Federica Maiole

PhD Student Fellow


Largo Rosanna Benzi 10, 16132, Genova, IT
+39 010 5558 534
+39 010 555 8534


I received my Master degree in Biology in 2014 from Second University of Naples. I received her training in the laboratory of General Pathology at Dept. of Environmental, Biological and Pharmaceutical Sciences and Technologies (DiSTABiF)  and in the dept. of Clinical Genetics at the Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam (NL), under the supervision of Prof. Rob Willemsen.

I joined the PhD program in Neuroscience and Brain Technologies in October 2015 at the IIT, Center for Synaptic Neuroscience (NSYN).


Cell Biology: Cell culture (primary neural culture); Cell Count; Light microscopy and fluorescence microscopy; Immunocytochemistry; Immunohistochemistry; Confocal microscopy; Neuron’s protrusion analysis.

Molecular Biology: Synaptoneurosomes isolation; Isolation and purification of total DNA, RNA and total protein; Western blot; Transfection; Gel Electrophoresis; PCR; Genotyping; Ligation of fragments into plasmid vectors (pGEM-T easy vector); Digestion with restriction enzymes; Synthesis of DIG-labeled RNA probes for ISH; Design of degenerate primers.

Histology: Inclusion in paraffin; inclusion in OCT; use of microtome and cryostat;in situ hybridization; Nissl staining.

Electrophysiology: Biophysical investigation of muscle properties.

In vivo techniques: Handling of animals (mice and octopus); Collecting of organs and autopsy (mice and octopus).

Behavioural test: Mouse automated tube test.


The aim of my PhD project is to study the biophysical, molecular and morphological properties of the Octopus vulgaris muscle hydrostat. In particular, the focus is to decipher how the structure and the mechanical characteristics of each muscle type contribute to the total arm movement.

The main aims can be summarized as follows:

  1. Studying the muscle and connective tissue organization and their interplay along the arm: biophysical implications on muscle performances.

From base to tip: investigation of the arm muscle organization along the arm.

  • 3D organization of muscles and connective tissue in the two muscle type making up the arm bulk: the transverse and the longitudinal muscle layers

My aim is to obtain a 3D reconstruction of the various muscle along the octopus arm.

  • Characterization of the elastic fibers waviness and its contribution to the muscles 3D architecture

The composition in elastic fibers, their arrangement and the contribution of these structures in muscle force generation.

  1. Deciphering physiological properties of the various muscle types in the arm

For this purpose, I’m focusing at investigating the mechanical properties of the whole arm and single muscle type by analyzing the dynamic and elastic components of arm segments in strip of fibers.

  1. Deciphering molecular pathways underlying arm muscle exercise

Arms are able to perform a variety of movements and to accomplish a wide repertoire of tasks based on a different involvement of each muscle type. In order to depict this point I’m studying the involvement and modulation of the mTOR complex pathway in the arm response to exercise and stress. mTOR  is an highly conserved protein involved in sensing of cellular nutrition and energy status and its molecular pathway is related to the muscle resting/stress/exercise state.

  1. Investigate the bases of single muscle cell coordination

Differently from vertebrates, cephalopod body muscles are uninucleated and their innervation pathway seems to favor a localized innervation of a small number of myofibers.

Nonetheless cephalopod and in particular octopus arms are structures endowed of high flexibility and coordination between arm segments. These properties must rely on a precise coordination mechanism acting at the level of muscle cell ensembles or at the level of the arm peripheral nervous system. I wish to investigate:

           4.1            The presence and role of internal calcium store in octopus myofibers.

Studying the DHPR-RyR machinery, I will elucidate the possible involvement of Ca2+ release from the SR in muscle excitation-contraction coupling.

           4.2            The presence, organization and eventually the role of gap junction in myofibers contraction.

Selected Publications

Maiole F, Benfenati F, Zullo L (2017) Physiological and structural properties of the Octopus vulgaris arm hydrostatic muscles. Eur J Transl Myol 27 (4): 184.

Zullo L., Maiole F., Fossati SM,Benfenati F. (2017) Biomechanics of the Octopus arm muscular hydrostat: involvement of mTOR pathway during arm exercise. European Journal of Translational Myology, vol. 27, (no. 1). Abstract Report. 2017.



Maiole F., Nesher N., Hochner B., Benfenati F., Zullo L.

Mechanisms of excitaion-contraction coupling in Octopus vulgaris arm muscle

GRC: Muscle: Excitation contraction coupling, Les Diablerets, Switzerland // June 2017.

Letizia Zullo, Federica Maiole, Sara Maria Fossati N. Nesher, B. Hochner.

Biophysical and structural properties that contribute to the special biomechanics of the octopus arm.

SFN 46th annual meeting, San Diego, CA, USA // November 2016.

Letizia Zullo, Federica Maiole, Sara Maria Fossati.

The Octopus arm: biophysics and molecular mechanisms of muscle function.

MED'16: The 24th Mediterranean Conference on Control andAutomation, Athens, Greece // June 2016.