Laboratory of Neurobiology

Head: Leszek Kaczmarek



1996 Professor of Biological Sciences, nomination by the President of the Republic of Poland, Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology, PAS
1988 DSc Habil, Hirszfeld Institute of Immunology and Experimental Therapy, PAS, Wroclaw, Poland
1983 PhD in Biology, Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology, PAS
1981 MSc in Molecular Biology, University of Warsaw

Research trainings:

2015 Visiting Professor, Institute for Photonic Sciences, ICFO, Castelldefels, Spain
2001-2002 Visiting Senior Fulbright Scholar, Department of Neurobiology, UCLA, USA
1994-1996, 1998 Visiting Professor, Dept. Psychology, McGill University, Montreal, Canada
1987, 1988, 1990, 1992 Contract Professor, University of Catania, Italy
1984-1986 Postdoc, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, USA (mentor: R. Baserga)

Professional employments:

2015-2018 Dean, Division for Biological and Agricultural Sciences, Polish Academy of Sciences
2015-2019 Chairman, Department of Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology, Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology, PAS
2003-2007 Chair, Division for Biological Sciences, Polish Academy of Sciences
1997-2003 Chairman, Department of Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology, Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology, PAS
1996-present Professor and Head of the Laboratory of Neurobiology, Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology, PAS
1986-1988 Associate Professor, Department of Neurophysiology, Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology, PAS
1986-1988 Assistant Professor, Department of Neurophysiology, Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology, PAS

Honors and fellowships:

2013 Elected full member of the Polish Academy of Sciences
2011 Prime Minister of Poland Award for the life time achievements in science
2009 Polonia Restituta Officer Cross (by the President of the Republic of Poland)
2001 Elected member of Academia Europaea
2000 FNP (Foundation for Polish Science) Prize '2000
2000 Elected member of EMBO (European Molecular Biology Organization)
1998 Elected corresponding member of the Polish Academy of Sciences
1998 Polonia Restituta Bachelor Cross

Staff: Anna Beroun, Ewa Banach (PhD student), Artur Czupryn, Marta Doliwa (PhD student), Katarzyna Dyl, Katarzyna Gralec (PhD student), Adam Gorlewicz, Tomasz Jaworski, Katarzyna Kalita-Bykowska, Dominik Kanigowski (PhD student), Danylo Khomiak (PhD student), Klaudia Kogut (PhD student),  Agnieszka Kostrzewska-Księżyk, Anna Krysiak (PhD student), Diana Legutko, Katarzyna Łepeta, Lena Majchrowicz (PhD student), Olga Markina (PhD student), Paweł Matryba, Jarosław Mazuryk, Piotr Michaluk, Shiladitya Mitra, Karolina Nader (PhD student), Jewgeni Nikolajew, Monika Pawłowska, Barbara Pijet-Binkiewicz, Rafał Płatek, Emilia Rejmak-Kozicka, Piotr Rogujski, Ahmad Salamian (PhD student),  Marzena Stefaniuk, Bogusia Sudoł-Rutkowska, Joanna Urban-Ciećko, Zbigniew Zieliński (PhD student)

Research profile:


Our research aim is to understand brain-mind connection. We believe that is possible to localize specific mind functions in the brain and then to 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 a plausible explanation for those phenomena. Thirty  ago, together with H.J. Matthies and his colleagues from Magdeburg and simultaneously with K.V. Anokhin and his co-workers in Moscow, we 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 fifteen 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.


Current research activities:

  • matrix metalloproteinases (especially MMP-9) and their endogenous inhibitors (e.g., TIMP-1) in neuronal plasticity (physiological and pathological: epilepsy, addiction) and cell death
  • synaptic plasticity of memory formation (appetitive learning and addiction)
  • SRF, serum response factor and its cofactors in physiological and pathological neuronal plasticity
  • glutamate receptors in epileptogenesis
  • GSK-3β in physiological and pathological synaptic plasticity
  • whole-brain imaging of mouse and rat brains using a self-built light-sheet microscope
  • inhibitory interneurons and their plasticity



Pursuing addiction: appetitive learning and synaptic plasticity in the amygdala – TEAM project


The Project is carried out within the TEAM programme of the Foundation for Polish Science co-financed by the European Union under the European Regional Development Fund as part of the Smart Growth Operational Programme 2014–2020 the SGOP, Measure 4.4 “Increasing the Human Potential in the R&D sector” (POIR.04.04.00-00-1ACA/16-00).


The aim of the project is to identify specific neuronal circuitries which are neurons gathering appetitive memory activated during behavioral approach to positive stimuli. We investigate the existence of such circuitry specifically within the amygdala. Moreover we propose that plastic changes of those circuitries strongly depend on specific proteins that modulate the strength of connections between the cells (synapses). To some extend the same or similar pathways may drive processing of information both in reward learning and addiction. If we focus on particular proteins on one hand we shall trace individual pathways and on the other we will be able to modulate them using novel tools and genetic modifications and finally control the behavior. Our far-reaching goal is to lay the basis to new therapies for neuronal disorders such as obesity, anorexia or addiction.



Selected publications:


Lepeta K., Purzycka K., Pachulska-Wieczorek K., Mitjans M., Begemann M., Vafadari B., Bijata K., Adamiak R., Ehrenreich H., Dziembowska M., Kaczmarek L., (2017) A normal genetic variation modulates synaptic MMP-9 protein levels and the severity of schizophrenia symptoms. EMBO Molecular Medicine, 9: 1100-1116.


de Hoz L., Gierej D., Lioudyno L., Jaworski J., Blazejczyk M., Cruces-Solís H., Beroun A., Lebitko T., Nikolaev T., Knapska E., Nelken I., Kaczmarek L. (2017) Blocking c-Fos expression reveals the role of auditory cortex plasticity in sound frequency discrimination learning. Cereb Cortex, doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhx060.


Stefaniuk M., Beroun A., Lebitko T., Markina O., Leski S., Meyza K., Grzywacz A., Samochowiec J., Samochowiec A., Radwanska K., Kaczmarek L. (2017) Matrix metalloproteinase-9 and synaptic plasticity in the central amygdala in control of alcohol seeking behavior. Biol Psychiatry, 81: 905–906.


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.


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. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 42: 17093-17098