms4921. 

Frola E, Patrizi A, Goetz T, Medrihan L, Petrini EM, Barberis A, Wulff P, Wisden W, Sassoè-Pognetto M. (2013) Synaptic competition sculpts the development of GABAergic axo-dendritic but not perisomatic synapses.  PLoS One.

Limongi T, Cesca F, Gentile F, Marotta R, Ruffilli R, Barberis A, Dal Maschio M, Petrini EM, Santoriello S, Benfenati F, Di Fabrizio E.  (2013) Nanostructured superhydrophobic substrates trigger the development of 3D neuronal networks. Small.

Succol F, Fiumelli H, Benfenati F, Cancedda L, Barberis A. (2012) Intracellular chloride concentration influences GABAA receptor subunit composition. Nature Communications. Mar 13;3:738. 

Barberis A, Petrini EM, Mozrzymas JW. (2011) Impact of synaptic neurotransmitter concentration time course on the kinetics and pharmacological modulation of inhibitory synaptic currents. Front Cell Neurosci. 2011;5:6

Petrini EM, Nieus T, Ravasenga T, Succol F, Guazzi S, Benfenati F, Barberis  A, (2011). Influence of GABAAR monoliganded states on GABAergic responses. J Neurosci. 2;31(5):1752-61

Benke D, Barberis A, Kopp S, Altmann KH, Schubiger M, Vogt KE, Rudolph U, Möhler H. (2008) GABA(A) receptors as in vivo substrate for the anxiolytic action of valerenic acid, a major constituent of valerian root extracts. Neuropharmacology. 

Barberis A, Sachidhanandam S and Mulle C. (2008) GluR6/KA2 kainate receptors mediate slow deactivating currents J. Neurosci. 28(25):6402-6. 

Mozrzymas JW, Barberis A, Vicini S. (2007)GABAergic currents in RT and VB thalamic nuclei follow kinetic pattern of alpha3- and alpha1-subunit-containing GABAA receptors. Eur J. Neurosci. 26(3):657-65 

Barberis A , Jerzy W. Mozrzymas, Pavel I. Ortinski and Vicini S. (2007) Desensitization and binding properties determine distinct a1 and a3 GABAA receptor-channel kinetic behavior Eur J. Neurosci 26(3):657-65

Ortinski PI, Turner JR, Barberis A, Motamedi G, Yasuda RP, Wolfe BB, Kellar KJ, Vicini S. (2006) Deletion of the GABA(A) receptor alpha1 subunit increases tonic GABA(A) receptor current: a role for GABA uptake transporters. J. Neurosci.6;26(36):9323-31.

Barberis A, Lu C, Vicini S, Mozrzymas JW. (2005) Developmental changes of GABA synaptic transient in cerebellar granule cells. Mol Pharmacol. 67(4):1221-8.

Fiszman ML, Barberis A, Lu C, Fu Z, Erdelyi F, Szabo G, Vicini S. (2005) NMDA receptors increase the size of GABAergic terminals and enhance GABA release. J Neurosci. 23;25(8):2024-31.  

Barberis A, Petrini EM, Cherubini E. (2004) Presynaptic source of quantal size variability at GABAergic synapses in rat hippocampal neurons in culture Eur J Neurosci.  20 (7):1803-10 

Mozrzymas JW, Barberis A. (2004) Changes of GABA(A)receptor activation kinetics in hippocampal neurons cultured for different periods of time. Cell Mol Biol Lett. 9(1):61-7.

Petrini E.M., Zacchi P., Barberis A., Mozrzymas JW., and Cherubini E. (2003). Declusterization of GABAA receptors affects the kinetic properties of GABAergic currents in cultured hippocampal neurons. J. Biol. Chem2;278(18):16271-9 

Mozrzymas JW, Barberis A, Mercik K, Zarnowska ED.  (2003)Binding Sites, Singly Bound States, and Conformation Coupling Shape GABA-Evoked Currents. J. Neurophysiol. 89(2):871-83 

Barberis A, Petrini E. M., Cherubini E, and Mozrzymas J.W. (2002). Allosteric interaction of Zn++ with recombinant a1b2g2 and a1b2 GABAA receptors. Neuropharmacology 43(4):607-18

Barberis A, Cherubini E, and Mozrzymas J.W. (2000). Zinc Inhibits Miniature GABAergic Currents by Allosteric Modulation of GABAA Receptor Gating. J. Neurosci. 20: 8618-8627.

Mozrzymas JW, Barberis A, Michalak K, Cherubini E (1999) Chlorpromazine inhibits miniature GABAergic currents by reducing the binding and by increasing the unbinding rate of GABAA receptors. J. Neurosci.1;19(7):2474-88 

Mozrzymas J.W., Barberis A, Cherubini E (1999) Facilitation of miniature GABAergic currents by chlorpromazine in cultured rat hippocampal cells. Neuroreport 2;10(11):2251  

Usai C, Barberis A, Moccagatta L, Marchetti C (1999) Pathways of cadmium influx in mammalian neurons. J Neurochem. 72(5):2154-61 

Usai C, Barberis A, Moccagatta L, Marchetti C (1997) Pathways of cadmium uptake in excitable mammalian cells: a microspectrofluorimetric study. Eur J Histochem 41 Suppl 2:189-90 





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Accetta e chiudi

I numeri di IIT

L’Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) è una fondazione di diritto privato - cfr. determinazione Corte dei Conti 23/2015 “IIT è una fondazione da inquadrare fra gli organismi di diritto pubblico con la scelta di un modello di organizzazione di diritto privato per rispondere all’esigenza di assicurare procedure più snelle nella selezione non solo nell’ambito nazionale dei collaboratori, scienziati e ricercatori ”.

IIT è sotto la vigilanza del Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Università e della Ricerca e del Ministero dell'Economia e delle Finanze ed è stato istituito con la Legge 326/2003. La Fondazione ha l'obiettivo di promuovere l'eccellenza nella ricerca di base e in quella applicata e di favorire lo sviluppo del sistema economico nazionale. La costruzione dei laboratori iniziata nel 2006 si è conclusa nel 2009.

Lo staff complessivo di IIT conta circa 1440 persone. L’area scientifica è rappresentata da circa l’85% del personale. Il 45% dei ricercatori proviene dall’estero: di questi, il 29% è costituito da stranieri provenienti da oltre 50 Paesi e il 16% da italiani rientrati. Oggi il personale scientifico è composto da circa 60 principal investigators, circa 110 ricercatori e tecnologi di staff, circa 350 post doc, circa 500 studenti di dottorato e borsisti, circa 130 tecnici. Oltre 330 posti su 1400 creati su fondi esterni. Età media 34 anni. 41% donne / 59 % uomini.

Nel 2015 IIT ha ricevuto finanziamenti pubblici per circa 96 milioni di euro (80% del budget), conseguendo fondi esterni per 22 milioni di euro (20% budget) provenienti da 18 progetti europei17 finanziamenti da istituzioni nazionali e internazionali, circa 60 progetti industriali

La produzione di IIT ad oggi vanta circa 6990 pubblicazioni, oltre 130 finanziamenti Europei e 11 ERC, più di 350 domande di brevetto attive, oltre 12 start up costituite e altrettante in fase di lancio. Dal 2009 l’attività scientifica è stata ulteriormente rafforzata con la creazione di dieci centri di ricerca nel territorio nazionale (a Torino, Milano, Trento, Parma, Roma, Pisa, Napoli, Lecce, Ferrara) e internazionale (MIT ed Harvard negli USA) che, unitamente al Laboratorio Centrale di Genova, sviluppano i programmi di ricerca del piano scientifico 2015-2017.

IIT: the numbers

Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) is a public research institute that adopts the organizational model of a private law foundation. IIT is overseen by Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Università e della Ricerca and Ministero dell'Economia e delle Finanze (the Italian Ministries of Education, Economy and Finance).  The Institute was set up according to Italian law 326/2003 with the objective of promoting excellence in basic and applied research andfostering Italy’s economic development. Construction of the Laboratories started in 2006 and finished in 2009.

IIT has an overall staff of about 1,440 people. The scientific staff covers about 85% of the total. Out of 45% of researchers coming from abroad 29% are foreigners coming from more than 50 countries and 16% are returned Italians. The scientific staff currently consists of approximately 60 Principal Investigators110 researchers and technologists350 post-docs and 500 PhD students and grant holders and 130 technicians. External funding has allowed the creation of more than 330 positions . The average age is 34 and the gender balance proportion  is 41% female against 59% male.

In 2015 IIT received 96 million euros in public funding (accounting for 80% of its budget) and obtained 22 million euros in external funding (accounting for 20% of its budget). External funding comes from 18 European Projects, other 17 national and international competitive projects and approximately 60 industrial projects.

So far IIT accounts for: about 6990 publications, more than 130 European grants and 11 ERC grants, more than 350 patents or patent applications12 up start-ups and as many  which are about to be launched. The Institute’s scientific activity has been further strengthened since 2009 with the establishment of 11 research nodes throughout Italy (Torino, Milano, Trento, Parma, Roma, Pisa, Napoli, Lecce, Ferrara) and abroad (MIT and Harvard University, USA), which, along with the Genoa-based Central Lab, implement the research programs included in the 2015-2017 Strategic Plan.