Dr Vincenzo Marra

Tel: +44 (0)116 252 3098   Email: vm120@le.ac.uk

Currently looking for two PhD students.  For more details:




Interests and techniques

Neuron-Neuron communication relies largely on action potential-triggered release of synaptic vesicles. For several years action potentials have been described as an all-or-none phenomenon. However, evidence Vincenzo Marra Research page Image 1obtained using modern electrophysiological and imaging techniques have shown that action potentials’ size and shape in the axon can be influenced by the membrane potential at the soma. I am interested in how subtle changes in action potentials affect neurotransmitter release and, as a consequence, communication between neurons. In the central nervous system, the number of vesicles contained in each pre-synaptic terminal can vary from few tens to several hundreds and within the same terminal the probability of each vesicle to be released is not homogeneous. This high degree of variability is a substrate for both homeostatic and activity-dependent plasticity at individual synapses. Using a combination of fluorescence and electron microscopy, it is possible to identify synaptic vesicles which have recently undergone a release cycle. This ultrastructural readout of physiological activity opens up new opportunities to explore the link between morphology and function at the level of a single synaptic terminal in native tissue.

Vincenzo Marra - Research Page Image 6

The study of synaptic transmission requires the use of a number of different techniques, including electrophysiology, live cell imaging and electron microscopy. I am particularly interested in how small variations from the normal functioning of synapses can lead to pathological conditions such as epilepsy.


Rama S., Zbili M., Bialowas A., Fronzaroli-Molinieres L., Ankri N., Carlier E., Marra V., Debanne D. Presynaptic hyperpolatization induces a fast analogue modulation of spike-evoked transmission mediated by axonal sodium channels Nat Commun 2015 Dec 10; 6:10163

Bialowas A., Rama S., Zbili M., Marra V., Fronzaroli-Molinieres L., Ankri N., Carlier E., Debanne D. Analog modulation of spike-evoked transmission in CA3 circuits is determined by axonal Kv1.1 channels in a time-dependent manner Eur J Neurosci 2014 Nov 13; 41(3):293-304

Marra V., Burden J.J., Crawford F., Staras K. Ultrastructural readout of functional synaptic vesicle pools in hippocampal slice based on FM-dye-labelling and photoconversion. Nat Protoc. 2014 May;9(6):1137-47.

Marra V., O'Shea M., Benjamin P.R.*, Kemenes I.* Lapses in memory recall: susceptibility of long-term memory during early stages of memory consolidation. Nat Commun 2013 Mar 12;4:1578.

Marra V., Burden J.J., Thorpe J.R., Smith I., Smith S.L., Häusser M., Branco T., Staras K. A preferentially segregated recycling vesicle pool of limited size supports neurotransmission in native central synapses. Neuron. 2012 Nov 8;76(3):579-89.

Samu D., Marra V., Kemenes I., Crossley M., Kemenes G., Staras K., Nowotny T. Single electrode dynamic clamp with StdpC. J Neurosci Methods. 2012 Aug 14; 211(1):11-21.

Orenbuch A., Shalev L., Marra V., Sinai I., Lavy Y., Kahn J., Burden J.J., Staras K., Gitler D. Synapsin selectively controls the mobility of resting pool vesicles at hippocampal terminals. J Neurosci. 2012 Mar 21; 32(12):3969-80.

Ratnayaka A., Marra V., Bush D., Burden J.J., Branco T., Staras K. Recruitment of resting vesicles into recycling pools supports NMDA-receptor dependent synaptic potentiation in cultured hippocampal neurons. J Physiol. 2012 Apr 1;590(7):1585-97.

Ratnayaka A.*, Marra V.*, Branco T., Staras K. Extrasynaptic vesicle recycling in mature hippocampal neurons. Nat Commun. 2011 Nov 8;2:531. *Joint first author

Kemenes I.*, Marra V.*, Crossley M., Samu D., Staras K., Kemenes G. Nowotny T. Dynamic Clamp with StdpC Software. Nat Protoc. 2011 Feb;6(3):405-17. *Joint first author

Marra V., Kemenes I., Vavoulis D.V., Feng J., O'Shea M., Benjamin P.R. Role of tonic inhibition in associative reward conditioning in Lymnaea. Front Behav Neurosci. 2010 Sep 15;4. pii: 161.

Vavoulis D.V., Nikitin E.S., Kemenes I., Marra V., Feng J., Benjamin P.R., Kemenes G. Balanced plasticity and stability of the electrical properties of a molluscan modulatory interneuron after classical conditioning: a computational study. Front Behav Neurosci. 2010 May 5;4:19.

Staras K., Branco T., Burden J.J., Pozo K., Darcy K., Marra V., Ratnayaka A., Goda Y. A vesicle superpool spans multiple presynaptic terminals in hippocampal neurons. Neuron. 2010 Apr 15;66(1):37-44.

Branco T., Marra V., Staras K. Examining size-strength relationships at hippocampal synapses using an ultrastructural measurement of synaptic release probability. J Struct Biol. 2010 Nov;172(2):203-10.

Nikitin E.S., Vavoulis D.V., Kemenes I., Marra V., Pirger Z., Michel M., Feng J., O'Shea M., Benjamin P.R., Kemenes G. Persistent sodium current is a nonsynaptic substrate for long-term associative memory. Curr Biol. 2008 Aug 26;18(16):1221-6


Lab members


Dr Katharine L Dobson The Wellcome Trust Seed Award in Sciences

Dr Eleonora Vannini

Epilepsy Research UK Pilot Grant

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