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Alexandros Poulopoulos, PhD

Academic Title:

Assistant Professor

Primary Appointment:



655 W. Baltimore St, BRB 4-025

Phone (Primary):


Education and Training

  • University of Athens, BSc, Biology, 2003
  • University of Göttingen and Max Planck Institute Exp. Med., PhD,  Neuroscience, 2008
  • Harvard University, Postdoc and Research Associate, 2016

I studied Biology at the University of Athens, Greece, completing my undergrad thesis on the cellular mechanisms of amyloid processing in the lab of Spiros Efthimiopoulos. For graduate studies I moved to Germany, being admitted to the International Max Planck Research School for Neuroscience at the University of Göttingen. My PhD work was on synaptogenesis in the lab of Nils Brose at the Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine. I went on to Boston for a postdoc at Harvard University in the lab of Jeffrey Macklis, where I worked to develop new molecular and in vivo approaches to study circuit development in the brain. In 2017 I was recruited to the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine to start a lab that takes a systems neurobiology approach to studying how molecular and cellular networks drive the initial formation and life-long modification of brain circuitry. The lab will be participating in the Graduate Program in Life Sciences through the Program in Neuroscience and Program in Molecular Medicine.


Our research aims at understanding how neurons form connections in the brain to create circuitry that serves sensation, cognition, and behavior. The phenomena underlying circuit formation straddle multiple levels of magnitude and time, giving rise to "complexes" and "dynamics". These different levels are hierarchically bound together through a series of emergent properties that arise from interacting molecules, subcellular structures, cells, and circuits, to ultimately produce the brain and its functionalities. Our experiments examine how these different levels relate to each other and how they drive the initial formation and life-long modification of brain circuitry.

To understand circuit formation, we look at the interactions of macromolecules (proteins, nucleotides, lipids) within sub-compartments of neurons (synaptic junctions, boutons, spines, growth cones, and some of the more ubiquitous subcellular structures). We also look at how neurons and other groups of cells dynamically interact with each other through cell-cell contact during development and plasticity. To do so, we use a variety of in vivo methods like in utero electroporation, micro transplantation, and gene editing, together with molecular analyses like small particle sorting, RNAseq, and proteomics. We sometimes find it necessary to invest in the development of new approaches as well, such as "Hodaptics" to track cell-cell interactions in vivo, or "subcellular RNA-Proteome mapping" to get systems-level molecular maps of specific connections in the brain.

For more on the lab, see

Research/Clinical Keywords

Neuron cell biology, circuit development, cerebral cortex, growth cone, synaptogenesis, cell adhesion, signal transduction, local translation, CRISPR/Cas9, proteomics, RNAseq, in utero electroporation, live imaging, transplantation, synthetic biology.

Highlighted Publications

Poulopoulos A (editor). Synapse Development. Methods Mol Biol. 2017 vol. 1538.

Poulopoulos A*, Soykan T*, Tuffy LP, Hammer M, Varoqueaux F, Brose N. Homodimerization and isoform-specific heterodimerization of neuroligins. Biochem J. 2012 446(2):321-30.

Poulopoulos A. 'Holistic' synaptogenesis. Biochem Soc Trans. 2010 38(2):511-5.

Poulopoulos A*, Aramuni G*, Meyer G, Soykan T, Hoon M, Papadopoulos T, Zhang M, Paarmann I, Fuchs C, Harvey K, Jedlicka P, Schwarzacher SW, Betz H, Harvey RJ, Brose N, Zhang W*, Varoqueaux F*. Neuroligin 2 drives postsynaptic assembly at perisomatic inhibitory synapses through gephyrin and collybistin. Neuron. 2009 63(5):628-42.

Research Interests

  • Cortical circuits
  • Synapse formation and plasticity
  • Cell-cell interaction networks
  • Subcellular dynamics of signaling pathways

Awards and Affiliations

  • Otto Hahn Medal, 2009
  • European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) Fellow, 2010
  • Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) Fellow, 2012
  • Harvard Distinction in Teaching Award, 2015

Lab Techniques and Equipment

  • Surgical: In utero electroporation, Hodological tracing, Micro-transplantation.
  • Biochemical: Protein chemistry, Subcellular fractionation, Mass spectrometry.
  • Cellular: Small particle fluorescent sorting, Organotypic and primary culture, Live imaging, Tissue clearing.
  • Molecular: Gene synthesis, RNAseq, Single-molecule in situ hybridization, CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing, In vitro evolution.

Links of Interest