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Dr. Fábio Fernandes

Centro Química-Física Molecular, Complexo Interdisciplinar,

Instituto Superior Técnico (I.S.T.),

Av. Rovisco Pais,

1049 001 Lisboa, Portugal

Telephone +351 218 419 219

email: fernandesf@tecnico.ulisboa.pt




  • 2003-2007: PhD in Chemistry at the Instituto Superior Técnico (Lisbon);
  • 2002: Graduation in Biochemistry (Faculdade de Ciências da Univesidade de Lisboa).

Professional Appointments

  • 2017: FCT Researcher at the Centro de Química-Física Molecular (CQFM) and Institute of Nanosciences and Nanotechnologies in Instituto Superior Técnico (University of Lisbon)
  • 2016: Auxiliary Researcher at Research Unit on Applied Molecular Biosciences (UCIBIO), REQUIMTE. Faculdade de Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT)(University of Lisbon)
  • 2010-2016: Senior postdoc at the Centro de Química-Física Molecular (CQFM) and Institute of Nanosciences and Nanotechnologies in Instituto Superior Técnico (University of Lisbon)
  • 2007-2010: Postdoc with Prof. Erwin Neher in the Membrane Biophysics department at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen (Germany).

Research Interests

Mechanism of action of apoptotic and cytoprotective bile acids

Submillimolar concentrations of cytotoxic bile acids (BAs) induce cell death via apoptosis. On the other hand, several cytoprotective BAs acids were shown to prevent apoptosis in the same concentration range. Still, the mechanisms by which BAs trigger these opposite signaling effects remain unclear. We are interested on the characterization of such mechanisms, particularly on the impact of apoptotic and cytoprotective bile acids on the properties of biological membranes and on the activity of apoptotic proteins.


T. Sousa, R. E. Castro, S. N. Pinto, A. Coutinho, S. D. Lucas, R. Moreira, C. M.P. Rodrigues, M. Prieto, F. Fernandes. 2015. Deoxycholic acid modulates cell death signaling through changes in mitochondrial membrane properties J. Lip. Res. 56:2158-2171.

In this work, the impact of cytotoxic and cytoprotective bile acids on the biophysical properties of membranes from different hepatocyte cellular compartments was quantified. Cytotoxic bile acids were shown to specifically modulate mitochondrial outer membrane order, strongly suggesting that bile acid-induced apoptosis is associated with modulation of the properties of mitochondrial membranes. This work was selected for cover page of Journal of Lipid Research (November 2015 issue).

PI(4,5)P2 compartmentalization


Sarmento, M. J., Coutinho, A., Fedorov, A., Prieto, M., and Fernandes, F. (2014) Ca(2+) induces PI(4,5)P2 clusters on lipid bilayers at physiological PI(4,5)P2 and Ca(2+) concentrations. Biochim. Biophys. Acta 1838, 822–830.

Biomembranes are responsible for much more than cell and organelle compartmentalization, they are the foundation for key signaling pathways and multiple cellular functions. I am interested in the molecular mechanisms behind some of these processes.The multiplicity of the functions of biomembranes requires a complex chemical composition. These distinct components present different energies of interaction, leading to a heterogeneous lateral distribution in the membrane. The resulting heterogeneity in the spatial organization of biomembrane components is responsible for the modulation of many biomembrane related functions.
I am particularly interested on the factors controlling the distribution of the crucial phospholipid PI(4,5)P2. We now know that PI(4,5)P2 is a membrane-bound regulator of a plethora of signaling proteins through interaction with specific PI(4,5)P2 binding domains. These lipid-protein interactions play a key role in the regulation of numerous vital cell functions, from actin cytoskeleton attachment and reorganization to membrane trafficking, endocytosis and exocytosis. In many cases, the activations of these process is throught to be directly dependent on the formation of PI(4,5)P2 enriched domains in the plasma membrane. In my research, i focus on the characterization of some of the factors responsible for this PI(4,5)P2 compartmentalization.

Latest Research Outputs


  • M.J. Sarmento, A. Coutinho, A. Fedorov, M. Prieto, F. Fernandes. 2017. Membrane order is a key regulator of divalent cation-induced clustering of PI(3,5)P2 and PI(4,5)P2. Langmuir(in press) [url]
  • T.P.T. Dao, F. Fernandes, E. Ibarboure, A. Vax, M. Prieto, and J. F. Le Meins. 2017. Membrane Properties Of Giant Polymer And Lipid Vesicles Obtained By Electroformation And PVA Gel-assisted Hydration Methods, Colloids Surf A Physicochem Eng Asp. 533: 347-353. [url]
  • T.P.T. Dao, Brûlet A., F. Fernandes, M. Er-Rafik, K. K. Ferji, R. Schweins, J.P. Chapel, A. Fedorov, M. Schmutz, M. Prieto, O. Sandre, J.F. Le Meins. 2017. Mixing block copolymers with phospholipids at the nanoscale: from hybrid polymer/lipid worm-like micelles to vesicles presenting lipid nano-domains, Langmuir 33 (7), pp 1705–1715. [url]
  • T.P.T. Dao, F. Fernandes, E. Ibarboure, K. Ferji, M. Prieto, O. Sandre, J.F. Le Meins. 2017. Modulation of phase separation at the micron scale and nanoscale in giant polymer/lipid hybrid unilamellar vesicles (GHUVs), Soft Matter 13: 627-637[url]
  • C. Pereira, B. Monteiro, J.P. Leal, M. Otis, M.H. Casimiro, L. Ferreira, F. Fernandes, C. Laia. 2017. A case of self-organization in highly emissive Eu(III) ionic liquids. Eur. J. Inorg. Chem. 28:3429–3434 [url]
  • M.J. Sarmento, S.N.Pinto, A. Coutinho, M. Prieto, F. Fernandes. 2016 Accurate quantification of inter-domain partition coefficients in GUVs exhibiting lipid phase coexistence. RSC Adv. 6: 66641-66649. [url]
  • N. Bernardes, S. Abreu, F.A. Carvalho, F. Fernandes, N.C Santos, A.M. Fialho. 2016. Modulation of membrane properties of lung cancer cells by azurin enhances the sensitivity to EGFR-targeted therapy and decreased ß1 integrin-mediated adhesion. Cell Cycle 15(11):1415-24. [url]
  • D. Ferreira, D. Conceição, F. Fernandes, T. Sousa, R. Calhelha, I. Ferreira, P. Santos, Ferreira, L.F.V. 2016. Characterization of a Squaraine/Chitosan System for Photodynamic Therapy of Cancer. J. Phys. Chem. B 120:1212-20. [url]
  • T. Sousa, R.E. Castro, S.N. Pinto, A. Coutinho, S.D. Lucas, R. Moreira, C.M.P. Rodrigues, M. Prieto, F. Fernandes. 2015. Deoxycholic acid modulates cell death signaling through changes in mitochondrial membrane properties. J. Lipid Res. 56:2158-2171 [url] [Cover page]
  • F. Fernandes, A. Coutinho, M. Prieto, L.M.S. Loura. 2015. Electrostatically driven lipid-protein interaction: answers from FRET. Biochim. Biophys Acta (in press)[url]
  • T.P.T. Dao, F. Fernandes, M. Er-Rafik, R. Salva, M. Schmutz, A. Brûlet, M. Prieto, O. Sandre, J.F. Le Meins. 2015. Phase Separation and Nanodomain Formation in Hybrid Polymer/ Lipid Vesicles. ACS Macro Letters 4:182-186[url]
  • A. Ferreira, I. Silva, F. Fernandes, R. Pilkington, M. Callaghan, S. McClean, and L. Moreira. 2015. The tyrosine kinase BceF and the phosphotyrosine phosphatase BceD of Burkholderia contaminans are required for efficient invasion and epithelial disruption of a cystic fibrosis lung epithelial cell line. Infection and Immunity 83:812-21. [Pubmed]
  • S. Magalhães, S. Duarte, G.A. Monteiro, F. Fernandes. 2014. Quantitative evaluation of DNA dissociation from liposome carriers and DNA escape from endosomes during lipid-mediated gene delivery. Hum. Gene Ther. 25: 303-313 [Pubmed]
  • M.E. Monteiro, M.J. Sarmento, F. Fernandes. 2014. Role of calcium in membrane interactions by PI(4,5)P2 binding proteins. Biochim. Soc. Trans. 42: 1441-1446. [Pubmed]
  • D. Mil-Homens, M.I. Leça, F. Fernandes, S. Pinto, A. Fialho. 2014. Characterization of BCAM0224, a multifunctional trimeric autotransporter from the human pathogen Burkholderia cenocepacia. J. Bacteriol. 196: 1968-1979. [Pubmed]
  • T. Ribeiro, S. Raja, A.S. Rodrigues, F. Fernandes, C. Baleizão and J.P.S. Farinha. 2014. NIR and Visible Perylenediimide-Silica Nanoparticles for Laser Scanning Bioimaging. Dyes Pigments. 110: 227–234
  • M.J. Sarmento, A. Coutinho, A. Fedorov, M. Prieto, F. Fernandes. 2014. Ca2+ induces PI(4,5)P2 clusters on lipid bilayers at physiological PI(4,5)P2 and Ca2+ concentrations. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Biomembranes 1838, 3: 822-830. [pdf]
  • A.M. Melo, L.M.S. Loura, F. Fernandes, J. Villalaín, M. Prieto, A. Coutinho. 2014. Electrostatically driven lipid–lysozyme mixed fibers display a multilamellar structure without amyloid features. Soft Matter 10, 840-850. [Pubmed]
  • Mello-Vieira, J.; Sousa, T.; Coutinho, A.; Fedorov, A.; Lucas, S.D; Moreira, R.; Castro, R.E; Rodrigues, C.M; Prieto, M.; Fernandes, F. 2013. Cytotoxic bile acids, but not cytoprotective species, inhibit the ordering effect of cholesterol in model membranes at physiologically active concentrations. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Biomembranes 1828, 9: 2152 - 2163. [Pubmed]
  • Ferreira, A.S; Silva, I. N; Oliveira, V. H; Becker, J. D; Givskov, M.; Ryan, R. P; Fernandes, F.; Moreira, L. M. 2013. Comparative Transcriptomic Analysis of the Burkholderia cepacia Tyrosine Kinase bceF Mutant Reveals a Role in Tolerance to Stress, Biofilm Formation, and Virulence. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 79, 9: 3009 - 3020. [Pubmed]
  • Pinto, S.N; Fernandes, F.; Fedorov, A.; Futerman, A.H; Silva, L.C; Prieto, M. 2013. A combined fluorescence spectroscopy, confocal and 2-photon microscopy approach to re-evaluate the properties of sphingolipid domains. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Biomembranes 1828, 9: 2099 - 2110. [Pubmed]