Alenka Lovy

Assistant Professor


Dr. Lovy received her MS Degree in Plant Physiology studying Taxol biosynthesis with Dr. Rodney Croteau at Washington State University, Pullman, USA in 1999. In 2006, she received her PhD degree in Plant Biology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA under the guidance of Dr. Peter Hepler, who inspired a major use of microscopy studying cellular ultrastructure by TEM and live confocal microscopy to study actin and ion dynamics during the growth of pollen tubes. Her microscopy career continued to develop when she joined Tufts School of Medicine, Boston, USA in 2006, where in addition to managing the Tufts Imaging Facility she developed several collaborations, in one of which she was trained by Dr. Orian Shirihai in studying mitochondrial dynamics. This led to a collaboration with Dr. Cesar Cardenas, with whom she has been exploring mitochondrial dynamics in the context of cancer, which continues here at the Center for Integrative Biology.

Ahumada-Castro, U., Silva-Pavez, E., Lovy, A., Pardo, E., Molgo, J. and Cárdenas, C. (2019). MTOR-independent autophagy induced by interrupted endoplasmic reticulum-mitochondrial Ca2+ communication: a dead end in cancer cells. Autophagy 2019 Feb;15(2):358-361.

Urra FA, Muñoz F, Lovy A, Cárdenas C..(2017). The Mitochondrial Complex(I)ty of Cancer. Front Oncol. 2017 Jun 8;7:118. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2017.00118.

Bustos G, Cruz P, Lovy A, Cárdenas C. (2017). Endoplasmic Reticulum-Mitochondria Calcium Communication and the Regulation of Mitochondrial Metabolism in Cancer: A Novel Potential Target. Front Oncol. 2017 Sep 8;7:199.

Cárdenas C, Müller M, McNeal A, Lovy A, Jaňa F, Bustos G, Urra F, Smith N, Molgó J, Diehl JA, Ridky TW, Foskett JK. (2016). Selective Vulnerability of Cancer Cells by Inhibition of Ca(2+) Transfer from Endoplasmic Reticulum to Mitochondria. Cell Rep. 2016 Apr 5;15(1):219-220. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2016.03.045.

Lovy A, Foskett JK, Cárdenas C. (2016). InsP3R, the calcium whisperer: Maintaining mitochondrial function in cancer. Mol Cell Oncol. 2016 May 11;3(4):e1185563. doi: 10.1080/23723556.2016

Lovy A, Molina AJ, Cerqueira FM, Trudeau K, Shirihai OS. (2012). A faster, high resolution, mtPA-GFP-based mitochondrial fusion assay acquiring kinetic data of multiple cells in parallel using confocal microscopy. Plant Physiol. 2008 Apr;146(4):1611-21. doi: 10.1104/pp.107.113035

Cárdenas L, Lovy-Wheeler A, Kunkel JG, Hepler PK. ( 2008). Pollen tube growth oscillations and intracellular calcium levels are reversibly modulated by actin polymerization. Plant Physiol. 2008 Apr;146(4):1611-21. doi: 10.1104/pp.107.113035

Lovy-Wheeler A, Cárdenas L, Kunkel JG, Hepler PK. (2006). Differential organelle movement on the actin cytoskeleton in lily pollen tubes. Cell Motil Cytoskeleton. 2007 Mar;64(3):217-32

Lovy-Wheeler A, Kunkel JG, Allwood EG, Hussey PJ, Hepler PK. (2006). Oscillatory increases in alkalinity anticipate growth and may regulate actin dynamics in pollen tubes of lily. Plant Cell. 2006 Sep;18(9):2182-93.

Cárdenas L, Lovy-Wheeler A, Wilsen KL, Hepler PK. (2005). Actin polymerization promotes the reversal of streaming in the apex of pollen tubes. Cell Motil Cytoskeleton. 2005 Jun;61(2):112-27.

Lovy-Wheeler A, Wilsen KL, Baskin TI, Hepler PK. (2005). Enhanced fixation reveals the apical cortical fringe of actin filaments as a consistent feature of the pollen tube. Planta. 2005 Apr;221(1):95-104.

At present, She would like to develop her work on the regulation of mitochondrial dynamics into aging models. Mitochondrial abnormalities, characterized by a decline in mitochondrial function and the accumulation of damaged mitochondria, have been observed in various cell types and tissues from aged organisms. Alteration of mitochondrial dynamics in aging could explain the accumulation of mitochondrial damage and be viewed as a mechanism linking a loss of mitochondrial fitness with unhealthy aging. Recent publications show that the microbiome influences aging. In fact, induction of mitochondrial fragmentation extends life span. Therefore, to know how mitochondrial dynamics are regulated in normal young mitochondria is fundamental to understand what happens in aged mitochondria. Current work is focused on understanding how commensal bacteria modify mitochondrial function in aging. In vitro and in vivo experiments are underway and she expects that the results will shed light on the role of the microbiome and mitochondrial performance in the protection against aging, allowing the design of interventions.


Title: Geroscience Center for Brain Health and Metabolism

Sponsor Institution: FONDAP

Responsible Researcher: Cardenas C, González-Billault C, Slachevsky A and Court F

Other Researcher: Alenka Lovy

Date of execution: 2015-2019

Name: Research Grant

Title: Mitochondrial uptake of constitutive InsP3R-released Ca2+ is essential to maintain mitochondrial metabolism and sustain breast cancer cell migration, invasion and metastasis

Sponsor Institution: FONDECYT

Responsible Researcher: Cesar Cárdenas

Other Researcher: Alenka Lovy

Date of execution: 2016 -2019

Name: Research Grant

Title: Evaluation of mitochondrial function and mitophagy in PINK1/PARK2 knockout iPSC derivate dopaminergic neurons

Sponsor Institution:

Responsible Researcher: Tufts School of Medicine

Date of execution: 2016 - 2019

Paula Farías Cartes
Undergraduate student

Biochemistry student from Universidad de Concepcion, working to determine how commensal bacteria modify mitochondrial metabolism.


Dr. Cesar Cardenas, Center for Integrative Biology, Universidad Mayor

Dr. Felipe Court, Center for Integrative Biology, Universidad Mayor

Dr. Mario Sanhueza Cubillos, Center for Integrative Biology, Universidad Mayor


Dr. Rob Jackson, Center for Neuroscience Research, Tufts University, Boston, USA

Dr. John Leong, Microbiology Department, Tufts University, Boston, USA

Dr. Jimmy Crott, USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, Boston, USA

Dr. Mitch McVey, Tufts University, Medford, USA

Dr. Michael Malamy, Microbiology Department, Tufts University, Boston, USA

Dr. Anne Kane, Tufts Medical Center, Boston, USA