Elio Acquas


Elio Acquas

Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology, School of Biology and Pharmacy.


  1. Department of Life and Environmental Sciences –Pharmaceutical, Pharmacological and Nutraceutical Sciences Section, University of Cagliari
  2. Centre of Excellence for the study of the Neurobiology of Addictions, University of Cagliari
  3. National Institute of Neuroscience (Istituto Italiano di Neuroscienze, INN), University of Cagliari

(+ 39) 070 675 8623 office and (+ 39) 070 675 8669 (laboratory)


(+39) 070 675 8665

Email: acquas@unica.it

Research interests

Main research interests include:

  1. the study of the mechanism of action by which acute administration of addictive drugs may affect the function of target neurons in brain areas related to addiction (phosphorylation of target proteins);
  2. the study of the mechanism by which long-term administration of addictive drugs may affect synaptic plasticity (morphology);
  3. the study of the pharmacology of the above actions of addictive drugs by the use of receptor antagonists and kinase inhibitors;
  4. the study of the role of ethanol by-products (acetaldehyde and salsolinol) in the effects of ethanol on brain dopamine;
  5. the study of central effects of plant extracts.

These research topics involve the application of western blotting and image analysis of Golgi-Cox (spine density and morphology) and immunohistochemical (phosphoproteins) preparations. All these studies are paralleled and/or supported by the appropriate behavioural tests, including conditioned place preference and self-administration experiments.

Biographical information

Elio Acquas is Professor of Pharmacology since March 2005.

1987: Degree in Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Technologies at the School of Pharmacy of the University of Cagliari.
1991: Visiting scientist at City of London Polytechnic University, London, UK
1994: PhD in Neuroscience, University “La Sapienza”, Rome.
1995: Awarded a long-term fellowship by the HFSPO (Strasbourg, France).
1993-1996: PhD fellow at the Division of Neurological Sciences, Department of Psychiatry at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
1997: Research associate at the School of Pharmacy of the University of Cagliari.
2002-2003: PhD fellow at the Department of Neuroscience of the Georgetown University, Washington DC, USA.


Since 2003: Professor of Pharmacology of drugs of abuse School of Biology and Pharmacy (Toxicology);
Since 2009: Professor of Toxicology, School of Biology and Pharmacy (Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Technologies)

Selected publications (2008-2013)

  1. Ibba, F., Vinci, S., Spiga, S., Peana, A.T., Assaretti, A.R., Spina, L., Longoni, R., Acquas, E. Ethanol-induced extracellular signal regulated kinase: Role of dopamine D 1 receptors (2009) Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 33 (5), pp. 858-867.
  2. Kasture, S., Vinci, S., Ibba, F., Puddu, A., Marongiu, M., Murali, B., Pisanu, A., Lecca, D., Zernig, G., Acquas, E. Withania somnifera prevents morphine withdrawal-induced decrease in spine density in nucleus accumbens shell of rats: A confocal laser scanning microscopy study (2009) Neurotoxicity Research, 16 (4), pp. 343-355.
  3. Spina, L., Longoni, R., Vinci, S., Ibba, F., Peana, A.T., Muggironi, G., Spiga, S., Acquas, E. Role of dopamine D1 receptors and extracellular signal regulated kinase in the motivational properties of acetaldehyde as assessed by place preference conditioning (2010) Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 34 (4), pp. 607-616.
  4. Acquas, E., Vinci, S., Ibba, F., Spiga, S., De Luca, M.A., Di Chiara, G. Role of dopamine D1 receptors in caffeine-mediated ERK phosphorylation in the rat brain (2010) Synapse, 64 (5), pp. 341-349.
  5. Vinci, S., Ibba, F., Longoni, R., Spina, L., Spiga, S., Acquas, E. Acetaldehyde elicits ERK phosphorylation in the rat nucleus accumbens and extended amygdala (2010) Synapse, 64 (12), pp. 916-927.
  6. Longoni, R., Spina, L., Vinci, S., Acquas, E. The MEK inhibitor SL327 blocks acquisition but not expression of lithium-induced conditioned place aversion: A behavioral and immunohistochemical study (2011) Psychopharmacology, 216 (1), pp. 63-73.
  7. Spiga, S., Acquas, E., Puddu, M.C., Mulas, G., Lintas, A., Diana, M. Simultaneous Golgi-Cox and immunofluorescence using confocal microscopy (2011) Brain Structure and Function, 216 (3), pp. 171-182.
  8. Peana, A.T., Muggironi, G., Fois, G.R., Zinellu, M., Vinci, S., Acquas, E. Effect of opioid receptor blockade on acetaldehyde self-administration and ERK phosphorylation in the rat nucleus accumbens (2011) Alcohol, 45 (8), pp. 773-783.
  9. Correa, M., Salamone, J.D., Segovia, K.N., Pardo, M., Longoni, R., Spina, L., Peana, A.T., Vinci, S., Acquas, E. Piecing together the puzzle of acetaldehyde as a neuroactive agent (2012) Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 36 (1), pp. 404-430.
  10. Peana, A.T., Giugliano, V., Rosas, M., Sabariego, M., Acquas, E. Effects of l-Cysteine on Reinstatement of Ethanol-Seeking Behavior and on Reinstatement-Elicited Extracellular Signal-Regulated Kinase Phosphorylation in the Rat Nucleus Accumbens Shell (2013) Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 37 (SUPPL.1), pp. E329-E337.
  11. Fenu, S., Acquas, E. Behavioral Pharmacology of Caffeine (2013) Tea in Health and Disease Prevention, pp. 1349-1362.
  12. Vinci, S., Spina, L., Longoni, R., Acquas, E. Caffeine-Mediated ERK Phosphorylation in the Rat Brain (2013) Tea in Health and Disease Prevention, pp. 1095-1104.
  13. Ruiu, S., Longoni, R., Spina, L., Orrù, A., Cottiglia, F., Collu, M., Kasture, S., Acquas, E. Withania somnifera prevents acquisition and expression of morphine-elicited conditioned place preference (2013) Behavioural Pharmacology, 24 (2), pp. 133-143.
  14. Orrù, A., Marchese, G., Casu, G., Casu, M.A., Kasture, S., Cottiglia, F., Acquas, E., Mascia, M.P., Anzani, N., Ruiu, S. Withania somnifera root extract prolongs analgesia and suppresses hyperalgesia in mice treated with morphine (2013) Phytomedicine, . Article in Press.
  15. Melis, M., Carboni, E., Caboni, P., Acquas, E. Key role of salsolinol in ethanol actions on dopamine neuronal activity of the posterior ventral tegmental area (2013) Addiction Biology, . Article in Press.

International collaborations

Experimental Psychiatry Unit
Center for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy
Innsbruck Medical University, Austria
Prof. Gerald Zernig,

Sanjivani College of Pharmaceutical Education & Research, Kopargaon
Prof. S.B. Kasture

Department of Basic and Clinical Psychology and Psychobiology
Universitat Jaume I, Castello, Spain
Prof. Mercé Correa

Department of Psychology, University of Connecticut, Storrs,
CT 06269-1020, USA
Prof J.D. Salamone

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