Dagda Lab

Department of Pharmacology

The Dagda Lab is a mitochondrial biology-oriented research group located at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine that currently spearheads basic and translational research projects supported by the NIH, philanthropic support and state funding.

These projects include:

   Parkinson's disease
• Investigate how PTEN-induced Kinase 1 (PINK1) interacts with Protein Kinase A to regulate mitochondrial function, dynamics, neuronal survival and development.
• Investigate the pathological effects of of acute and chronic psychological stress on brain energy production, motor function and neuronal survival in Parkinson's disease rats (PINK1 knockout rats).
• Investigate the ability of different nootropic agents to reverse neurodegeneration and motor symptoms in Parkinsonian rats.

  Alzheimer's disease
• Investigate the ability of enhancing neurotrophic and PKA activity in reversing beta amyloid aggregation and neurodegeneration in cell culture and mouse models of Alzheimer's disease.
• Identify new biomarkers of Alzheimer's disease in fecal matter from Alzheimer's disease patients.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
• Investigate the pathological mechanisms by which ALS-associated mutants of TDP43 affect mitochondrial structure and mitophagy in cortical neurons.

More on Research Projects

Immunofluorescence image of dopamine neuron

Immunofluorescence image shows a representative microscopic field of a dopamine neuron (stained with a tyrosine hydroxylase specific antibody, green) embedded with non-dopamine neurons (stained for the dendrite marker MAP2B).

Immunofluorescence image showing how neurons are connected to glia

Immunofluorescence image showing how neurons (identified by MAP2B specific antibodies, red) are interconnected with glia (green).

Immunofluorescence image showing PSD95 (a synaptic marker in green) localized on dendrites of neurons (identified by MAP2B specific antibodies, red).

Immunofluorescence image showing PSD95 (a synaptic marker in green) localized on dendrites of neurons (identified by MAP2B specific antibodies, red).

The Dagda Lab consists of 1200 square feet of wet lab space located in Howard Medical Sciences room 148. It is equipped with high speed temperature controlled centrifuges, an EVOS-FL microscope, an EVOS-CORE microscope, a tissue culture facility, a Seahorse Biosciences XFe24 Extracellular Flux Analyzer for measuring metabolic activities of live cells, touch-screen PCR machines, a SpectraMax M4 Multimode 96 well plate reader, Western blot equipment, immunohistochemistry equipment and two 1300A2 laminar flow hoods located in the cell culture facility. The Dagda lab is located close to the Nevada Proteomics Center, the Electron Microscopy Center and the COBRE-supported confocal microscopy suite in Howard Building. The Dagda Lab supports the research projects of five undergraduate students, two doctoral students (Neuroscience, Cellular Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology, and Cell Molecular Biology programs), two postdoctoral associates, an international research scholar, and a lab manager.

Lab Members

1. Smijin K. Soman, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Associate

2. Emmanuel Vazquez-Mayorga, Postdoctoral Associate

3. Mariana Grigoruta, M.D., International Research Scholar

4. Maryann Swain, B.S., Neuroscience Ph.D. student

5. Kelly Reihl., B.S., Cellular Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology Ph.D. student

6. Mariana Torres, Neuroscience Honors undergraduate student

7. Mitchell Pisane, Honor's Biochemistry undergraduate student

8. David Tingle, Molecular Microbiology and Immunology Undergraduate student

9. Melanie Shackleford, Biology Undergraduate Student

10. Gracie Lawson, Microbiology and Molecular Immunology Undergraduate student

11. Raul Dagda, M.S., Laboratory Manager

Dagda Lab memebers
From left to right: Melanie Shackleford, Emmanuel Vazquez-Mayorga, Mariana Grigoruta, Ruben Dagda, Mitchell Pisane, Smijin Soma, Maryann Swainn, Raul Dagda, and David Tingle.

Recent Publications (2016-2019)

  • Zhang J, Feng J, Ma D, Wang F, Wang Y, Li C, Wang X, Yin X, Zhang M, Dagda RK, Zhang Y. Neuroprotective Mitochondrial Remodeling by AKAP121/PKA Protects HT22 Cell from Glutamate-Induced Oxidative Stress.
  • Mol Neurobiol. 2019 Jan 16. doi: 10.1007/s12035-018-1464-3.
  • Zhang B, Li F, Chen Z, Shrivastava IH, Gasanoff ES, Dagda RK. Naja mossambica mossambica Cobra Cardiotoxin Targets Mitochondria to Disrupt Mitochondrial Membrane Structure and Function. Toxins (Basel). 2019 Mar 8;11(3). pii: E152. doi: 10.3390/toxins11030152.
  • Dagda, RK. Role of Mitochondrial Dysfunction in Degenerative Brain Diseases, an Overview. Brain Sci. 2018 Sep 20;8(10). pii: E178. doi: 10.3390/brainsci8100178.


1R01NS105783-01 Regulation of dendrite homeostasis by PINK1 and PKA in models of Parkinson's disease, PI: Ruben K. Dagda, $1,570,000, 04/01/2018-03/31/2023.

R25OD023795, Community of Bilingual English-Spanish Speakers Exploring Issues in Science and Health (CBESS), Co-PI: Ruben K. Dagda, $1,291,865.00 , 09/01/2017-07/31/2022. Nevada SEPA program. https://med.unr.edu/cbess

Pennington Foundation (Nevada), PI: Ruben K. Dagda, $283,000 01/01/2019- 06/01/2020

R01GM056350-17A1 Exploring the toxicity of aggregates associated with protein-misfolding diseases, PI: Suzanne Liebman: PI, Co-investigator: Ruben Dagda, $25,000/yr., 9/01/15- 08/31/2020

2U54GM104944-06 Clinical and Translational Research Infrastructure Network Idea-CTR, $1,120,000 (subaward, PI: Parvesh Kumar), 04/2019-06/2023


Provisional Patent application:
Inventor: Dagda, R.K., Dagda, R.Y.
Current Assignee: University of Nevada, Reno
Title: UNR18-002 Neuro-protective compound for treating Parkinson's Disease
Attorney Docket No. 369055-7010P1 (00024)
Priority Date: May of 2018


Dr. Smijin K. Soman, postdoctoral scholar in Dr. Dagda's lab, was awarded a $1,000 fellowship from the Histochemical Society to attend the workshop on FRET/FLIM microscopy at the University of Virginia on March of 2019.

Dr. Smijin K. Soman was awarded $500.00 from the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs at the University of Nevada, Reno to attend the workshop on super-resolution microscopy at the University of Virginia on March of 2019.

Current Collaborators at Nevada:

  1. Dr. Vincent Lombardi, Department of Microbiology, University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine; Jeff Cummings and Dr. Aaron Ritter Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas Project: identifying new biomarkers of Alzheimer's disease in fecal matter.
  2. Dr. Robert Renden, Department of Physiology and Cell Biology
    • Project: Role of glycolysis and oxidative phosphorylation in modulating synaptic transmission
  3. Dr. Susan Liebman, Department of Pharmacology
  4. Dr. Thomas Kidd, Department of Biology
    • Project: Mechanisms of degeneration of stomatogastric system neurons in PINK1-deficient flies

Former Members
Dagda Lab


Monica Rice, B.S., Cellular Molecular Physiology and Pharmacology Ph.D.
• Mick Hitchcock Scholar (2015-2017)
• Graduate Student Association travel awardee

Former Lab Members

Tania Das Banerjee, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor
• Awarded a 2-year Nevada Women's Health Initiative
• Awarded a 2014 American Society for Investigative Pathology travel award
• Awarded a 2013 Seahorse Biosciences Travel Award

Hannah Ercolini, Neuroscience Undergraduate Student
• Lab research assistant

Leah Burnett, Biochemistry Undergraduate Major
• COBRE Core-A Metabolic Core Analyzer supporting research assistant

Claire Pace, MPH, Environmental Health Sciences Ph.D. candidate
• Co-mentored Ph.D. studentChristopher Gay, B.S., MPH Graduate Student
• Sanford Center for Aging Scholar

Abrianna Robles, B.A., BS-MD Post-baccalaureate Program
• Women's Health Initiative-supported lab assistant

Hannah Ercolini, Neuroscience Undergraduate Student
• Lab research assistant

Imaging Tools for Measuring Mitochondrial Morphology and Mitophagy

1. NIH Imaging tool for measuring mitochondrial morphology and content

2. NIH Image J macro for measuring mitophagy and autophagy

3. NIH Image J macro for measuring neurite length

For further information on the research projects contact Dr. Ruben K. Dagda.

Contact Us

The Dagda Lab

University of Nevada, Reno School Of Medicine

1664 North Virginia Street, Mail Stop 0318

Howard Medical Sciences, Room 148, Reno, NV 89557