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Outstanding Women in Science Seminar Series: Chiara Zurzolo

Chiara Zurzolo, MD PhD, is head of the Membrane Trafficking and Pathogenesis Unit and recently elected head of the Department of Cell Biology and Infection at the Pasteur Institute, Paris, France. Her presentation is entitled: “Role of Tunneling Nanotubes (TNTs) in intercellular spreading of prions and other protein assemblies involved in neurodegenerative diseases”.

In 1995, started her lab as professor of Cell Biology at Naples University Federico II, where she graduated, focusing on protein trafficking and specifically on the mechanisms of apical sorting of GPI-proteins (GPI-AP) in polarized epithelia. In 2003 she moved to the Pasteur Institute where she pioniered studies on the role of protein trafficking in prion diseases. She has made seminal discoveries in both protein trafficking and neurodegeneration. Her group has shown that the mechanism of sorting of GPI-APs (cholesterol dependent oligomerization) in the Golgi of polarized cells controls the protein function at the apical plasma membrane (2008, 2014). They uncovered the intracellular site of prion conversion and showed that prion dissemination occurs by Tunneling Nanotubes, a new mechanisms of direct intercellular communication (2009). She proposes that TNTs are involved in the spreading of different amylodogenic proteins in the brain (2013) and therefore represent a suitable target to halt incurable neurodegenerative diseases.