Vincent Torre

Italian Institute of Technology (IIT), Genova, Liguria, Italy

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Publications (200)618.86 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Polymerization of actin filaments is the primary source of motility in lamellipodia and it is controlled by a variety of regulatory proteins. The underlying molecular mechanisms are only partially understood and a precise determination of dynamical properties of force generation is necessary. Using optical tweezers, we have measured with millisecond (ms) temporal resolution and picoNewton (pN) sensitivity the force-velocity (Fv) relationship and the power dissipated by lamellipodia of dorsal root ganglia neurons. When force and velocity are averaged over 3–5 s, the Fv relationships can be flat. On a finer timescale, random occurrence of fast growth and subsecond retractions become predominant. The maximal power dissipated by lamellipodia over a silica bead with a diameter of 1 mm is 10�16 W. Our results clarify the dynamical properties of force generation: i), force generation is a probabilistic process; ii), underlying biological events have a bandwidth up to at least 10 Hz; and iii), fast growth of lamellipodia leading edge alternates with local retractions.
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    ABSTRACT: In cyclic nucleotide-gated (CNGA1) channels, in the presence of symmetrical ionic conditions, current-voltage (I-V) relationship depends, in a complex way, on the radius of permeating ion. It has been suggested that both the pore and S4 helix contribute to the observed rectification. In the present manuscript, using tail and gating current measurements from homotetrameric CNGA1 channels expressed in Xenopus oocytes, we clarify and quantify the role of the pore and of the S4 helix. We show that in symmetrical Rb(+) and Cs(+) single-channel current rectification dominates macroscopic currents while voltage-dependent gating becomes larger in symmetrical ethylammonium and dimethylammonium, where the open probability strongly depends on voltage. Isochronal tail currents analysis in dimethylammonium shows that at least two voltage-dependent transitions underlie the observed rectification. Only the first voltage-dependent transition is sensible to mutation of charge residues in the S4 helix. Moreover, analysis of tail and gating currents indicates that the number of elementary charges per channel moving across the membrane is less than 2, when they are about 12 in K(+) channels. These results indicate the existence of distinct mechanisms underlying rectification in CNG channels. A restricted motion of the S4 helix together with an inefficient coupling to the channel gate render CNGA1 channels poorly sensitive to voltage in the presence of physiological Na(+) and K(+).
    Physiological reports. 11/2013; 1(6):e00148.
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    ABSTRACT: Using the newly developed voltage-sensitive dye VF2.1.Cl, we monitored simultaneously the spontaneous electrical activity of ∼80 neurons in a leech ganglion, representing around 20% of the entire neuronal population. Neurons imaged on the ventral surface of the ganglion either fired spikes regularly at a rate of 1-5 Hz or fired sparse spikes irregularly. In contrast, neurons imaged on the dorsal surface, fired spikes in bursts involving several neurons. The overall degree of correlated electrical activity among leech neurons was limited in control conditions but increased in the presence of the neuromodulator serotonin. The spontaneous electrical activity in a leech ganglion is segregated in three main groups: neurons comprising Retzius cells, Anterior Pagoda, and Annulus Erector motoneurons firing almost periodically, a group of neurons firing sparsely and randomly, and a group of neurons firing bursts of spikes of varying durations. These three groups interact and influence each other only weakly.
    Physiological reports. 10/2013; 1(5):e00089.
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    ABSTRACT: The ability to control the differentiation of stem cells into specific neuronal types has a tremendous potential for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. In vitro neuronal differentiation can be guided by the interplay of biochemical and biophysical cues. Different strategies to increase the differentiation yield have been proposed, focusing everything on substrate topography, or, alternatively on substrate stiffness. Both strategies demonstrated an improvement of the cellular response. However it was often impossible to separate the topographical and the mechanical contributions. Here we investigate the role of the mechanical properties of nanostructured substrates, aiming at understanding the ultimate parameters which govern the stem cell differentiation. To this purpose a set of different substrates with controlled stiffness and with or without nanopatterning are used for stem cell differentiation. Our results show that the neuronal differentiation yield depends mainly on the substrate mechanical properties while the geometry plays a minor role. In particular nanostructured and flat PDMS substrates with comparable stiffness show the same neuronal yield. The improvement in the differentiation yield obtained through surface nanopatterning in the submicrometer scale could be explained as a consequence of a substrate softening effect. Finally we investigate by single cell force spectroscopy the neuronal precursor adhesion on the substrate immediately after seeding, as a possible critical step governing the neuronal differentiation efficiency. We observed that neuronal precursor adhesion depends on substrate stiffness but not on surface structure, and in particular it is higher on softer substrates. Our results suggest that cell-substrate adhesion forces and mechanical response are the key parameters to be considered for substrate design in neuronal regenerative medicine. Biotechnol. Bioeng. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    Biotechnology and Bioengineering 02/2013; · 4.16 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The present manuscript aims at identifying patterns of electrical activity recorded from neurons of the leech nervous system, characterizing specific behaviors. When leeches are at rest, the electrical activity of neurons and motoneurons is poorly correlated. When leeches move their head and/or tail, in contrast, action potential (AP) firing becomes highly correlated. When the head or tail suckers detach, specific patterns of electrical activity are detected. During elongation and contraction the electrical activity of motoneurons in the Medial Anterior and Dorsal Posterior nerves increase, respectively, and several motoneurons are activated both during elongation and contraction. During crawling, swimming, and pseudo-swimming patterns of electrical activity are better described by the dendrograms of cross-correlations of motoneurons pairs. Dendrograms obtained from different animals exhibiting the same behavior are similar and by averaging these dendrograms we obtained a template underlying a given behavior. By using this template, the corresponding behavior is reliably identified from the recorded electrical activity. The analysis of dendrograms during different leech behavior reveals the fine orchestration of motoneurons firing specific to each stereotyped behavior. Therefore, dendrograms capture the subtle changes in the correlation pattern of neuronal networks when they become involved in different tasks or functions.
    Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience 01/2013; 7:69.
  • Biophysical Journal 01/2013; 104(2):477-. · 3.67 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Mechanical properties such as force generation are fundamental for neuronal motility, development and regeneration. We used optical tweezers to compare the force exerted by growth cones (GCs) of neurons from the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS), such as Dorsal Root Ganglia (DRG) neurons, and from the Central Nervous System (CNS) such as hippocampal neurons. Developing GCs from dissociated DRG and hippocampal neurons were obtained from P1-P2 and P10-P12 rats. Comparing their morphology, we observed that the area of GCs of hippocampal neurons was 8-10 µm(2) and did not vary between P1-P2 and P10-P12 rats, but GCs of DRG neurons were larger and their area increased from P1-P2 to P10-P12 by 2-4 times. The force exerted by DRG filopodia was in the order of 1-2 pN and never exceeded 5 pN, while hippocampal filopodia exerted a larger force, often in the order of 5 pN. Hippocampal and DRG lamellipodia exerted lateral forces up to 20 pN, but lamellipodia of DRG neurons could exert a vertical force larger than that of hippocampal neurons. Force-velocity relationships (Fv) in both types of neurons had the same qualitative behaviour, consistent with a common autocatalytic model of force generation. These results indicate that molecular mechanisms of force generation of GC from CNS and PNS neurons are similar but the amplitude of generated force is influenced by their cytoskeletal properties.
    PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(8):e73025. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Guidance molecules, such as Sema3A or Netrin-1, can induce growth cone (GC) repulsion or attraction in the presence of a flat surface, but very little is known of the action of guidance molecules in the presence of obstacles. Therefore we combined chemical and mechanical cues by applying a steady Netrin-1 stream to the GCs of dissociated hippocampal neurons plated on polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) surfaces patterned with lines 2 µm wide, with 4 µm period and with a height varying from 100 to 600 nm. GC turning experiments performed 24 hours after plating showed that filopodia crawl over these lines within minutes. These filopodia do not show staining for the adhesion marker Paxillin. GCs and neurites crawl over lines 100 nm high, but less frequently and on a longer time scale over lines higher than 300 nm; neurites never crawl over lines 600 nm high. When neurons are grown for 3 days over patterned surfaces, also neurites can cross lines 300 nm and 600 nm high, grow parallel to and on top of these lines and express Paxillin. Axons - selectively stained with SMI 312 - do not differ from dendrites in their ability to cross these lines. Our results show that highly motile structures such as filopodia climb over high obstacle in response to chemical cues, but larger neuronal structures are less prompt and require hours or days to climb similar obstacles.
    PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(9):e73966. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Guidance molecules, such as Sema3A or Netrin-1, can induce growth cone re- pulsion or attraction in the presence of a flat surface, but very little is known of the action of guidance molecules in the presence of obstacles. In order to ad- dress this issue, we analysed the action of Netrin-1 molecules in the presence of patterned polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) surfaces with lines with a height varying from 100 to 600 nm. Filopodia can crawl over these lines easily, but not neurites. Indeed axons and thick dendrites are able to cross lines with a height of 100 nm, but progressively less when the line height is increased. When neurons are grown for 3 days over patterned surfaces it was possible to label selectively axons with axonal neurofilament marker SMI 312 and den- drites with microtubule associated protein 2 (MAP2): axons and dendrites do not differ in their ability to cross lines with a height varying from 100 to 600 nm. When axons and dendrites grow along lines, a clear staining for the adhesion marker paxillin was observed, but not when neurites cross the lines.
    Biophysical Journal 01/2013; 104(2):162-. · 3.67 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Sensory systems adapt, i.e., they adjust their sensitivity to external stimuli according to the ambient level. In this paper we show that single cell electrophysiological responses of vertebrate olfactory receptors and of photoreceptors to different input protocols exhibit several common features related to adaptation, and that these features can be used to investigate the dynamical structure of the feedback regulation responsible for the adaptation. In particular, we point out that two different forms of adaptation can be observed, in response to steps and to pairs of pulses. These two forms of adaptation appear to be in a dynamical trade-off: the more adaptation to a step is close to perfect, the slower is the recovery in adaptation to pulse pairs and viceversa. Neither of the two forms is explained by the dynamical models currently used to describe adaptation, such as the integral feedback model.
    Scientific Reports 01/2013; 3:1251. · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Hippocampal organotypic cultures are a highly reliable in vitro model for studying neuroplasticity: in this paper, we analyze the early phase of the transcriptional response induced by a 20 µM gabazine treatment (GabT), a GABA-Ar antagonist, by using Affymetrix oligonucleotide microarray, RT-PCR based time-course and chromatin-immuno-precipitation. The transcriptome profiling revealed that the pool of genes up-regulated by GabT, besides being strongly related to the regulation of growth and synaptic transmission, is also endowed with neuro-protective and pro-survival properties. By using RT-PCR, we quantified a time-course of the transient expression for 33 of the highest up-regulated genes, with an average sampling rate of 10 minutes and covering the time interval [10∶90] minutes. The cluster analysis of the time-course disclosed the existence of three different dynamical patterns, one of which proved, in a statistical analysis based on results from previous works, to be significantly related with SRF-dependent regulation (p-value<0.05). The chromatin immunoprecipitation (chip) assay confirmed the rich presence of working CArG boxes in the genes belonging to the latter dynamical pattern and therefore validated the statistical analysis. Furthermore, an in silico analysis of the promoters revealed the presence of additional conserved CArG boxes upstream of the genes Nr4a1 and Rgs2. The chip assay confirmed a significant SRF signal in the Nr4a1 CArG box but not in the Rgs2 CArG box.
    PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(7):e68078. · 3.53 Impact Factor
  • Biophysical Journal 01/2013; 104(2):279-. · 3.67 Impact Factor
  • Biophysical Journal 01/2013; 104(2):167-. · 3.67 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Key points • Cyclic nucleotide-gated (CNG) channels are multi-ion channels showing the anomalous mole fraction effect (AMFE) in the presence of Li(+) and Cs(+) mixtures. • We show that Cs(+) ions at the intracellular side of the membrane block the entry of Na(+) ions in a voltage dependent way. • The blockage is relieved when Thr359 and Thr360 at the intracellular entrance of the selectivity filter are replaced with an alanine. Moreover, the AMFE in the presence of intracellular mixtures of Li(+) and Cs(+) is abolished in T360A mutant channels. • We have identified a second binding site - composed by the ring of Thr360 at the intracellular vestibule - in the selectivity filter of CNG channels controlling monovalent cations selectivity and permeation. • These results help us understand fundamental similarities and differences between the pore of CNG channels and K(+) channels.
    The Journal of Physiology 08/2012; 590(Pt 20):5075-90. · 4.38 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We used optical tweezers to analyze the effect of jasplakinolide and cyclodextrin on the force exerted by lamellipodia from developing growth cones (GCs) of isolated dorsal root ganglia (DRG) neurons. We found that 25 nM of jasplakinolide, which is known to inhibit actin filament turnover, reduced both the maximal exerted force and maximal velocity during lamellipodia leading-edge protrusion. By using atomic force microscopy, we verified that cyclodextrin, which is known to remove cholesterol from membranes, decreased the membrane stiffness of DRG neurons. Lamellipodia treated with 2.5 mM of cyclodextrin exerted a larger force, and their leading edge could advance with a higher velocity. Neither jasplakinolide nor cyclodextrin affected force or velocity during lamellipodia retraction. The amplitude and frequency of elementary jumps underlying force generation were reduced by jasplakinolide but not by cyclodextrin. The action of both drugs at the used concentration was fully reversible. These results support the notion that membrane stiffness provides a selective pressure that shapes force generation, and confirm the pivotal role of actin turnover during protrusion.
    Biophysical Journal 06/2012; 102(11):2451-60. · 3.67 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Cyclic nucleotide-gated channels belong to the family of voltage-gated ion channels, but pore opening requires the presence of intracellular cyclic nucleotides. In the presence of a saturating agonist, cyclic nucleotide-gated channel gating is voltage independent and it is not known why cyclic nucleotide-gated channels are voltage-insensitive despite harbouring the S4-type voltage sensor. Here we report that, in the presence of Li(+), Na(+) and K(+), the gating of wild-type cyclic nucleotide-gated A1 and native cyclic nucleotide-gated channels is voltage independent, whereas their gating is highly voltage-dependent in the presence of Rb(+), Cs(+) and organic cations. Mutagenesis experiments show that voltage sensing occurs through a voltage sensor composed of charged/polar residues in the pore and of the S4-type voltage sensor. During evolution, cyclic nucleotide-gated channels lose their voltage-sensing ability when Na(+) or K(+) permeate so that the vertebrate photoreceptor cyclic nucleotide-gated channels are open at negative voltages, a necessary condition for phototransduction.
    Nature Communications 01/2012; 3:973. · 10.74 Impact Factor
  • Biophysical Journal 01/2012; 102(3):350-. · 3.67 Impact Factor
  • Biophysical Journal 01/2012; 102(3):131-. · 3.67 Impact Factor
  • Biophysical Journal 01/2012; 102(3):130-. · 3.67 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

6k Citations
618.86 Total Impact Points


  • 2009–2013
    • Italian Institute of Technology (IIT)
      Genova, Liguria, Italy
    • German Primate Center
      • Cognitive Neurosciences Laboratory
      Göttingen, Lower Saxony, Germany
  • 1999–2012
    • Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati di Trieste
      • Neurobiology Group
      Trieste, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy
  • 2008
    • Canadian Light Source Inc. (CLS)
      Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • 2004
    • University of Udine
      • Department of Mathematical and Computer Science
      Udine, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy
  • 1977–2000
    • Università degli Studi di Genova
      • Department of Physics
      Genova, Liguria, Italy
  • 1988
    • INFN - Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare
      Frascati, Latium, Italy
  • 1986
    • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
      Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
  • 1983
    • University of Cambridge
      Cambridge, England, United Kingdom