Faculty Profile

Dr. Maria Vera Ugalde, Ph.D.

Maria Vera Ugalde, Ph.D.

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Anatomy & Structural Biology

Areas of Research: Dr. Vera Ugalde develops single molecule technologies to vitalize mRNAs and comprehend how eukaryotic cells manage the expression of the molecular chaperones upon stress.

Professional Interests

My research aims to understand the mechanisms by which cells survive under adverse conditions that cause protein damage. The hallmark of proteotoxic stress is the accumulation of unfolded proteins and, as a consequence, the loss of cellular protein homeostasis and function. Eukaryotic cells respond to the presence of misfolded proteins by activating the expression of molecular chaperones or heat shock proteins (HSPs). Cells undergo coordinated changes in their gene expression program to prioritize the production of sufficient HSPs that will prevent misfolded proteins to form toxic aggregates. Once HSPs have refolded the damaged proteins or cleared them by degradation, the stress response is specifically attenuated.

My area of study focuses on decoding the molecular pathways driving the regulation of HSP expression. To resolve this biological process in time and space, I monitor individual HSP mRNAs biogenesis using single molecule fluorescence microscopy technologies in fixed and live cells. These approaches will help to better understanding the etiology of diverse diseases caused by the loss of cellular homeostasis. Important examples are the stunted stress response of hippocampal neurons that leads to age-related neurodegeneration and the uncontrolled production of HSPs by tumor cells that precludes therapy efficacy.

My long-term goal is to determine how the stress response can be therapeutically manipulated to treat cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.

Selected Publications

First author publications

  1. TutucciE*, VeraM*, BiswasJ, GarciaJ, ParkerR and SingerRH. 2017. An improved MS2 system for accurate reporting of the mRNA life cycle. In press in Nature Methods. (*)=Equal contribution to this work.

  2. Vera M, Biswas J, Senecal A, Singer RH and Park HY. 2016. Single-cell and Single-molecule analysis of gene expression regulation. Annu. Rev. Genet. Nov 23;50:267-291. PMCID: PMC5149423

  3. Hocine S*, Vera M*, Zenklusen D and Singer RH. 2015. Promoter-Autonomous Functioning in a Controlled Environment using Single Molecule FISH. Sci Rep. May 28;5:9934. PMCID: PMC4446897. (*)=Equal contribution to this work.

  4. Vera M, Pani B, GriffithsLA, Muchardt, Abbott CM, Singer RH and Nudler E. 2014. eEF1A1 couples transcription to translation during heat shock. Elife. Sept 16;3. PMCID: PMC4164936.

  5. Vera M and Singer RH. 2014. Gene Regulation: the HSP70 gene jumps when shocked. Curr Biol. May 19; 24(10):R396-8. PMCID: PMC4156153..

  6. Vera M, Sobrevals L, Zaratiegui M, Martinez L, Palencia B, Rodríguez CM, Prieto J, Fortes P. 2007. Liver transduction with a simian virus 40 vector encoding insulin-like growth factor I reduces hepatic damage and the development of liver cirrhosis. Gene Ther. Feb;14(3):203-10. PMID: 17024107.

  7. Vera M, Razquin N, Prieto J, Melero I, Fortes P, González-Aseguinolaza G. 2005. Intratumoral injection of dendritic cells transduced by an SV40-based vector expressing interleukin-15 induces curative immunity mediated by CD8+ T lymphocytes and NK cells. Mol Ther. Nov;12(5):950-9. PubMed PMID: 15921960.

  8. Vera M, Prieto J, Strayer DS, Fortes P. 2004. Factors influencing the production of recombinant SV40 vectors. Mol Ther. Oct;10(4):780-91. PMID: 15451462.

  9. Vera M, Fortes P. 2004. Simian virus-40 as a gene therapy vector. DNA Cell Biol. May;23(5):271-82. Review. PMID: 15169607.


  1. Doig J, Griffiths LA, Peberdy D, Dharmasaroja P, Vera M, Davies FJ, Newbery HJ, Brownstein D, Abbott CM. 2013. In vivo characterization of the role of tissue-specific translation elongation factor 1A2 in protein synthesis reveals insights into muscle atrophy. FEBS J. Dec;280(24):6528-40. PMCID: PMC4163635.

  2. Urtasun R, Cubero FJ, Vera M, Nieto N. 2009. Reactive nitrogen species switch on early extracellular matrix remodeling via induction of MMP1 and TNFalpha. Gastroenterology. Apr;136(4):1410-22, PMID: 19250650.

  3. Abad X, Vera M, Jung SP, Oswald E, Romero I, Amin V, Fortes P, Gunderson SI. 2008. Requirements for gene silencing mediated by U1 snRNA binding to a target sequence. Nucleic Acids Res. Apr;36(7):2338-52. PMCID: PMC2367729.

  4. Narvaiza I*, Aparicio O*, Vera M, Razquin N, Bortolanza S, Prieto J, Fortes P. 2006. Effect of adenovirus-mediated RNA interference on endogenous microRNAs in a mouse model of multidrug resistance protein 2 gene silencing. J Virol. Dec;80(24):12236-47. PMCID: PMC1676304.

  5. Huarte E, Tirapu I, Arina A, Vera M, Alfaro C, Murillo O, Palencia B, Busto V, Marín V, Mazzolini G, Melero I. 2005. Intratumoural administration of dendritic cells: hostile environment and help by gene therapy. Expert Opin Biol Ther. Jan;5(1):7-22. Review. PMID: 15709906.

  6. McKee HJ, T'sao PY, Vera M, Fortes P, Strayer DS. 2004. Durable cytotoxic immune responses against gp120 elicited by recombinant SV40 vectors encoding HIV-1 gp120 +/- IL-15. Genet Vaccines Ther. Aug 23;2(1):10. PMCID: PMC517511.

  7. Pérez-Caballero D, González-Rubio C, Gallardo ME, Vera M, López-Trascasa M, Rodríguez de Córdoba S, Sánchez-Corral P. 2001. Clustering of missense mutations in the C-terminal region of factor H in atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome. Am J Hum Genet. Feb;68(2):478-84. PMCID: PMC1235280.



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McGill University
845 Sherbrooke Street West
Montreal, Quebec, CA H3A0G4

Research Information