The School of Arts & Sciences

Department of Natural Sciences

Sama Sleiman

Dr. Sama Sleiman joined LAU as an assistant professor of biochemistry in September 2014.

During her postdoctoral work at Cornell University, she focused on transcriptional dysregulation and the role of epigenetics in neurodegenerative diseases. Her work led to the conclusion that there are common genetic pathways that lie at the intersection of cancer and neurodegeneration. Because of her interests in epigenetics and neuronal signaling, she joined NYU as a junior faculty member and worked on deciphering how epigenetic modulators regulate brain derived neurotrophic factor (bdnf) expression in psychiatric diseases such as depression and schizophrenia.

Dr. Sleiman’s group is interested in identifying both the transcriptional and post-transcriptional networks that regulate neuronal death during central nervous disease in an attempt to identify novel therapeutic targets. She is also interested in understanding how physical exercise induces beneficial responses in the brain and ameliorates the symptoms of depression. Her group is working on three major projects: 1) Deciphering the epigenetic pathways, particularly the role of histone deacetylases in neuronal death during both chronic and acute insults to the central nervous system. 2) Identifying the post-transcriptional networks induced by neurotoxic stress, specifically the microRNAs involved in the regulation of neuronal death during disease. 3) Understanding how physical exercise induces bdnf expression in the hippocampus to mediate its positive effects on memory formation and synaptic plasticity. 


  1. Migazzi, A., Karuppagounder, SS., Sleiman, SF., Holson, EB., Ratan, RR., Pennuto, M., and Basso, M. Class I HDAC inhibitor CI-994 attenuates the toxicity of mutant huntingtin in cells and mice. Under revision, Scientific Reports.
  2. El Hayek, L., Zibara, V., Abi Assaad, R., Emmanuel, N., Karnib, N., El-Ghandour, R., Bilen, M., Ibrahim, P., Younes, J., Abou Haidar, E., Stephan, JS., and Sleiman, SF.* (2019) Lactate mediates the effects of exercise on learning and memory through SIRT1-dependent activation of hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). In press, J. Neurosci.
  3. Karnib, N.&, El-Ghandour, R. &, El Hayek, L., Nasrallah, P., Ibrahim, P., Bilen, M., Stephan, JS., Holson, EB., Ratan, RR., and Sleiman, SF.* (2019). Lactate is an antidepressant that mediates resilience to stress by modulating the hippocampal levels and activity of histone deacetylases. Neuropsychopharmacology Jan 8. doi: 10.1038/s41386-019-0313-z.
  4. Sleiman, SF.*, Kessna-Henry, J., Al-Haddad, R., El-Hayek, L., Abou Haidar, E., Stringer, T., Ulja, D., Karrapagounder, S., Holson, E., Ratan, RR., Ninan, I. and Chao, MV (2016). Exercise promotes the expression of BDNF through the action of ß -hydroxybutyrate. elife. 2016;5:e15092. DOI: 10.7554/elife.15092.
  5. Al-Haddad, R., Karnib, N., Abi Assaad, R., Bilen, Y., Emmanuel, N., Ghanem, A., Younes, J., Zibara, V., Stephan, J.S. and Sleiman, SF (2016). Epigenetic changes in Diabetes. Neuroscience letters, 625 (2016) 64-69, DOI: 10.1016/j.neulet.2016.04.046
  6. Karuppagounder SS, Alim I, Khim SJ, Bourassa MW, Sleiman SF., John R, Thinnes CC, Yeh TL, Demetriades M, Neitemeier S, Cruz D, Gazaryan I, Killilea DW, Morgenstern L, Xi G, Keep RF, Schallert T, Tappero RV, Zhong J, Cho S, Maxfield FR, Holman TR, Culmsee C, Fong GH, Su Y, Ming GL, Song H, Cave JW, Schofield CJ, Colbourne F, Coppola G, Ratan RR. (2016). Therapeutic targeting of oxygen-sensing prolyl-hydroxylase domain enzymes abrogates ATF4-dependent death and improves outcomes from brain hemorrhage. Science Translational Medicine 2;8(328):328ra29.
  7. Sleiman, SF.* and Chao MV. (2015). Downstream Consequences of Exercise Through the Action of BDNF. Brain Plasticity, 1(1): 143-148
  8. Olson, D., Sleiman, SF., Bourassa, M., Ratan RR., and Holson, E. Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors Protect Neurons from Oxidative Stress by Forming Catalase Mimetic Complexes with Intracellular Iron (2015). Chemistry and Biology. 23;22(4):439-45.
  9. Sleiman, SF*., Bourassa, M., Olson, D, Karuppagounder, S., Basso, M., Coppola, G., Pinto, JT., Holson, E. and Ratan RR* (2014). Hydroxamic acid based HDAC inhibitors can mediate neuroprotection independent of HDAC inhibition. J. Neurosci., Oct. 34(43): 14328-14337.
  10. Aleyasin, H., Karuppagounder, S., Kumar, A., Sleiman, SF., Basso, M., , Ma,T., Siddiq, A., Brochier, C., Langley, B., Haskew-Layton, R., Payappilly, JB., Guo, H., Bane, S., Gazaryan, I., Starkov, A., and Ratan, RR (2014). Anthelminthic benzimidazoles activate hypoxic adaptation and neuroprotection by binding to tubulin. Antioxidant Redox Signaling, 22(2): 121–134
  11. Basso, M.*, Sleiman, S.* and Ratan, RR. (2013). Looking above but not beyond the genome for therapeutics in neurology and psychiatry: epigenetic proteins and RNAs find a new focus. Neurotherapeutics Oct; 10(4):551-5
  12. Veerappan,CS., Sleiman, S., and Coppola, G. (2013). Epigenetics of Alzheimer’s Disease and Frontotemporal Dementia. Neurotherapeutics, Oct; 10(4): 709-21.
  13. Speer RE, Karuppagounder SS, Basso M, Sleiman SF, Kumar A, Brand D, Smirnova N, Gazaryan I, Khim SJ, Ratan RR (2013). Hypoxia-inducible factor prolyl hydroxylases as targets for neuroprotection by “antioxidant” metal chelators: From ferroptosis to stroke. Free Radic Biol Med. Sep; 62:26-36.
  14. Karuppagounder, SS*, Basso, M*, Sleiman, SF*, Ma, TC*, Speer, RE*, Smirnova, NA, Gazaryan, IG, and Ratan, RR. (2013). In Vitro Ischemia Suppresses Hypoxic Induction of Hypoxia-Inducible Factor-1a by Inhibition of Synthesis and Not Enhanced Degradation. J Neurosci Res. Aug;91(8):1066-75.
  15. Basso M., Berlin J., Xia L., Sleiman SF., Ko B., Haskew-Layton R., Kim E., Antonyak MA., Cerione RA., Iismaa SE., Willis D., Cho S., Ratan RR. (2012). Transglutaminase inhibition protects against oxidative stress-induced neuronal death downstream of pathological ERK activation. J Neurosci. May; 9;32(19):6561-9.
  16. Ulm, EA.*, Sleiman, SF.* and Chamberlin, HM. (2011) Developmental function of the C. elegans Sp1-related protein SPTF3. Mech Dev. Sep-Dec;128(7-10):428-41.
  17. Sleiman, SF., Berlin, J., Basso, M., Karuppagounder, SS., Rohr, J., and Ratan, RR. (2011) Histone Deacetylase inhibitors and Mithramycin A impact a similar neuroprotective pathway at the crossroad between cancer and neurodegeneration. Pharmaceuticals, 4: 1183-1195.
  18. Sleiman, SF., Langley, B., Basso, M., Xia L., Payappilly, JB, Berlin, J., Kharel, MK, Hengchang Guo, H., Marsh, J.L., Thompson, L.M., Mahishi, L., Ahuja, P., MacLellan, W.R., Geschwind, D., Coppola, G., Rohr, J., and Ratan, RR. (2011). Mithramycin is a gene selective Sp1 inhibitor that identifies a biological intersection between cancer and neurodegeneration. J. Neurosci. May; 31(18): 6858-6870.
  19. McConoughey SJ, Basso M, Niatsetskaya ZV, Sleiman SF., Smirnova NA, Langley BC, Mahishi L, Cooper AJ, Antonyak MA, Cerione RA, Li B, Starkov A, Chaturvedi RK, Beal MF, Coppola G, Geschwind DH, Ryu H, Xia L, Iismaa SE, Pallos J, Pasternack R, Hils M, Fan J, Raymond LA, Marsh JL, Thompson LM, Ratan RR. (2010). Inhibition of transglutaminase 2 mitigates transcriptional dysregulation in models of Huntington disease. EMBO Mol Med. Sep;2(9):349-70.
  20. Sleiman, SF, Basso, M., Langley B., Mahishi, L, Kozikowski, A.P., Donohoe M.E, and Ratan, R.R. (2009). Putting the “HAT” back on survival signaling: the promises and challenges of HDAC inhibitors in neurological therapeutics. Expert Opin Investig Drugs. May;18(5):573-84
  21. Nelms, BN., Sun, H., Sleiman, SF., Chamberlin, HM., and Hanna-Rose, W (2007). Non-null mutations in C. elegans Pax, zinc finger and HMG box transcription factors are suppressed by mutations in HIM-8-related C2H2 zinc finger protein. Genetics 177(2):1221-6
  22. Zhang, G., Sleiman, SF, Tseng, RJ., Rajakumar, V., Wang, X., and Chamberlin, HM. (2005) Alteration of the DNA binding domain disrupts distinct functions of the C. elegans Pax protein EGL-38. Mech Dev 122: 887-99.
  23. Bkaily, G., Sleiman, S., Stephan, J., Asselin, C., Choufani S., Kamal, M., Jacques, D., Gobeil F. Jr., and D’Orleans-Juste, P. (2003). Angiotensin II AT1 receptor internalization, translocation and de novo synthesis modulate cytosolic and nuclear calcium in human vascular smooth muscle cells. Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology 81: 274-287.

Academic Degrees

Copyright 1997–2019 Lebanese American University, Lebanon.
Contact LAU | Feedback