Helena Pivonkova, MD, PhD

Principal Investigator


Laboratory of Neuroglial Interactions

Department of Physiology, Second Faculty of Medicine, Charles University

Scientific background

From the beginning of my research career, I was interested in the function of different glial cell types in health and disease. As a Ph.D. student, I was studying potassium channels in reactive astrocytes in brain ischemic injury. In collaboration with Prof. Stephano Ferroni from Bologna, we investigated the pharmacology of volume-regulated anion channels in astrocytes which resulted in the finding of a new pharmacological target of their main blockers. Later, at Collège de France in Paris in the laboratory of Dr. Nathalie Rouach, who is a leading expert in astrocyte physiology, we studied the effect of astrocytic networks on neuronal firing patterns, as well as astrocyte Kir4.1 channel dysfunction in Fragile X syndrome. I spent 3 years as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Cambridge in the laboratory of Prof. Thóra Káradóttir, who belongs to world-leading scientists in the field of myelin plasticity. Here I was studying different aspects of the communication between neurons and oligodendrocyte precursor cells during brain development, aging, and demyelination. I’m now taking forward this experience and expertise in my laboratory where we focus on the interactions between neurons and oligodendrocyte precursors in epilepsy.

Research interests

I’m mostly interested in oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) and their proliferation and differentiation in brain tissue with pathologically increased neuronal activity. OPCs receive synapses from neurons and respond to neuronal activity by proliferation, and differentiation into myelinating oligodendrocytes and hence by enhancing the myelin coverage of the active axons. Enhancing myelination of the active nerve fibers can change the pattern of signal conduction and synchronicity in the neuronal circuits. In the epileptic tissue, myelination can be either decreased or enhanced, depending on the age of the subject, brain area, or the white matter tract, or etiopathogenesis of the epilepsy. The mechanisms of these various responses of oligodendrocyte lineage cells in epilepsy are unknown and they are the main focus of my research.

Selected Publications

Bataveljic, D., Pivonkova, H., de Concini, V. et al. Astroglial Kir4.1 potassium channel deficit drives neuronal hyperexcitability and behavioral defects in Fragile X syndrome mouse model. Nat Commun 15, 3583 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-024-47681-y

de Faria, O., Pivonkova, H., Varga, B. et al. Periods of synchronized myelin changes shape brain function and plasticity. Nat Neurosci 24, 1508–1521 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41593-021-00917-2

Kohnke S, Buller S, Nuzzaci D, Ridley K, Lam B, Pivonkova H, Bentsen MA, Alonge KM, Zhao C, Tadross J, Holmqvist S, Shimizu T, Hathaway H, Li H, Macklin W, Schwartz MW, Richardson WD, Yeo GSH, Franklin RJM, Karadottir RT, Rowitch DH, Blouet C. Nutritional regulation of oligodendrocyte differentiation regulates perineuronal net remodeling in the median eminence. Cell Rep. 2021 Jul 13;36(2):109362. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2021.109362

Pivonkova H, Hermanova Z, Kirdajova D, Awadova T, Malinsky J, Valihrach L, Zucha D, Kubista M, Galisova A, Jirak D, Anderova M. The Contribution of TRPV4 Channels to Astrocyte Volume Regulation and Brain Edema Formation. Neuroscience. 2018 Dec 1;394:127-143. https://www.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroscience.2018.10.028

Minieri L, Pivonkova H, Caprini M, Harantova L, Anderova M, Ferroni S. The inhibitor of volume-regulated anion channels DCPIB activates TREK potassium channels in cultured astrocytes. Br J Pharmacol. 2013 Mar;168(5):1240-54. https://www.doi.org/10.1111/bph.12011