• About
  • Selected Publications
  • Team Members


Gianluca Ursini, M.D., Ph.D., is an Investigator in Functional Genomics at the Lieber Institute for Brain Development. His main interest is the dynamic interaction between genes and epigenetic factors during brain development and activity. He is currently investigating the role of the early life environment in the pathophysiology of neurodevelopmental disorders. In this regard, he has discovered how genomic risk for schizophrenia and severe early life complications interact on the risk for the disorder through processes involving placental function. Dr. Ursini is also interested in the complexity of the noncoding RNA landscape, and in this regard he is studying divergent noncoding transcription, which provides a potential compelling mechanism for the fine-tuning regulation of protein-coding genes expression. Both projects highlight how genes critical for brain development and disorders exert their effects differently depending on the context where they act, i.e. environmental factors (e.g. early life events) and epigenetic mechanisms of regulation (e.g. divergent RNAs). Dr. Ursini attended the University of Bari ‘A. Moro’, where he received a M.D. in 2002, a residency in Psychiatry in 2006 and a Ph.D. in ‘Experimental Neurobiology’ in 2011. He also received a training in Constructivist Psychology and Psychotherapy. Over the course of his residency and his Ph.D., he has been performing studies on schizophrenia using a combination of imaging and genetics techniques, triggering the investigation of the relationship between epigenetic factors, genetic variants and brain phenotypes in humans. He joined the Lieber Institute in the spring of 2012, as a visiting scientist first and then as post-doctoral fellow.

Selected Publications

Selected Publications

Blasi G, Napolitano F, Ursini G, Taurisano P, Romano R, Caforio G, Fazio L, Gelao B, Di Giorgio A, Iacovelli L, Sinibaldi L, Popolizio T, Usiello A, Bertolino A. DRD2/AKT1 interaction on D2 c-AMP independent signaling, attentional processing and response to olanzapine treatment in schizophrenia. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2011,108:1158-63.

Ursini G, Bollati V, Fazio L, Porcelli A, Iacovelli L, Catalani A, Sinibaldi L, Gelao B, Romano R, Rampino A, Taurisano P, Mancini M, Di Giorgio A, Popolizio T, Baccarelli A, De Blasi A, Blasi G, Bertolino A. Stress-related methylation of the COMT Val158 allele predicts human prefrontal cognition and activity. The Journal of Neuroscience 2011, 31:6692-8.

Punzi G, Ursini G, Shin JH, Kleinman JE, Hyde TM, Weinberger DR. Increased expression of MARCKS in post-mortem brain of violent suicide completers is related to transcription of a long, noncoding, antisense RNA Molecular Psychiatry. Molecular Psychiatry 2014 Oct,19(10):1057-9.

Yoon KJ, Nguyen HN, Ursini G, Zhang F, Kim NS, Wen Z, Makri G, Nauen D, Shin JH, Park Y, Chung R, Pekle E, Zhang C, Towe M, Hussaini SM, Lee Y, Rujescu D, St Clair D, Kleinman JE, Hyde TM, Krauss G, Christian KM, Rapoport JL, Weinberger DR, Song H, Ming GL Modeling a Genetic Risk for Schizophrenia in iPSCs and Mice Reveals Neural Stem Cell Deficits Associated with Adherens Junctions and Polarity. Cell Stem Cell 2014 Jul 3,15(1):79-91.

Ursini G, Cavalleri T, Fazio T, Angrisano T, Iacovelli L, Porcelli A, Maddalena G, Punzi G, Mancini M, Gelao B, Romano R, Masellis R, Calabrese F, Rampino A, Taurisano P, Di Giorgio A, Keller S, Tarantini L, Sinibaldi L, Quarto T, Popolizio T, Caforio G, Blasi G, Riva MA, De Blasi A, Chiariotti L, Bollati V, Bertolino A BDNF rs6265 methylation and genotype interact on risk for schizophrenia. Epigenetics 2016 Jan 2,11(1):11-23.

Chen Q*, Ursini G *, Romer AL, Knodt AR, Mezeivtch K, Xiao E, Pergola G, Blasi G, Straub RE, Callicott JH, Berman K, Hariri AR, Bertolino A, Mattay VS, Weinberger DR. Schizophrenia Polygenic Risk Score Predicts Mnemonic Hippocampal Activity. Brain. 2018 Apr 1;141(4):1218-1228. [*equal contribution] Video abstract for Brain.

Punzi G, Bharadwaj R, Ursini G. Neuroepigenetics of Schizophrenia (Chapter Nine of the Volume “Neuroepigenetics of Mental Illness”). Progress in Molecular Biology and Translational Science 2018;158:195-226.

Ursini G, Punzi G, Chen Q, Marenco S, Robinson JF, Porcelli A, Hamilton EG, Mitjans M, Maddalena G, Begemann M, Seidel J, Yanamori H, Jaffe AE, Berman KF, Egan MF, Straub RE, Colantuoni CC, Blasi G, Hashimoto R, Rujescu D, Ehrenreich H, Bertolino A, Weinberger DR. Convergence of placenta biology and genetic risk for schizophrenia. Nature Medicine 2018 Jun;24(6):792-801.

Team Members

Team Members

Pasquale Di Carlo, M.D., is a Resident in Psychiatry and Ph.D. student at the University of Bari ‘Aldo Moro’. He joined the Lieber Institute for Brain Development in the winter of 2018 as a Visiting Scientist. Over the course of his training, he acquired a broad expertise in psychiatry, imaging genetics and computational neuroscience, which he directed to the investigation of psychiatric disorders, particularly schizophrenia. Specifically, he set off the investigation of co-expression network based on post-mortem microarray and RNA sequencing data with the aim to unravel the genetic and molecular underpinnings of schizophrenia etiology. He is mostly interested in developing predictive probabilistic models to translate post-mortem into in vivo findings. As a Visiting Scientist at the Lieber Institute, he is building on these disciplines, mastering new skills in molecular biology and data science to complete his training as young scientist. He is currently working on characterizing the molecular context of neurodevelopmental genes, in terms of brain spatio-temporal co-expression patterns and at the fetal-placental interface.

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