Marco Bortolato

Associate Professor, University of Utah, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology
Primary office:

  • 2000 – M.D., University of Cagliari, Italy
  • 2004 - Ph.D., Pharmacology, University of Cagliari, Italy
  • 2004-2006 Postdoctoral Fellow, Depts. of Psychiatry and Pharmacology, University of California Irvine, USA
  • 2006-2008 Postdoctoral Fellow, Dept. of Neurology, University of Cagliari, Italy
  • 2007-2009 Senior Research Scientist, Dept. of Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA
  • 2009 – Clinical Board License, Neuropathophysiology, University of Cagliari, Italy
  • 2009-2012 Research Assistant Professor, Dept. of Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA
  • 2012 Assistant Professor, Dept. of Pharmacology and Toxicology, School of Pharmacy, University of Kansas, Lawrence (KS), USA


My research is primarily focused on the characterization of the biological bases of neurodevelopmental disorders through the employment of behavioral tests in animal models. In particular, my key scientific interest is the identification of the mechanisms of interaction between lipid mediators (including neuroactive steroids and endocannabinoids) and key brain neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin. To this end, we employ a broad array of behavioral techniques, as well as electroencephalography, stereotactic surgery and HPLC.

The long-term goal of this research is the development of novel therapeutic agents for the treatment of pathological aggression, autism-spectrum disorder, Tourette syndrome, schizophrenia and impulse-control disorders (such as pathological gambling).

My laboratory is currently involved in two major translational research projects. The first target of our investigations is the characterization of the molecular substrates of gene x environment interactions in impulsive aggression. The second aim of our research is the development of novel steroid- and cannabinoid-based tools for the therapy of impulse-control disorders, Tourette syndrome and schizophrenia. In particular, we have discovered the antipsychotic efficacy of neurosteroid-based therapies in patients affected by schizophrenia, Tourette syndrome and impulse-control disorders. Both projects involve multiple collaborations with several basic and clinical scientists in US, Canada, Italy, Germany, Croatia and Malta.


Bortolato recent publications and previous publications on aggression, alcohol and cannabis

  1. Moskovitz J, Walss-Bass C, Cruz DA, Thompson PM, Bortolato M. Methionine sulfoxide reductase regulates brain catechol-O-methyl transferase activity. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol, in press
  2. Frau R, Bini V, Pillolla G, Malherbe P, Pardu A, Thomas AW, Devoto P, Bortolato M. Positive allosteric modulation of GABA-B receptors ameliorates sensorimotor gating in rodent models. CNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics, in press
  3. Godar SC, Bortolato M. Gene-sex interactions in schizophrenia: focus on dopamine neurotransmission. Front in Behav Neurosci, in press
  4. Bortolato M, Bini V, Frau R, Devoto P, Pardu A, Fan Y, Solbrig MV. Juvenile cannabinoid treatment induces frontostriatal gliogenesis in Lewis rats. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol , in press
  5. Bortolato M, Godar SC, Tambaro S, Li FG, Devoto P, Coba MP, Chen K, Shih JC.  Early postnatal inhibition of serotonin synthesis results in long-term reductions of perseverative behaviors, but not aggression, in MAO A-deficient mice. Neuropharmacology. 2013 Dec;75:223-32.
  6. Tambaro S, Tomasi ML, Bortolato M. Long-term CB1 receptor blockade enhances vulnerability to anxiogenic-like effects of cannabinoids. Neuropharmacology. 2013 Jul;70:268-77.
  7. Bortolato M, Godar SC, Alzghoul L, Zhang J, Darling RD, Simpson KL, Bini V, Chen K, Wellman CL, Lin RC, Shih JC. Monoamine oxidase A and A/B knockout mice display autistic-like features. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2013 May;16(4):869-88.
  8. Bortolato M, Godar SC, Melis M, Soggiu A, Roncada P, Casu A, Flore G, Chen K, Frau R, Urbani A, Castelli MP, Devoto P, Shih JC. NMDARs mediate the role of monoamine oxidase A in pathological aggression. J Neurosci. 2012 Jun 20;32(25):8574-82.
  9. Davies DL, Bortolato M, Finn DA, Ramaker MJ, Barak S, Ron D, Liang J, Olsen RW. Recent advances in the discovery and preclinical testing of novel compounds for the prevention and/or treatment of alcohol use disorders. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2013 Jan;37(1):8-15.
  10. Yardley MM, Wyatt L, Khoja S, Asatryan L, Ramaker MJ, Finn DA, Alkana RL, Huynh N, Louie SG, Petasis NA, Bortolato M, Davies DL. Ivermectin reduces alcohol intake and preference in mice. Neuropharmacology. 2012 Aug;63(2):190-201.
  11. Tambaro S, Bortolato M. Cannabinoid-related agents in the treatment of anxiety disorders: current knowledge and future perspectives. Recent Pat CNS Drug Discov. 2012 Apr 1;7(1):25-40.
  12. Bortolato M, Shih JC. Behavioral outcomes of monoamine oxidase deficiency: preclinical and clinical evidence. Int Rev Neurobiol. 2011;100:13-42.
  13. Bortolato M, Chen K, Godar SC, Chen G, Wu W, Rebrin I, Farrell MR, Scott AL,  Wellman CL, Shih JC. Social deficits and perseverative behaviors, but not overt aggression, in MAO-A hypomorphic mice. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2011 Dec;36(13):2674-88.
  14. Godar SC*, Bortolato M*, Frau R, et al. Maladaptive defensive behaviors in monoamine oxidase A-deficient mice. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2011 Oct;14(9):1195-207.
  15. Bortolato M, Bini V, Tambaro S. Vulnerability Factors for the Psychiatric and Behavioral Effects of Cannabis. Pharmaceuticals, 2010; 3(9): 2799-2820
  16. Bortolato M, Frau R, Bini V, Luesu W, et al. Methamphetamine neurotoxicity increases brain expression and alters behavioral functions of CB1 cannabinoid receptors. J Psychiatr Res. 2010; 44(14): 944-55.
  17. Sciolino NR, Bortolato M, Eisenstein SA, Fu J, et al. Social isolation and chronic handling alter the endocannabinoid signaling system and behavioral reactivity to context in adult rats. Neuroscience 2010; 168(2): 371-86
  18. Bortolato M, Frau R, Piras AP, Luesu W, et al. Methamphetamine induces long-term alterations in reactivity to environmental stimuli: correlation with dopaminergic and serotonergic toxicity. Neurotox Res. 2009 15(3):232-45.
  19. Justinova Z, Mangieri RA, Bortolato M, Chefer SI et al. Fatty acid amide hydrolase inhibition heightens anandamide signaling without reinforcing effects in primates. Biol Psychiatry. 2008 Dec 1;64(11):930-7.
  20. Bortolato M, Chen K, Shih J. Monoamine oxidase inactivation: From pathophysiology to therapeutics. Adv Drug Deliv Rev. 2008 Oct-Nov;60(13-14):1527-33.
  21. Scott AL, Bortolato M, Chen K, Shih JC. Novel monoamine oxidase A knock out mice with human-like spontaneous mutation. Neuroreport. 2008 May 7;19(7):739-43.
  22. Bortolato M, Mangieri RA, Fu J, Kim JH, et al. Antidepressant-like activity of the fatty acid amide hydrolase inhibitor URB597 in a rat model of chronic mild stress. Biol Psychiatry. 2007 Nov 15;62(10):1103-10.
  23. Ballmaier M, Bortolato M, Rizzetti C, Zoli M, et al. Cannabinoid receptor antagonists counteract sensorimotor gating deficits in the phencyclidine model of psychosis. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2007 Oct;32(10):2098-107.
  24. La Rana G, Russo R, Campolongo P, Bortolato M, et al. Modulation of neuropathic and inflammatory pain by the endocannabinoid transport inhibitor AM404. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2006, 317(1-3): 1365-1371.
  25. Bortolato M, Frau R, Orru M, Casti A, et al. Prenatal exposure to a cannabinoid agonist does not affect sensorimotor gating in rats. European Journal Pharmacology. 2006, 531 (1-3):166-70.
  26. Gobbi G, Bambico FR, Mangieri R, Bortolato M, et al. Antidepressant-like activity and modulation of brain monoaminergic transmission by blockade of anandamide hydrolysis. Proceedings National Academy Science 2005, 102: 18620-18625
  27. Tambaro S, Bortolato M. Interactions of cannabis and amphetamine-type stimulants. In: Cannabinoids, endocannabinoids, and modulation of emotion, memory and motivation.  eds. L. Fattore, P. Campolongo, Springer, in press
  28. Bortolato M, Piomelli D. The endocannabinoid system and anxiety responses. In Handbook of Fear and Anxiety, Volume 17, eds. R.J.Blanchard, D.C.Blanchard, G.Griebel, D.Nutt, Elsevier Science, 2008
  29. Stetler DA, Davis C, Leavitt K, Schriger I, Benson K, Bhakta S, Wang LC, Oben C, Watters M, Haghnegahdar T, Bortolato M. (2014). Association of low-activity MAOA allelic variants with violent crime in incarcerated offenders. Journal of Psychiatric Research. 58:69-75.
  30. Godar SC, Bortolato M, Castelli MP, Casti A, Casu A, Chen K, Ennas MG, Tambaro S, Shih JC. (2014) The aggression and behavioral abnormalities associated with monoamine oxidase A deficiency are rescued by acute inhibition of serotonin reuptake. Journal of Psychiatric Research. 56:1-9.
  31. Godar SC, Bortolato M, Richards SE, Li FG, Chen K, Wellman CL, Shih JC. (2015) Monoamine oxidase A is required for rapid dendritic remodeling in response to stress. International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology. (In Press)


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