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Nelli Mnatsakanyan, PhD

Assistant Professor Adjunct

Contact Information

Nelli Mnatsakanyan, PhD



Dr. Mnatsakanyan is currently an Associate Professor at the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine. She obtained her Ph.D. from Yerevan State University and performed her postdoctoral work at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. As a postdoctoral fellow, she studied the catalytic mechanism of the ATP synthase and characterized an important structural unit, beta DELSEED loop region of the ATP synthase that couples ATP synthesis with subunit rotation. Dr. Mnatsakanyan's current research focuses on understanding the molecular mechanism and regulation of the enigmatic cell death channel located in the mitochondrial ATP synthase and its role in mitochondrial permeability transition (mPTP). The goals in her lab are threefold: 1) Identify and structurally characterize the molecular components of mPTP by using cryo-electron microscopy and cryo-electron tomography. 2) Functionally characterize the ATP synthase leak channel and its regulation by using electrophysiology techniques, patch-clamp and planar lipid bilayer recordings. 3) Generate CRISPR/Cas9-edited mice with a low probability of ATP synthase leak channel/mPTP opening and introduce these mutations in transgenic Alzheimer's disease (AD) mice to study if they will protect the mice from the onset of AD-like features.  These studies may lead to the structure-based drug design of specific therapeutic compounds for the treatment of mPTP-related neurodegenerative disorders, aging and cancer.

Education & Training

  • PhD
    Yerevan State University, Biophysics (2003)
  • MS
    Yerevan State University (1999)
  • BS
    Yerevan State University (1999)


  • Structural and pharmacological characterization of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore:A megachannel formed by ATP synthase
    San Diego, CA, United States 2020
    Biophysical Society Annual Meeting
  • A mitochondrial megachannel resides in monomeric ATP synthase
    Baltimore, MD, United States 2019
    Selected Speaker, Biophysical Society Annual Meeting
  • The role of ATP synthase megachannel in mitochondrial permeability transition
    San Francisco, CA, United States 2018
    Selected Speaker Biophysical Society "Bioenergetics" Subgroup Symposium

Honors & Recognition

AwardAwarding OrganizationDate
RF1 AwardNational Institute on Aging2021
Young Bioenergeticist AwardBiophysical Society2018
K01 Research Scientist Development AwardNational Institute on Aging2017

Professional Service

Biophysical Society "Bioenergetics, Mitochondria and Metabolism" SubgroupExecutive Council Member2020 - Present
Alzheimer’s Association International Society to Advance Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment (ISTAART)Member2019 - Present
"Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy" Elsevier JournalAssociate Editor2018 - Present
Biophysical SocietyCo-organizer and co-chair of the Biophysical Society "Bioenergetics" Subgroup Symposium "High-resolution structure, function and dynamics of mitochondrial proteins".2017
"Bioenergetics, Mitochondria and Metabolism" Subgroup, Biophysical SocietyMember2015 - Present
Society of NeuroscienceMember2011 - Present
Biophysical SocietyMember2011 - Present

Departments & Organizations