Biomedical Research Foundation Academy Of AthensAcademy Of Athens
Scientific Personnel

Demetrios K. Demetrios K. Vassilatis, PhD
Investigator - Assistant Professor Level

Telephone : +30 210 6597 456
Fax : +30 210 6597 545
e-mail :

Center :

Clinical, Experimental Surgery & Translational Research

Lab Site :

Vassilatis Lab

Brief Bio

Dr. Vassilatis received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1995 and subsequently he was a Research Scientist at Merck Research Labs until 1998. From 1998 to 2001 he was an Assistant Professor at Baylor College of Medicine. In 2001 he co-founded Primal, a biotechnology company, and served as Senior Scientific Director. He joined BRF in 2003. Initially, Dr. Vassilatis was involved in deciphering the mode of action of avermectin, the most common nematocidal drug. Using Caenorhabditis elegans as a model he expression cloned the first avermectin-sensitive glutamate-gated chloride channels. Subsequently, he used reverse genetics and functional genomics to elucidate drug resistance. His work helped explain the mechanism of action of a "wonder drug" and provided insights on drug design. Additionally, Dr. Vassilatis cloned and functionally characterized cell surface and intracellular human receptors using bioinformatics and functional genomics. He used the Drosophila transposable element Minos to create libraries of human cells with random insertions throughout the genome that could inactivate genes and allow live expression monitoring. In collaboration with Dr. Gaitanaris they developed methods for generation and screening of libraries of mouse ES cells harboring random retroviral insertions for the generation of KO animals. On the basis of these genomic and functional-genomic capabilities they founded the biotechnology company Primal Inc., now Nura Inc. At Baylor College of Medicine and at BRF the projects in his laboratory focus on the use of genomics, molecular biology and genetics to create animal models for age related neurodegenerative diseases. He explores the role of developmental factors in the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease. He identified two mutations associated with the disease in the gene encoding NR4A2, an orphan nuclear receptor. This work points to a novel theory for the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease and may lead to new treatments.

Selected Publications

Vassilatis, D. K., Despommier, D. D., Misek, D. E., Polvere, R. I., Gold, A. M. and Van der Ploeg, L. H. T. (1992) Analysis of a 43-kDa glycoprotein from the intracellular parasitic nematode Trichinella spiralis. Journal of Biological Chemistry 267, 18459-18465.

Cully, D. F., Vassilatis, D. K., Liu, K. K., Paress, P. S., Van der Ploeg, L. H. T., Schaeffer, J. M., and Arena, J. P. (1994) Expression cloning of a novel chloride channel gated by L-glutamate and avermectin from Caenorhabditis elegans. Nature 371, 707-711.

Vassilatis, D. K., Elliston, K., Paress, P. S., Hamelin, M., Arena, J. P., Schaeffer, J. M., Van der Ploeg, L. H. T. and Cully, D. F. (1997) Evolutionary relationship of the ligand-gated ion channels and the avermectin-sensitive, glutamate-gated chloride channels. Journal of Molecular Evolution 44, 501-508.

Vassilatis, D. K., Arena J. P., Plasterk, R. H., Wilkinson H. A., Schaeffer, J. M., Cully, D. F. and Van der Ploeg, L. H. T. (1997) Genetic and biochemical evidence for a novel avermectin-sensitive channel in Caenorhabditis elegans: Isolation and characterization. Journal of Biological Chemistry 272, 33167-33174.

Whiting, P. J., McAllister, G., Vassilatis, D. K., Bonnert, T., Haevens R. P., Smith, D.W., Hewson, L., O'Donnell, R., Rigby, M.R., Dalip J.S., Sirinathsinghji, Marshall, G., Thompson, S.A. and Wafford, K.W. (1997) Neuronally Restricted RNA Splicing Regulates the Expression of a Novel GABAA Receptor Subunit Conferring Atypical Functional Properties. Journal of Neuroscience 17, 5027-5037.

Dent, J., Smith, M. H., Vassilatis, D. K. and Avery, L. (2000) The genetics of ivermectin resistance in Caenorhabditis elegans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 97, 2674-2679.

Klinakis, A., Zagoraiou, L., Vassilatis, D. K. and Savakis, C. (2000) Genome-wide insertional mutagenesis in human cells by the Drosophila mobile element Minos EMBO Reports 1, 416-421.

Le, W.D., Xu, P., Jiang, H., Jankovic J., Appel, S., Smith, R.G. and Vassilatis, D. K. (2003) Mutations in NR4A2 associated with familial Parkinson disease. Nature Genetics 33, 85-9.

Vassilatis, D.K., Hohmann, J.G., Zeng, H., Li, F., Ranchalis, J., Mortrud, M., Brown, A., Rodriguez, S., Weller, J., Wright, A., Bergmann, J. and Gaitanaris, G.A. (2003) The G protein-coupled receptor repertoires of human and mouse. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 100, 4903-4908.

Gragerov, A., Horie, K., Pavlova, M., Madisen, L., Zeng, H., Gragerova, G., Rhode, A., Dolka, I., Roth, P., Ebbert, A., Moe, S., Navas, C., Finn, E., Bergmann, J. Vassilatis, D.K., Pavlakis, G.N. and Gaitanaris, G.A. (2007) A large scale, saturating insertional mutagenesis of the mouse genome. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) (in press).


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