Isabelle M. Mansuy, Ph.D.
Isabelle M. Mansuy, Ph.D., is associate professor in molecular cognition at the Medical Faculty of the University Zürich, and in the Biology Department of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zürich. She completed her Ph.D. in developmental neurobiology at the Friedrich Miescher Institute in Basel, Switzerland, and at the Université Louis Pasteur, Strasbourg, France, and then was a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Eric Kandel at the Center for Learning and Memory of Columbia University in New York. She was appointed assistant professor in neurobiology at ETH Zürich in December 1998.
Dr. Mansuy’s research examines the molecular mechanisms and epigenetic basis of complex brain functions, and focuses on cognitive functions and behavior in mammals. Her research in the past decade revealed the existence of molecular suppressors of learning and memory in the mammalian brain, and identified the Ser/Thr protein phosphatases calcineurin and PP1 as such suppressors. She is currently examining the importance of protein phosphatases in chromatin remodeling in the adult brain, and in the epigenetic control of memory formation. Dr. Mansuy also studies the epigenetic basis of the influence of detrimental environmental factors on behavior, and of its inheritance across generations. This work recently demonstrated that early trauma in mice induces depression, impulsiveness, and impaired social skills, and that these behavioral symptoms are transmitted across several generations. Her team is currently examining the molecular and cellular mechanisms potentially involved. Research in the Mansuy lab combines genetic and environmental animal models; epigenetic approaches; and molecular, behavioral, electrophysiological, proteomic, and imaging techniques.
Epigenetics and the Human BrainWhere Nurture Meets Nature
While our genetic code determines a great deal of who and what we are, it does not act alone. It depends heavily on the epigenome, an elaborate marking of the DNA that controls the genome’s functions. Because it is sensitive to the environment, the epigenome is a powerful link and relay between our genes and our surroundings. Epigenetic marks drive biological functions and features as diverse as memory, development, and disease susceptibility; thus, the nurture aspect of the nature/nurture interaction makes essential contributions to our body and behaviors. As scientists have learned more about how the epigenome works, they have begun to develop therapies that may lead to new approaches to treating common human conditions.