Maria Ioannou

Maria Ioannou

Maria Ioannou

Ph.D., McGill University

Adjunct Assistant Professor
Office: Department of Physiology
Location: 7-25 Medical Sciences Building
Laboratory: 7-25 Medical Sciences Building
Telephone: 780-492-1232


The brain is one of the most lipid rich organs in the body. Yet, so much remains unknown regarding how lipid homeostasis is regulated in the brain. Our lab uses a combination biochemistry and quantitative microscopy to study lipid transport and metabolism in the brain. We use live cell imaging to understand the dynamic nature of our lipid transport pathways, super-resolution microscopy to resolve sub-diffraction structures and high-sensitivity confocal microscopy to study organelles in tissue. As model systems we use primary neuron and glial cultures, biochemical assays and mouse models of neurodegeneration, stroke, and excitotoxicity.

 Ioannou Research Image

1. Lipid trafficking in the brain: Recent studies show that neurons transport excess lipids to glia in an attempt to avoid lipotoxicity following oxidative stress. Our lab seeks to uncover the unique molecular machinery used in this process.

2. Lipid droplet formation in pathology: Cells in the brain only form lipid droplets under pathological conditions. Our lab seeks to uncover the mechanisms and consequences of lipid droplet formation in neurodegenerative diseases and stroke.

3. Lipid metabolism in neuron-astrocyte communication: Unlike neurons, astrocytes readily metabolize fatty acids. Our lab is interested in the relationship between fatty acid metabolism and neuron-astrocyte coupling.

Laboratory Website

Selected Publications

Ralhan I, Chang CL, Lippincott-Schwartz J & Ioannou MS (2021) Lipid droplets in the nervous system. J Cell Biol. 220 (7): e202102136.

 Moulton MJ, Barish S, Ralhan I, Chang J, Goodman LD, Harland JG, Marcogliese PC, Johansson JO, Ioannou MS & Bellen HJ (2021) Neuronal ROS-Induced Glial Lipid Droplet Formation is Altered by Loss of Alzheimer’s Disease-associated Genes. PNAS 118(52):e2112095118.

Matthies D, Lee NYJ, Gatera I, Pasolli HA, Zhao X, Liu H, Walpita D, Liu Z, Yu Z & Ioannou MS (2020) Microdomains form on the luminal face of neuronal extracellular vesicle membranes. Sci Rep 10(1): 11953.

Ioannou MS, Liu Z & Lippincott-Schwartz J (2019) A Neuron‐Glia Co‐Culture System for Studying Intercellular Lipid Transport. Curr Prot Cell Biol 84(1):e95 

Chang CL, Weigel A, Ioannou MS, Pasolli HA, Xu SC, Peale D, Shtengel G, Freeman M, Hess H, Blackstone C & Lippincott-Schwartz J (2019) Spastin tethers lipid droplets to peroxisomes and directs fatty acid trafficking through ESCRT-III. J Cell Biol 218(8):2583.

Ioannou MS, Jackson J, Sheu SH, Chang CL, Weigel AV, Liu H, Pasolli HA, Xu CS, Pang S, Matthies D, Hess HF, Lippincott-Schwartz J & Liu Z (2019) Neuron-astrocyte metabolic coupling protects against activity-induced fatty acid toxicity. Cell 177(6):1522-1535.

Liu H, Dong P, Ioannou MS, Li L, Shea J, Pasolli A, Grimm J, Rivlin J, Lavis LD, Koyama M & Liu Z (2018) Stochastic labeling microscopy enables long-term visualization of single particles in vivo. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 115(2): 343-348.

Laboratory Members

Research Associate
Dr. Jinlan Chang

Postdoctoral Fellow
Dr. Julie Jacquemyn

Graduate Students
Isha Ralhan
Luis Fernando Rubio Atonal
Natnael Lee