Valeria Merico
Valeria Merico
affiliation: Department of Biology and Biotechnology - UNIPV
research area(s): Developmental Biology, Stem Cells And Regenerative Medicine
Course: Genetics, Molecular and Cellular Biology
University/Istitution: Università di Pavia
Valeria MERICO

- 2015-to date. Associated Professor, Department of Biology and Biotechnology, University of Pavia
- 2011-2015. Researcher, Department of Biology and Biotechnology, University of Pavia
- 2010-2011 Post-doc fellowship. Research project: “Effects of propylthiouracil treatment on degeneration of artery wall induced by beta-aminopropionitrile (BAPN). Supervisor dr. Roberto Imberti. IRCCS Foundation, Policlinico San Matteo, Pavia.
- 2008-2010 Post-doc fellowship. Research project: “Mechanisms of platelet production in mouse and human models in healthy and pathogenic conditions”. Supervisor, dr. Alessandra Balduini (University of Pavia).
- 2005-2008 Post-doc fellowship. Research project: “Changes of the nuclear architecture of mouse female germ cells during folliculogenesis and of embryos throughout preimplantation development”. Supervisor: Professor Silvia Garagna (University of Pavia).
- 2001-2004. PhD in Bioengineering and Medical Computer Science; University of Pavia; supervisor Professor C.A. Redi (University of Pavia).
- 2001 Qualification as a professional biologist.
- 2001. Degree in Biological Sciences, University of Pavia. Supervisors: Professor C. A. Redi, Professor Silvia Garagna (University of Pavia).
- 1995. Science Diploma.
- 2010. Winner of “Alberto Monroy Fundation” fellowship (amount 4000 euros) to attend ate the MBL Embryology course, Woods Hole.
- 2010. Winner of prize (amount 135000 euros) for the study of embryonic stem cells like reprogramming model of undifferentiated cells, University of Pavia
- 2004. Winner of “Le Scienze 2004 – Medaglia del Presidente della Repubblica” prize for the study of the changes of the nuclear architecture during mouse preimplantation development.
Biotechnology of Reproduction (6 CFU) – Master in Advanced Biotechnology
Animal and Plant Cell Biology (Animal Cell Biology module – Course A, 6 CFU) – Bachelor in Biotechnology
Animal Biology (Cytology and Histology module - 6 CFU) – Bachelor in Natural Science and Technologies
- 2013- to date. Institute of Maternal and Child Research, School of Medicine, University of Chile, Chile, Prof. Alexis Parada-Bustamante.
- 2010-to date. Laboratorio de Citogenética y Cariobiología, Programa de Genética Humana, Instituto de Ciencias Biomédicas, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile, Prof. Raul Fernandez-Donoso.
- 2010- to date. Departamento de Biología, Edificio de Biológicas, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain, Dr. Jesus Page.
- 2009 to date. Prof. Jeremy Searle, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.
- 2006 to date. Max-Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics di Berlino Dr. James Adjaye (Laboratorio di Molecular Embryology and Aging group).
- 2003 to date. Centro de Investigaciones en Reproducción, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Dr. Susana Merani 2009. Stamcelinstituut, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Prof. Catherine Verfaillie.
- 2006-2008. Laboratorio de Metabolismo Fosfocálcico y Vitamina D "Dr. Fernando Cañas" Cátedra de Bioquímica y Biología Molecular Facultad de Ciencias Médicas Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Argentina Dott.ssa Nori Tolosa de Talamoni.
- 01-06-2005-31-07-2007. Biozentrum der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München Prof. Thomas Cremer, and Dr. Irina Solovei.
- 2002-2003. Centro de Investigaciones en Reproducción, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Prof. Solari.
- 2014. XX International Chromosome Conference University of Kent, Canterbury; 1-4 Settembre (oral presentation).
- 2013. EMBO conference proceedings, France, 12-15/06/2013 (poster presentation).
- 2013. 54° AFI symposium, Italy, 11-13/06/2014 (poster presentation).
- 2010. Secondo Congresso Nazionale di Bioingegneria, Torino, 8 – 10 luglio 2010 (Poster).
- 2009 Human Pluripotent Stem Cells Symposium: Interrogating disease and development, Dublin 22-24 April, (poster presentation).
- 2008 “First International Symposium on Human Embryonic Stem Cell research”, Evry, Paris, January 31st-February 2nd, (poster presentation).
- 2007 Neri T., Merico V., Redi C.A, Garagna S., Zuccotti M. Challenges in stem cell differentiation and transplantation”, Milan, 30 September 30th-October 3rd (poster presentation).
- 2005 The Wilhelm Bernhard Workshop. 19th International Workshop on the Cell Nucleus. Münsterschwarzach Abbey (Germany), 1-5 September (oral presentation).
- XX Congresso di Medicina della Riproduzione “Iter terapeutico della coppia infertile” . Padova, 25-26 February (oral presentation).
- 2004 46th Symposium of the Society for Histochemistry; Prague, 22-25 September (oral presentation).
- 2004 The 15th International Chromosome Conference. Brunel University, London, United Kingdom, 5-10 September. Chromosome Research, vol 12 (suppl 1) – pp 28 (oral presentation).
My research activity is focused on mammalian gamete differentiation and embryo development. Very recently I became involved in the study of differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells into megakaryocytes.
I contributed to determine that in the antral compartment of the mouse ovary, two different types of oocytes are present, which differ for the organisation of their chromatin. One type, named SN (surrounded nucleolus) has a rim of heterochromatin around the nucleolus and is developmentally competent when fertilised. The other type, named NSN (not surrounded nucleolus, has a dispersed chromatin within the nucleus and it is not developmentally competent (Mol Reprod Biol, 2003; Cytogenetics and Genome Research, 2004; J. Molec Histol., 2004; Mol Cell Endocrinol, 2005; Chromosome Res., 2007). In the search for the molecular determinants of the oocyte developmental competence, I showed that Oct4, one of the 4 transcription factors necessary to induce, in the differentiated cells (Cloning and Stem Cells, 2007), and to maintain, in stem cells, the cellular pluripotency, is present in SN but it is absent in NSN oocytes (BMC Develop Biol., 2008; Human Reprod., 2009; RBM OnLine 2009). My working hypothesis is that Oct-4 may play a key role in the acquisition of the oocyte’s developmental competence. A research that I want to carry out in the next years.
My studies on male gametogenesis have been focused on the alterations of the process due to both intrinsic (structural chromosome heterozygosity) and extrinsic (pollutants) factors.
I showed that structural chromosome heterozygosities are able to alter the correct process of gamete formation inducing cell loss through the activation of both the intrinsic and extrinsic pathways of apoptosis. Cell death occurs mainly at the metaphase stage of the first and second meiotic division (Cytogenetics and Genome Research, 2003; Reproduction, 2008; Reproduction, Fertility and Development, 2010).
Spermatogenesis is very sensitive to environmental pollution factors. To this end, I verified that the mouse seminiferous epithelium was altered after Bentazone (a herbicide used in the culture of rice) was administered in adult mice or in uterus (Toxicology, 2005) at a concentration admitted by the WHO organisation.

A biomedical aspect of my research regards the effect of xenobiont agents, on mouse embryonic stem cells (Biochim. Biophys. Acta, 2008) and their derived cardiomyocytes (Toxicol. Letter, 2011) as a model study of environmental cardiovascular disease. Regarding the study of ESC, I focused my research on the differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells into megakaryocytes as a model to study some frequent forms of inherited thrombocytopenias in the human, as Bernard-Soulier syndrome and MYH9-related disease, that have not been classified since their pathogenesis is still a matter of debate. Recently, I developed a new in vitro procedure to differentiate ES cells in megakaryocytes. In order to verify the excellence of the method the MKs derived from ES cells were compared with MKs obtained from mouse fetal liver (FL-MKs) that represent the gold standard of these studies. Gene expression, cell phenotype, ploidy analysis and functional studies have been used to define sequential stages of megakaryocytic cell development. Although the ES-derived MKs show a morphology FL-MKs-like, the molecular and proteomic analysis show a complex different regarding the gene and protein expression profiling (J. of Thromb and Haem, 2012).
1. Cavalera F, Zanoni M, Merico V, Sacchi L, Bellazzi R, Garagna S, Zuccotti M. Chromatin organization and timing of polar body I extrusion identify developmentally competent mouse oocytes. Int J Dev Biol. 2019;63(3-4-5):245-251.
2. Cavalera F, Simovic M, Zanoni M, Merico V, Garagna S, Zuccotti M. IVM of mouse fully grown germinal vesicle oocytes upon a feeder layer of selected cumulus cells enhances their developmental competence. Reprod Fertil Dev. 2019 Mar 29.
3. Merico V, Luaces JP, Rossi LF, Rebuzzini P, Merani MS, Zuccotti M, Garagna S. Sertoli-immature spermatids disengagement during testis regression in the armadillo. Reproduction. 2018 Oct 1. pii: REP-18-0006.R2.
4. Bui TT, Belli M, Fassina L, Vigone G, Merico V, Garagna S, Zuccotti M. Cytoplasmic movement profiles of mouse surrounding nucleolus and not-surrounding nucleolus antral oocytes during meiotic resumption. Mol Reprod Dev. 2017.
5. Dorati R, Genta I, Ferrari M, Vigone G, Merico V, Garagna S, Zuccotti M, Conti B. Formulation and stability evaluation of 3D alginate beads potentially useful for cumulus-oocyte complexes culture. J Microencapsul. 2016;33(2):137-45.
6. Belli M, Vigone G, Merico V, Redi CA, Garagna S, Zuccotti M. Time-lapse dynamics of the mouse oocyte chromatin organisation during meiotic resumption, Biomed Res Int. 2014;2014:207357.
7. Vigone G*, Merico V*, Redi CA, Mazzini G, Garagna S, Zuccotti M. FSH and LH receptors are differentially expressed in cumulus cells surrounding developmentally competent and incompetent mouse fully grown antral oocytes. Reprod Fertil Dev. 2014. * These authors contributed equally to this work.
8. Luaces JP, Rossi LF, Sciurano RB, Rebuzzini P, Merico V, Zuccotti M, Merani MS, Garagna S. Loss of Sertoli-Germ Cell Adhesion Determines the Rapid Germ Cell Elimination During the Seasonal Regression of the Seminiferous Epithelium of the Long Hairy Armadillo Chaetophractus villosus. Biol Reprod. 2014 Mar 6;90(3):48.
9. Merico V, Gimenex MD, Vasco C, Zuccotti M, Searle JB, Hauffe HC, Garagna S. Chromosomal speciation in mice: a cytogenetic analysis of recombination. Chromosome Res. 2013;21(5):523-33.
10. Vigone G*, Merico V*, Prigione A*, Mulas F, Sacchi L, Gabetta M, Bellazzi R, Redi CA, Mazzini G, Adjaye J, Garagna S and Zuccotti M. Transcriptome based identification of mouse cumulus cell markers that predict the developmental competence of their enclosed antral oocytes. BMC Genomics. 2013 Jun 7;14:380. *These authors contributed equally to this work
11. Belli M, Cimadomo D, Merico V, Redi CA, Garagna S, Zuccotti M. The NOBOX protein becomes undetectable in developmentally competent antral and ovulated oocytes. Int J Dev Biol. 2013;57(1):35-9
12. Luaces JP, Rossi LF, Merico V, Zuccotti M, Redi CA, Solari AJ, Merani MS, Garagna S. Spermatogenesis is seasonal in the large hairy armadillo, Chaetophractus villosus (Dasypodidae, Xenarthra, Mammalia). Reprod Fertil Dev. 2013;25(3):547-57.
13. Merico V, Zuccotti M, Carpi D, Baev D, Mulas F, Sacchi L, Bellazzi R, Pastorelli R, Redi CA, Moratti R, Garagna S, Balduini A. The genomic and proteomic blueprint of mouse megakaryocytes derived from embryonic stem cells. J Thromb Haemost. 2012;10(5):907-15.
14. Zuccotti M, Merico V, Bellone M, Mulas F, Sacchi L, Rebuzzini P, Prigione A, Redi , Bellazzi R, Adjaye J and Garagna S. Gatekeeper of pluripotency: A common Oct4 transcriptional network operates in mouse eggs and embryonic stem cells. BMC Genomics 2011:5;12:1-13.
15. Neri T*, Merico V*, Fordaliso F, Salio M, Rebuzzini P, Sacchi L, Bellazzi R, Redi CA, Zuccotti M, Garagna S. The differentiation of cardiomyocytes from mouse embryonic stem cells is altered by dioxin. Toxicology Letters, 2011:10;202(3):226-36. *These authors contributed equally to this work
16. Zuccotti M, Merico V, Redi CA, Garagna S. What does it take to make a developmentally competent mammalian egg? Human Reproduction Update 2011:17(4):525-40.
17. Zuccotti M, Merico V, Sacchi L, Bellone M, Brink T, Stefanelli M, Redi C, Bellazzi R, Adjaye J, Garagna S. 2009. Oct-4 regulates the expression of Stella and Foxj2 at the Nanog locus: implications for the developmental competence of mouse oocytes. Hum Reprod 24(9):2225-2237
18. Neri T, Merico V, Garagna S, Redi C, Zuccotti M. 2008. Expression of phase I and phase II genes in mouse embryonic stem cells cultured in the presence of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-para-dioxin. Biochim Biophys Acta 1780(5):826-836
19. Merico V, Barbieri J, Zuccotti M, Joffe B, Cremer T, Redi C, Solovei I, Garagna S. 2007. Epigenomic differentiation in mouse preimplantation nuclei of biparental, parthenote and cloned embryos. Chromosome Res 15(3):341-360.
20. Merico V, Pigozzi M, Esposito A, Merani M, Garagna S. 2003. Meiotic recombination and spermatogenic impairment in Mus musculus domesticus carrying multiple simple Robertsonian translocations. Cytogenet Genome Res 103(3-4):321-329.
Project Title:
The cellular and molecular basis of the acquisition of developmental competence into the mammalian gametes
The main research objective is the understanding of the factors involved in the differentiation of eggs and sperm, using the house mouse as a model organism. These differentiation processes are also studied when chromosomal or environmental conditions (e.g. xenobionts) alter both gametogeneses.
We aim at identifying the markers of the ovarian follicle maturation (oocytes and follicle cells), both in vivo and in a 2D or 3D culture system. A Systems Biology approach that associates high throughput methodologies (transcriptomics, genome-wide DNA-methylation, miRNA) with advanced computational approaches is used to bring out the molecular networks that identify and regulate follicle development and the acquisition of the egg’s developmental competence.
As for the male gamete, our research is focused on the cellular and molecular mechanisms that alterate meiotic progression and sperm differentiation.
Our studies have also an evolutionary perspective. To this regard, both oogenesis and spermatogenesis are studied in the armadillo, pertaining to the ancient mammalian superorder of Xenarthra.

Project Title:
Pluripotent stem cell differentiation as in vitro platform of cardiomyocyte toxicity
To understand the contribution of the environment to the processes of cell differentiation, we study the differentiation of pluripotent stem cells (i.e., embryonic stem cells) into cardiomyocytes. According to the World Heath Organisation, cardio-vascular diseases of environmental origin are a health priority. Recent studies have underlined the contribution of xenobiotics, such as dioxin or arsenic, to induce an alteration of the process of cardiomyocyte differentiation and function. Using cytological and molecular markers, together with systems biology tools, we have developed a differentiation platform to monitor the several steps of cardiomyocyte differentiation with the aim of identifying those signaling pathways that are altered by the presence of environmental contaminants (chemicals: e.g., dioxin, PCBs, arsenic; or physical: e.g., ionising radiations).