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University of Pittsburgh



maria rubio

Maria Rubio, PhD, MD

Associate Professor
Biomedical Science Tower 3
3501 Fifth Avenue Room 10015
Pittsburgh, PA 15261
Phone: 412-624-6939



1984 - 1990 MD University of Alicante Medical School, Alicante, Spain.

1990 – 1994 PhD University of Alicante and Institute of Neuroscience, Alicante, Spain, with Dr. J.M. Juiz .

1995 -1999 Post Doc (Fogarty Fellow) at the National Institute of Deafness and other Communication Disorders, NIH, USA, with Dr. R.J. Wenthold.

1999 – 2001 Alexander von Humboldt stipendium, in the Department of Molecular Biology and Neurological Signals at the Max Plank Institute for Experimental Medicine, Gottingen, Germany, with Prof. W. Stühmer.

2001 - 2007 Assistant Professor in the Department of Physiology and Neurobiology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, USA.

2007 – 2009 Associate Professor in the Department of Physiology and Neurobiology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT USA.

2009- 2017 Associate Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology University of Pittsburgh, PA, USA.

2017- present Associate Professor in the Department of Neurobiology, University of Pittsburgh, PA, USA.

Honors and Awards

- Visiting Fellowship in the NIH Visiting Program. Fogarty International Center - 1995 to 1999

- Research Fellowship Alexander von Humboldt -1999 to October 2001

- NIH Fellows Award for Research Excellence - 1996

- NIDCD Research Excellence Award - 1997

- Alexander von Humboldt Stipendiat – 1999 - present

- Univ. of Connecticut Physiology and Neurobiology Merit Award -2004 to 2007

- Univ. of Connecticut College of Liberal Art and Sciences Dean’s Merit Award - 2005 to 2007

- Univ. of Connecticut Chancellor’s Special Achievement Award – 2005 to 2007

- Univ. of Connecticut Senate; July 2008- June 2011 (elected).

- American Association of University Professors (AAUP) Executive Committee, Connecticut

  Chapter; July 2008-June 2009 (elected).

- Nominated for the Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists of the New York Academy of

  Sciences, 2008.

- National Science Foundation (Ad Hoc), 2006

- External PTR reviewer Tulane University, New Orleans, LO, Spring 2008

- National Science Foundation, Panel: Organization within Neural Systems Cluster; Fall 2008

- National Science Foundation (Ad Hoc), 2009

- The Earth and Life Sciences division of Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research 

  (NWO/ALW), 2012

- NIH Special Emphasis Panel/Scientific Review Group, March 2013

- MRC Medical Research Council; External reviewer, March 2013

- University of Pittsburgh Clinical and Translational Science Institute: Kaufman Pilot Project

  Program in Pain Research, March 2013

- NIDCD HB Fellowship Applications NIH Special Emphasis Panel/Scientific Review Group, (Ad

  Hoc), June 2013

- Clinical Collaborative Research Pilot Program (BaCCoR), University of Pittsburgh Clinical and

  Translational Science Institute, January 2014

- AUD Study Section NIH RO1, RO21, R03 (Ad Hoc), February 2014

- AUD Study Section NIH RO1, RO21, R03 (Regular) July 2014 - June 2020


Current Research

To know how the brain works we have to consider a whole anatomical and molecular networks between and among its major constituents (neurons and glial cells). The nervous information can be transmitted thanks to the release of neurotransmitters that activate the corresponding receptors located at the appropriate synapse. Thus, to understand brain function and how it is regulated we need to elucidate if and how receptors are localized specifically in a cell. The mechanisms involved in the appropriate transport (targeting) of proteins in neurons are multiple, complex and are so far unclear. Less is known about receptor targeting in glial cells. Dr. Rubio’s laboratory is interested in analyzing these processes to understand the biology of neuron-glia interaction during normal and abnormal brain function.

The laboratory has the long-term-goal to investigate changes in receptor expression in response to experience. Because it is known that the composition of postsynaptic receptors affects the electrophysiological properties of neurons, it becomes important to analyze the changes in expression patterns when a particular source of activation is missing or somehow affected. In this context, we study the effects of an 8th nerve lesion and attenuation of sound on neurons and glial cells (astrocytes) of the cochlear nucleus complex. This is relevant for basic neuroscience, but this area of interest could have a strong clinical implication. Any information that might lead to new strategies of hearing loss treatment or the development of novel drugs would be valuable. 


Selected Publications

Rubio M.E., Matsui K., Fukazawa Y., Kamasawa N., Harada H., Itakura M., Molnár E., Abe M., Sakimura K. and Shigemoto R. (2017) The number and distribution of AMPA receptor channels containing fast kinetic GluA3 and GluA4 subunits at auditory nerve synapses depend on the target cells. Brain Structure and Function DOI 10.1007/s00429-017-1408-0.

García-Hernández S., Abe M., Sakimura K. and Rubio M.E. (2017) Impaired auditory processing and altered synaptic structure of the endbulb synapse in mice lacking GluA3 AMPA glutamate receptors Hear Res 344: 284-294. PMID: 28011083 DOI: 10.1016/j.heares.2016.12.006.

Clarkson C., Antunes F.M. and Rubio M.E. (2016) Conductive hearing loss has long-lasting structural and molecular effects on pre- and post-synaptic structures of the auditory nerve in the cochlear nucleus J Neurosci 36(39):10214-10227.

Jeffries M.A., Urbanek K., Torres L., Wendell S.G., Rubio M.E., Fyffe-Maricich S.L. (2016) ERK1/2 Activation in Pre-Existing Oligodendrocytes of Adult Mice Drives New Myelin Synthesis and Leads to Functional Changes in the CNS. J Neuroscience 36(35): 9186-9200. Featured article in the J of Neuroscience.

Weisz C.J.C., Rubio M.E., Givens R. and Kandler K. (2016) Excitation by axon terminal GABA spillover in a sound localization circuit J Neurosci 36(3):911-925.

Divito C.B., Williams S-P.G., Stancati J.A., Holmstrand E.C., Case D.T., Zhi L., Yuan C., Cagle N.E., Sun T., Rubio M.E., Sortwell C.E., Collier T.J., Sulzer D., Edwards R.H., Steece-Collier K., Zhang H. and Seal R.P. (2015) Loss of VGLUT3 produces hyperdopaminergia and ameliorates motor dysfunction and L-dopa mediated dyskinesias in a model of Parkinson’s disease. J Neurosci 35(45): 14983-14999; doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2124-15.

Rubio M.E. and Nagy J.J. (2015) Connexin36 expression in major centers of the auditory system in the CNS of mouse and rat: Evidence for neurons forming purely electrical synapses and morphologically mixed synapses. Neuroscience 2015 Jul 15;303:604-629. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2015.07.026. [Epub ahead of print]. 303:604- 629. PMID: 26188286

Gómez-Nieto R, de Anchieta J, Horta-Júnior J, Castellano O, Millian-Morell L, Rubio ME, López DE (2014) Contribution of short-latency auditory inputs to the neuronal substrates underlying the acoustic startle reflex. Frontiers in Neuroscience. Published: 25 July 2014 doi: 10.3389/fnins.2014.00216. PMID: 25120419. PMCID: PMC4110630.


Rubio ME, Fukazawa Y, Kamasawa N, Clarkson C, Molnár E, Shigemoto R (2014) Target- and input-dependent organization of AMPA and NMDA receptors in synaptic connections of the cochlear nucleus. J Comp Neurol Jul 19. doi: 10.1002/cne.23654. [Epub ahead of print]. 522:4023-4042. PMID: 25041792.

Saab AS, Neumeyer A, Jahn HJ, Cupido A, Boele-HJ, Simek AAM, Scheller A, Le Meur K, Gotz M, Monyer H, Sprengel R, Rubio ME, de Zeeuw C, Deitmer JW, Kirchhoff F (2012) Bergmann glial AMPA receptors are required for fine motor coordination. Science 337 (6095): 749-753. PMID: 22767895

Wang H, Yin G, Rogers K, Miralles C, de Blas AL and Rubio, ME (2011) Monaural conductive hearing loss alters the expression of the GluA3 AMPA and glycine receptor 1 subunits in bushy and fusiform cells of the cochlear nucleus. Neuroscience doi: 10.1016.

Gómez-Nieto R. and Rubio M.E. (2009) A bushy cell network in the rat ventral cochlear nucleus. J Comp Neurol 516:241-263.

Whiting B., Moiseff A. and Rubio M.E. (2009) Cochlear nucleus neurons redistribute synaptic AMPA and glycine receptors in response to monaural conductive hearing loss. Neuroscience 163:1264-1276

Rubio M.E., Gudsnuk K.A., Smith Y., and Ryugo D.K. (2008) Revealing the molecular layer of the primate dorsal cochlear nucleus. Neuroscience 154:99-113. .

Douyard J., Shen L., Huganir R.L., and Rubio M.E. (2007) Differential neuronal and glial expression of GluR1 AMPA receptor subunit, and the scaffolding proteins SAP97 and 4.1N during rat cerebellar development. J Comparative Neurology 502:141-156

Rubio M.E. (2006) Redistribution of synaptic AMPA receptors at glutamatergic synapses in the dorsal cochlear nucleus as an early response to cochlear ablation in the rat. Hearing Research 216-217:154-167.

For a complete list of publications:

Lab Members

Postdoctoral Fellows

Past Postdoctoral Fellows

Ricardo Gomez-Nieto

Cheryl Clarkson

Sofia Garcia-Hernandez

Flora Antunes

Research Associate

Hou-Ming (Hope) Cai

Graduate Student

Samantha Skobel (rotating PhD student, Spring 2017-present)

Visiting Scholar

Carolina Campagnola (September-November 2016)

Undergraduate Students

Varun Rao (Spring 2017, Fall 2017)

Jacob Beckman (Summer 2017)

Minyoung (Jenny) Park

Humza Salim
Joshua Penderville

Nuria Marquez