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College of Pharmacy

Faculty and Staff

Alessandra Porcu, Pharm.D., Ph.D.

Title: Assistant Professor
Department: Drug Discovery & Biomedical Sciences (DDBS)
College of Pharmacy
Phone: 803-777-0952
Office: College of Pharmacy
715 Sumter Street - CLS 513A
Columbia, SC 29206
Alessandra Porcu portait


Ph.D.  Neuroscience, University of Cagliari and University of Basel, 2016
Pharm. D.  University of Cagliari, 2012

Postdoctoral Fellowship  University of California San Diego, 2016-2022


Dr. Porcu received her Doctor of Pharmacy degree at University of Cagliari, Italy. She then received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from University of Cagliari and University of Basel, Switzerland. She performed her postdoctoral research training in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Diego. In 2020, Dr. Porcu received the K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award from the NIH-NCCIH to study the effect of light on amygdala plasticity and emotion-related behaviors.

Dr. Porcu started her appointment as Assistant Professor of Pharmacology at the University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy in June 2022. 

Research Interests

  • Neuroplasticity
  • Circadian rhythm
  • Neurobiology
  • Neuropharmacology
  • Mouse behavior 
  • Mood disorders

Research Lab

The Porcu Lab interest is to study the role of neuroplasticity and circadian rhythm in regulating brain functions and behaviors.

Today 970 million people worldwide suffer of mental, or substance use disorders. Despite substantial research funding and effort, there have been no major advances in the understanding or treatment of major mental illness in more than 20 years. This limited progress is related primarily to the complexity of the human brain and its dysfunction at the level of both genes and brain circuits. Human and pre-clinical studies show that alterations of neuroplasticity and circadian clock functions are risk factors for developing psychiatric disorders.

The Porcu Lab uses a combination of state-of-the-art methodologies, such as in vivo calcium imaging, chemogenetic and pharmacological approaches, gene expression and circadian analysis, viral circuit tracing and translational mouse models to study the mechanism by which neurotransmitter plasticity and circadian rhythm regulate neuronal circuits and brain functions to reveal promising target for future treatments for mental disorders. 

Awards & Honors

  • K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award from NIH-NCCIH
  • Best Poster Award at 10th Annual Center for Circadian Biology Symposium. San Diego, USA 
  • Chancellor Research Excellence Scholarship, UC San Diego, California, USA 
  • Best Speaker Award at Center for Circadian Biology Fall Workshop on Biological Timing, USA 
  • Research Fellowship from Italian Society of Pharmacology and Merck & Co, Italy 
  • Best Poster Award at 2nd Endocannabinoid Pharmacology Meeting, Switzerland 
  • Graduate Fellowship from Banco di Sardegna Research Foundation, Italy 
  • Erasmus Travel Grant Award from the European Union, UK 


Porcu A., Nilsson A., Booreddy S., Barnes S., Welsh D.K., Dulcis D. (2022) Seasonal changes in day length induce multi-synaptic neurotransmitter switching to regulate hypothalamic network activity and behavior. Science Advances (In Press)

Dale A., Porcu A., Mann J., Neidle S. (2022) The mechanism of resistance in Escherichia coli to ridinilazole and other antibacterial head-to-head bis benzimidazole compounds. Medicinal Chemistry Research 02918-7.

Porcu A., Mostallino R., Serra V., Melis M., Sogos V., Beggiato S., Ferraro L., Bettler B., Manetti F., Gianibbi B., Corelli F., Mugnaini C. and Castelli M.P. (2021) COR758, a Negative Allosteric Modulator of GABAB Receptors. Neuropharmacology 189:108537.

Porcu A., Vaughan M., Nilsson A., Arimoto N., Lamia K., Welsh D.K. (2020) Vulnerability to helpless behavior is regulated by the circadian clock component CRYPTOCHROME in the mouse nucleus accumbens. PNAS 117(24):13771-13782.

Porcu A., Gonzalez R., McCarthy M.J. (2019) Pharmacological manipulation of the circadian clock: a possible approach to the management of bipolar disorder. Review article, CNS drug journal 33:981-999. 

Porcu A., Riddle M., Dulcis D., Welsh D.K. (2018) Photoperiod-induced neuroplasticity in the circadian system. Review article, Neural Plasticity, 5147585. 

Walton Z.E., Patel C.H., Brooks R.C., Yu Y., Ibrahim-Hashim A., Riddle M., Porcu A., Jiang T., Ecker B.L., Tameire F., Koumenis C., Weeraratna A.T., Welsh D.K., Gillies R., Alwine J.C., Zhang L., Powell J.D., Dang C.V. (2018) Acid Suspends the Circadian Clock in Hypoxia through Inhibition of mTOR. Cell. pii:S0092-8674(18)30586-5. 

Porcu A., Melis M., Turecek R., Ullrich C., Mocci I., Bettler B., Gessa G.L., Castelli M.P. (2018) Rimonabant, the potent CB1 receptor antagonist, is a Gαi/o inhibitor. Neuropharmacology (133), 107-120. 

Porcu A., Lobina C., Giunta D., Solinas M., Mugnaini C., Corelli F., Castelli M.P. (2016) In vitro and in vivo pharmacological characterization of a novel GABAB positive allosteric modulator: SSD114. European Journal of Pharmacology (791), 115-123. 

De Luca M.A., Castelli M.P., Loi B., Porcu A., Martorelli M., Miliano C., Davidson C., Stair J., Schifano F., Di Chiara G. (2015) Native CB1 receptor affinity, intrinsic activity and Accumbens Shell dopamine stimulant properties of third generation Spice/K2 Cannabinoids: BB-22, 5F-PB-22, 5F-AKB-48 and STS-135. Neuropharmacology (15), 30181-7. 

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