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The University of Southampton

Dr Vito Mennella MS, PhD

Associate Professor of Cell Biology and Translational Medicine

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Dr Vito Mennella is an Associate Professor of Cell Biology and Translational Medicine and member of the Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia (PCD) research group in the Faculty of Medicine at University of Southampton and NHS diagnostic service at University Hospital Southampton Trust.

Dr Vito Mennella’s laboratory tackles fundamental questions in basic and translational research of cilia and centrosomes by leveraging expertise in mechanistic cell biology and biophysical imaging technologies.

Dr. Mennella received his B.Sc. cum laude from the University La Sapienza in Rome, Italy. After receiving a Fulbright Fellowship to continue his studies in the US he obtained his Ms and PhD in Physiology and Biophysics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, where he discovered the cellular mechanism of microtubule depolymerization mediated by Kinesin-13s and studied the mechanism of their regulation (Mennella et al, Nature Cell Biology, 2005; Journal of Cell Biology, 2008).

From there, Dr. Mennella joined the Howard Hughes Medical Institute lab of Dr. David Agard at the University of California San Francisco as a postdoctoral fellow, where he trained in super-resolution microscopy and advanced imaging methods for studying organelle cell biology, in particular of centrosome and cilia. At UCSF, Dr. Mennella was first to describe the architecture of the Pericentriolar Material of centrosomes, debunking a long-standing assumption of its solely amorphous nature (Mennella et al, Nature Cell Biology, 2012; Trends in Cell Biology, 2014)

In 2014, Dr. Mennella became an Assistant Professor in the Biochemistry Department at University of Toronto, where he applied advanced imaging methods for increasing sensitivity of diagnosis of lung disease motile ciliopathy Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia (PCD) and for characterizing novel cellular structures (Sydor et al. Trends in Cell Biology, 2015; Sydor et al. Elife, 2018; Liu et al, Science Translational Medicine, 2020).

In 2019, Dr. Mennella became tenured Associate Professor in the National Research Health Center and Biomedical Research center at U of Southampton. Dr. Mennella has received external funding from Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR), National Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada and new investigator awards from CIHR Institute of Human Development and Child Health, the ATS-PCD foundation, AAIR and other charities.


Appointments held

Research interests

Mechanistic cell biology of centrosome and cilia. Primary and motile ciliopathies including Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia (PCD). Rare disease diagnosis and gene discovery. Advanced imaging techniques including super-resolution imaging and focused ion beam-SEM. Artificial intelligence applied to image recognition and classification.

Postdoctoral Fellows

  • Zhen Liu, PhD (2015-2020)
  • Andrew Sydor, PhD (2014-2018)
  • Rachel Hannah, PhD (2014-2016)
  • Cristina Rovelli, PhD (2015-2016)

Graduate Students

  • Quynh Nguyen, Ms (2015-2018)
  • Antonio, Mollica, Ms (2017-2018)

Research projects

Development of imaging methods and artificial intelligence algorithms to improve sensitivity and automation of diagnosis of rare diseases

We have developed a super-resolution fluorescence imaging based approach to solve difficult cases of molecular diagnosis of lung disease Primary ciliary dyskinesia intractable by current diagnostic methods. We are currently expanding this approach to implement automated imaging and diagnosis using AI algorithms into the diagnostic pipeline in the UoS national center for PCD diagnosis led by Dr. Jane Lucas.

Liu et al. Science Translational Medicine, 2020
Mennella et al. Encyclopedia of Respiratory Medicine, Elsevier, 2020

Structural and functional analysis of cilia and centrosomes in situ by Super-resolution imaging

The lab investigates how distinct supramolecular assembly of organelles are built from its individual components to ensure proper function using a combination of advanced imaging (super-resolution microscopy, live cell imaging, FRAP etc.), proximity mapping and loss of function methods.

In particular, we are interested in organelles such as centrosome, cilia and flagella. The centrosome is a membrane less organelle that plays a fundamental role in ensuring correct cell division, efficient cellular organization and normal tissue development. Defects in centrosomal proteins are directly linked to developmental disorders such as microcephaly and to cancer initiation and metastasis. Primary and motile cilia play a fundamental role in cellular function by acting a signalling antenna in most cells of the human body and molecular sweeping machines in the lung and other tissues.

We have previously developed a strategy for building nanometer-scale molecular maps of organelle structures by combining two super resolution microscopies (3DSIM and STORM) with 3D averaging techniques borrowed from Cryo Electron Microscopy.

We recently used these strategies to determine the organization of a ciliary appendage using super-resolution and Focus-Ion-Beam nano-tomography. This study revealed that among the hundreds of motile cilia of an airway cell, a hybrid cilium with features of primary and motile cilia is harbored, thereby changing the current view of airway multiciliated cells’ function.

Nguyen Q et al. BioXriv
Sydor A et al. eLife 2018
Fishman et al. Nature Communications 2018
Sydor A et al. Trends in Cell Biology 2015
Mennella V et al. Methods in Cell Biology 2014
Mennella V Encyclopedia in Cell Biology 2014
Mennella V et al. Nature Cell Biology 2012
Mennella V et al. Trends in Cell Biology 2014
Mennella V et al. Nature Cell Biology 2012

Research group

Clinical and Experimental Sciences

Affiliate research groups

Allergy, Immunity and Respiratory, Institute for Life Sciences, Mennella laboratory and Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia (PCD) group at University of Southampton

  • Honorary position at University Hospital Southampton NHS trust aimed at accelerating novel technologies in national centre for Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia diagnosis.
  • Member of the UK cilia network.
  • Member of the NIHR Respiratory Biomedical Research Centre at U. of Southampton.
  • Member of the interdisciplinary Institute for Life Sciences (IFLS) at U. of Southampton.
  • Review activities for journals: Nature Cell Biology, Nature Communications, Journal of Clinical Investigation, Biochemistry, American Journal of Lung Cell and Molecular Biology, Nanophotonics, Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology, Faseb journal and Trends in Biotechnology.
  • Review activities for journals for Granting Agencies: Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR), National Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), Hong Kong Research Council, Taiwan Ministry of Science and Technologies.







Supervision and mentorship of PhD/Ms and MD student projects







Award 2018

  • American Thoracic Society-PCD foundation

Award 2017

  • CIHR new investigator in maternal, reproductive, child and youth health

Fulbright Fellowship 2001

  • Commission for cultural exchanges between USA and Italy
Dr Vito Mennella
Faculty of Medicine, Room AB215, Mailpoint 801, South Academic Block, University Hospital Southampton, Tremona Road, Southampton, SO16 6YD

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