Lucina E. Lizarraga, PhD

My research in the Monks lab focused on deciphering the molecular mechanisms of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, Ecstasy) neurotoxicity. MDMA is a ring substituted amphetamine with potent stimulant properties. Acutely, MDMA causes major monoamine release into the synapse, primarily of serotonin (5-HT), inducing hyperthermia and hyperactivity (5-HT syndrome). Conversely, the long-term effects of MDMA manifest as prolonged depletions in 5-HT, and structural damage to serotonergic nerve terminals. My work implicated the role of the serotonin reuptake transporter (SERT) and the vesicular monoamine transporter 2 (VMAT2) in the in vivo toxicities of MDMA. Specifically, I showed that SERT and VMAT2 are important in mediating the thermoregulatory, behavioral and neurotoxic responses to MDMA. These studies aid in advancing our understanding of the mechanisms of action of amphetamine drugs and provide knowledge that may impact the treatment of drug abuse and serotonergic-related pathologies. I am currently a post-doctoral fellow at the US EPA National Center for Environmental Assessment (NCEA) in Cincinnati, Ohio. My work involves in-depth, qualitative and quantitative assessment of health risks associated with exposure to chemical substances in the environment.
Pharmacology and Toxicology
Pharmacology and Toxicology
Post-Doctoral Fellow at US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Cincinnati, OH
Dissertation Title: 
“The Role of Serotonin and Vesicular Monoamine Transporters in the Adverse Responses to Methylenedioxymethamphetamine”
Year Enrolled: 
Honors and Achievements: 
1. Mountain West Society of Toxicology Student Travel Award, 2011.
2. NIEHS Training Grant - Environmental Toxicology of Human Diseases, 2011 (31).
3. NIEHS Training Grant - Environmental Toxicology of Human Diseases, 2012 (32).
4. NIEHS Training Grant - Environmental Toxicology of Human Diseases, 2013 (33).
1. Lizarraga, L. E., Phan, A. V., Cholanians, A. B., Herndon, J. M., Lau, S. S. and Monks, T. J. (2014). Serotonin reuptake transporter deficiency modulates the acute thermoregulatory and locomotor activity response to 3,4-({+/-})-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, and attenuates depletions in serotonin levels in SERT-KO Rats. Toxicol Sci 139, 421-31.
2. Lizarraga L. E., Cholanians A. B., Phan A. V., Herndon J. M., Lau S. S., Monks T. J. (2014). Vesicular Monoamine Transporter 2 and the Acute and Long-term Response to 3,4-(±)-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine. Toxicol Sci, 1-11.
3. Herndon, J. M., Cholanians, A. B., Lizarraga, L. E., Lau, S. S. and Monks, T. J. (2014). Catechol-O-Methyltransferase and 3,4-({+/-})-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine Toxicity. Toxicol Sci 139, 162-73.
4. Sabelli, P. A., Liu, Y., Dante, R. A., Lizarraga, L. E., Nguyen, H. N., Brown, S. W., Klingler, J. P., Yu, J., LaBrant, E., Layton, T. M., Feldman, M. and Larkins, B. A. (2013). Control of cell proliferation, endoreduplication, cell size, and cell death by the retinoblastoma-related pathway in maize endosperm. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 110, E1827-36.
5. Sabelli, P. A., Hoerster, G., Lizarraga, L. E., Brown, S. W., Gordon-Kamm, W. J. and Larkins, B. A. (2009). Positive regulation of minichromosome maintenance gene expression, DNA replication, and cell transformation by a plant retinoblastoma gene. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 106, 4042-7.
Career Type: