PhD ELÍAS UTRERAS

ALTERNATE DIRECTOR OF THE MILLENIUM NUCLEUS MINUSPAIN

ACADEMIC DEGREE: DOCTOR OF SCIENCE MENTION IN MOLECULAR, CELLULAR AND NEUROSCIENCE BIOLOGY, FACULTY OF SCIENCES, UNIVERSIDAD DE CHILE

HOST INSTITUTION: UNIVERSIDAD DE CHILE

RESEARCH LINES: CELLULAR AND MOLECULAR MECHANISMS OF FACIAL PAIN

BIOGRAPHY

Biochemist from the Universidad de Santiago de Chile (2000), PhD in Sciences, mention in Molecular and Cellular Biology and Neurosciences from the Universidad de Chile (2006), and Postdoctoral fellow from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), National Institutes of Health (NIH), United States (2006-2011).

He is currently Assistant Professor of the Department of Biology, Faculty of Sciences, Universidad de Chile. His research is focused on the study of the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie pain signaling pathways. In particular, he is studying the role of Cdk5 kinase in pain signaling pathways and how various inflammatory mediators, released during an inflammatory response, regulate its kinase activity during facial pain.

Brief History

Our research is focused on the study of the molecular and cellular bases of inflammatory pain. We demonstrated that Cdk5 kinase is involved in painful signaling pathways and some inflammatory mediators released during inflammation increased the function of Cdk5 in nociceptive neurons. Currently, we are studying how Cdk5 sensitize nociceptive receptors by phosphorylation, decreasing their threshold of response, which would lead to a greater sensation of pain. In our research we use primary cultures of nociceptive neurons from transgenic mouse of loss- and gain- of function for Cdk5.

I am a Biochemist from Universidad de Santiago de Chile, where I did my undergraduate thesis entitled «Expression and regulation of the adhesion molecule ICAM-1 in the human oviductal epithelium», in the Laboratory of Immunology of Reproduction under the tutorship of Dr. Mónica Imarai, where I published two papers (Utreras et al, J Reprod Fertil, 2000, Cardenas et al, Biol Res 1998). Then I worked in the laboratory of Molecular Endocrinology, at Universidad Católica de Chilee, under the direction of Dr. Horacio Croxato as Associated Researcher in the project of the study of the expression and function of connexins in the oviduct of the rat. Subsequently, I completed my PhD in Sciences, mention in Molecular and Cellular Biology and Neurosciences, at the University of Chile. My PhD thesis was entitled «Participation of p35, neuron-specific activator of Cdk5, in cell death induced by amyloid beta peptide» under the direction of Dr. Christian Gonzalez Billault which was published (Utreras et al,  Neuroscience 2008).

After completing my PhD, I made a postdoctoral stay at the NIH (National Institute of Health), at the NIDCR (National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research) under the direction of Dr. Ashok Kulkarni. Here I studied the participation of Cdk5 kinase in pain signaling pathways. In particular, I am studying how the inflammatory response regulates the activity of Cdk5 and its function by phosphorylating specific substrates during inflammatory pain. From these investigations, we published several works (Utreras et al, JBC 2009, Utreras et al, DDTTS 2009, Utreras et al, Mol Pain 2011). In parallel, I also collaborated in other projects which were also published (Utreras et al, Dev Neurosci, 2008, Maldonado et al, J Neurosci Res., 2011).

In 2011, I got a position of Instructor Professor in the Department of Biology, Faculty of Sciences, Universidad de Chile, under the Program of Insertion in the Academy.  I also awarded the Fondecyt of Initiation project entitled «Study of the cellular and molecular mechanism of pain signaling pathways: Role of Cdk5 in cytokine-induced hyperalgesia in primary sensory neurons».

Moreover, I was an associate researcher in the ACT1114 Ring project, led by Dr. Christian Gonzalez. In 2014, I was promoted to Assistant Professor and in 2015, I got my first Regular Fondecyt project entitled: «TNF-alpha increases Cdk5 activity regulating orofacial pain through phosphorylation of TRPV1 and P2X2 ion channels».

During these 8 years at the University of Chile I have participated in numerous own and collaborative projects that have resulted in several publications in very good journals (Contreras-Vallejos et al, Cell Signal 2012, Utreras et al, JBC 2012, Futatsugui et al, Cell Cycle, 2012, Utreras et al, Neurochem Int 2013, Utreras et al, Mol Pain 2013, Prochazcova et al, Mol Pain 2013, Utreras et al, J Neuroinflammation 2014, Rudrabhata et al, Plos One 2014, Contreras-Vallejos et al, Plos One 2014, Quintanilla et al, PPAR Res 2014, Palacios-Garcia et al, Plos One 2015, Hall et al, JDR 2016).

Based on the work proposed in my projects Fondecyt (2012-2014) and Regular Fondecyt (2015-2017), in which I have established collaborations with two members of this millennium nucleus project, Dr. Rodolfo Madrid and Dr. Claudio Coddou, we have published two important papers as a corresponding author in the prestigious journal named Pain (Rozas et al, Pain 2016, Coddou et al, Pain 2017). It should be noted that experiments from these works have been made mostly by students who have done their thesis of undergraduate, magister and doctorate in my lab. Finally, I have been invited to several talks at National and International Universities. I am a regular member of SFN (Society for Neuroscience), IASP (International Association for the Study of Pain), IADR (International Association for Dental Research), SBCCh (Society of Cellular Biology of Chile) and the Chilean Society of Neuroscience, where I have presented my work at a large number of national and international meetings.

PUBLICATIONS

Headline: Targeted overexpression of tumor necrosis factor-α increases cyclin-dependent kinase 5 activity and TRPV1-dependent Ca2+ influx in trigeminal neurons
Headline: Cyclin-dependent kinase 5 modulates the P2X2a receptor channel gating through phosphorylation of C-terminal threonine 372
Headline: Tumor necrosis factor-alpha regulates cyclin-dependent kinase 5 activity during pain signaling through transcriptional activation of p35

Headline: Going out of the brain: non-nervous system physiological and pathological functions of Cdk5

Headline: Conditional TNF-α Overexpression in the Tooth and Alveolar Bone Results in Painful Pulpitis and Osteitis

GALLERY