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Federica Maiole

PhD Student Fellow

Research Line

Neuroscience and Smart Materials


NSYN@Unige Genova


Largo Rosanna Benzi 10, 16132, Genova, IT
+39 010 5558 534
+39 010 555 8534
Contact Me


I received my Master degree in Biology in 2014 from Second University of Naples. I received her training in the laboratory of General Pathology at Dept. of Environmental, Biological and Pharmaceutical Sciences and Technologies (DiSTABiF)  and in the dept. of Clinical Genetics at the Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam (NL), under the supervision of Prof. Rob Willemsen.

I joined the PhD program in Neuroscience and Brain Technologies in October 2015 at the IIT, Center for Synaptic Neuroscience (NSYN).


Cell Biology: Cell culture (primary neural culture); Cell Count; Light microscopy and fluorescence microscopy; Immunocytochemistry; Immunohistochemistry; Confocal microscopy; Neuron’s protrusion analysis.

Molecular Biology: Synaptoneurosomes isolation; Isolation and purification of total DNA, RNA and total protein; Western blot; Transfection; Gel Electrophoresis; PCR; Genotyping; Ligation of fragments into plasmid vectors (pGEM-T easy vector); Digestion with restriction enzymes; Synthesis of DIG-labeled RNA probes for ISH; Design of degenerate primers.

Histology: Inclusion in paraffin; inclusion in OCT; use of microtome and cryostat;in situ hybridization; Nissl staining.

Electrophysiology: Biophysical investigation of muscle properties.

In vivo techniques: Handling of animals (mice and octopus); Collecting of organs and autopsy (mice and octopus).

Behavioural test: Mouse automated tube test.


The aim of my PhD project is to study the biophysical, molecular and morphological properties of the Octopus vulgaris muscle hydrostat. In particular, the focus is to decipher how the structure and the mechanical characteristics of each muscle type contribute to the total arm movement.

The main aims can be summarized as follows:

  1. Studying the muscle and connective tissue organization and their interplay along the arm: biophysical implications on muscle performances.

From base to tip: investigation of the arm muscle organization along the arm.

  • 3D organization of muscles and connective tissue in the two muscle type making up the arm bulk: the transverse and the longitudinal muscle layers

My aim is to obtain a 3D reconstruction of the various muscle along the octopus arm.

  • Characterization of the elastic fibers waviness and its contribution to the muscles 3D architecture

The composition in elastic fibers, their arrangement and the contribution of these structures in muscle force generation.

  1. Deciphering physiological properties of the various muscle types in the arm

For this purpose, I’m focusing at investigating the mechanical properties of the whole arm and single muscle type by analyzing the dynamic and elastic components of arm segments in strip of fibers.

  1. Deciphering molecular pathways underlying arm muscle exercise

Arms are able to perform a variety of movements and to accomplish a wide repertoire of tasks based on a different involvement of each muscle type. In order to depict this point I’m studying the involvement and modulation of the mTOR complex pathway in the arm response to exercise and stress. mTOR  is an highly conserved protein involved in sensing of cellular nutrition and energy status and its molecular pathway is related to the muscle resting/stress/exercise state.

  1. Investigate the bases of single muscle cell coordination

Differently from vertebrates, cephalopod body muscles are uninucleated and their innervation pathway seems to favor a localized innervation of a small number of myofibers.

Nonetheless cephalopod and in particular octopus arms are structures endowed of high flexibility and coordination between arm segments. These properties must rely on a precise coordination mechanism acting at the level of muscle cell ensembles or at the level of the arm peripheral nervous system. I wish to investigate:

           4.1            The presence and role of internal calcium store in octopus myofibers.

Studying the DHPR-RyR machinery, I will elucidate the possible involvement of Ca2+ release from the SR in muscle excitation-contraction coupling.

           4.2            The presence, organization and eventually the role of gap junction in myofibers contraction.

Selected Publications

Maiole F, Benfenati F, Zullo L (2017) Physiological and structural properties of the Octopus vulgaris arm hydrostatic muscles. Eur J Transl Myol 27 (4): 184.

Zullo L., Maiole F., Fossati SM,Benfenati F. (2017) Biomechanics of the Octopus arm muscular hydrostat: involvement of mTOR pathway during arm exercise. European Journal of Translational Myology, vol. 27, (no. 1). Abstract Report. 2017.



Maiole F., Nesher N., Hochner B., Benfenati F., Zullo L.

Mechanisms of excitaion-contraction coupling in Octopus vulgaris arm muscle

GRC: Muscle: Excitation contraction coupling, Les Diablerets, Switzerland // June 2017.

Letizia Zullo, Federica Maiole, Sara Maria Fossati N. Nesher, B. Hochner.

Biophysical and structural properties that contribute to the special biomechanics of the octopus arm.

SFN 46th annual meeting, San Diego, CA, USA // November 2016.

Letizia Zullo, Federica Maiole, Sara Maria Fossati.

The Octopus arm: biophysics and molecular mechanisms of muscle function.

MED'16: The 24th Mediterranean Conference on Control andAutomation, Athens, Greece // June 2016.


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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.