Professor Leszek Kaczmarek Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology – The Nencki Institute at Warsaw

Kaczmarek Leszek

Molecular Neurobiology

Team Lead

About Professor Leszek Kaczmarek

Our research aim is to understand brain-mind connection. We believe that is is possible to localize specific mind functions into the brain and then reveal their molecular and cellular underpinnings. The window to understand mind is learning and memory that can be successfully studied in experimental animals. At the molecular and cellular levels , synaptic plasticity appears to provide plausible explanation for those phenomena.

Twenty five years ago, together with H.J. Matthies and his colleagues from Magdeburg and simultaneously with K.V. Anokhin and his coworkers in Moscow, we have discovered gene expression in the mammalian brain in learning. The first such gene was c-fos, encoding a component of transcription factor AP-1. This led us to identify c-Fos/AP-1 such target genes in activated neurons as TIMP-1 (tissue inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinases) and MMP-9 (matrix metalloproteinase). Over the last dozen years we have shown that MMP-9 is produced and released at the excitatory synapses in response to enhanced neuronal activity to play a paramount role in the synaptic plasticity, learning and memory as well as in neuropsychiatric disorders, including epilepsy, alcohol addiction, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Presently, our major research effort is focused on MMP-9 and its fundamental role in controlling morphological and functional plasticity of the excitatory synapses, especially in the central nucleus of the amygdala, which we have implicated as pivotal for the appetitive learning.

Please see also: http://neurogene.nencki.gov.pl/?lang=en

5 Selected Publications

Janusz A., Milek J., Perycz M., Pacini L., Bagni C., Kaczmarek L., Dziembowska M. The Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein regulates Matrix Metalloproteinase 9 mRNA at synapses. J. Neurosci., 33: 18234–1824, 2013.

Knapska E., Lioudyno V., Kiryk A., Gorkiewicz T., Mikosz M., Michaluk P., Gawlak M., Chaturvedi M., Mochol G., Balcerzyk M., Wojcik D.K., Wilczynski G.M., Kaczmarek L. (2013) Reward learning requires activity of matrix metalloproteinase-9 in the central amygdala. J. Neurosci., 33: 14591–14600, 2013.

Dziembowska M., Milek J., Janusz A., Rejmak E., Romanowska E., Gorkiewicz T., Tiron A., Bramham C., Kaczmarek L. Activity-dependent local translation of matrix metalloproteinase-9. J. Neurosci., 32 (42): 14538–47, 2012.

Knapska E., Macias M., Mikosz M., Nowak A., Owczarek D., Wawrzyniak M., Pieprzyk M.,  Cymerman I.A., Werka T., Sheng M., Maren S., Jaworski J., Kaczmarek L. (2012) Functional anatomy of neural circuits regulating fear and extinction. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 109 (42) : 17093-8, 2012.

Michaluk P., Mikasova L., Groc L, Frischknecht R, Choquet D ., Kaczmarek L. (2000) Matrix metalloproteinase-9 controls NMDA receptor surface diffusion through integrin beta1 signaling. J. Neurosci., 29 (18): 6007–12, 2009. 

Fellowships, Awards and Honours

2011                 Prime Minister of Poland Award for Life Time Achievements in Science
2010                 Member of the EMBO Council (until 2014)
2009                 Polonia Restituta Officer Cross (by the President of the Republic of Poland)
2001                 Visiting Senior Fulbright Scholar, Neurobiology Dept., UCLA, Los Angeles (till '02)
2001                 Elected member of Academia Europaea
2000                 FNP (Foundation for Polish Science) Prize
2000                 Elected member of EMBO (European Molecular Biology Organization)
1998                 Elected corresponding member of the Polish Academy of Sciences
1998                 Polonia Restituta Bachelor Cross

Technical Expertise

  • Brain-mind connection
  • Neurobiology from molecular to behavioral