About me

Professor in Molecular Developmental Biology

My research group is localized at the department of Cell and Molecular Biology and at the Stockholm Branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, where I am also the director.

Research description

The vast complexity of the central nervous system raises challenging questions concerning the specification and differentiation of specific types of neurons. Dopamine neurons are clinically important cells that degenerate in patients with Parkinson’s disease and are also implicated in other neurological and psychiatric conditions.

My group is interested in unraveling the signaling and transcriptional regulation that govern the specification, differentiation and maintenance of these cells. The studies have resulted in the identification of several transcription factors with key roles in these processes. The projects are focused on understanding functions in both early specification events and in maintenance of dopamine neurons in the adult brain. Moreover, we are also interested in regenerative medicine in relation to Parkinson’s disease and other brain disorders.

Selected publications

Dopaminergic control of autophagic-lysosomal function implicates Lmx1b in Parkinson's disease.
Laguna A, Schintu N, Nobre A, Alvarsson A, Volakakis N, Jacobsen JK, et al
Nat. Neurosci. 2015 Jun;18(6):826-35

Sox6 and Otx2 control the specification of substantia nigra and ventral tegmental area dopamine neurons.
Panman L, Papathanou M, Laguna A, Oosterveen T, Volakakis N, Acampora D, et al
Cell Rep 2014 Aug;8(4):1018-25

Transcription factor Nurr1 maintains fiber integrity and nuclear-encoded mitochondrial gene expression in dopamine neurons.
Kadkhodaei B, Alvarsson A, Schintu N, Ramsköld D, Volakakis N, Joodmardi E, et al
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2013 Feb;110(6):2360-5

α-Synuclein-induced down-regulation of Nurr1 disrupts GDNF signaling in nigral dopamine neurons.
Decressac M, Kadkhodaei B, Mattsson B, Laguna A, Perlmann T, Björklund A
Sci Transl Med 2012 Dec;4(163):163ra156

Maintaining differentiated cellular identity.
Holmberg J, Perlmann T
Nat. Rev. Genet. 2012 May;13(6):429-39

Essential role for DNA-PK-mediated phosphorylation of NR4A nuclear orphan receptors in DNA double-strand break repair.
Malewicz M, Kadkhodaei B, Kee N, Volakakis N, Hellman U, Viktorsson K, et al
Genes Dev. 2011 Oct;25(19):2031-40

Transcription factor-induced lineage selection of stem-cell-derived neural progenitor cells.
Panman L, Andersson E, Alekseenko Z, Hedlund E, Kee N, Mong J, et al
Cell Stem Cell 2011 Jun;8(6):663-75


Ph.D., Karolinska Institutet, 1991

M.Sc., Stockholm University, Chemistry and Biology, 1987

Academic honours, awards and prizes

2011 Nicholson Lecturer award at Rockefeller Rockefeller University

2008 Member of the Royal Academy of Sciences, Sweden

2006 Member of the Nobel Assembly, Karolinska Institutet

1999 Göran Gustafsson Prize in Molecular Biology

1997 Eric K. Fernström, Young Investigator Prize