Jackie Maffucci

Jackie Maffucci

Jackie Maffucci

Ph.D. 2008, Institute for Neuroscience


Jacqueline Maffucci graduated from Cornell University in 2000 with a B.S. in Animal Science. During her undergraduate career, she spent a semester abroad at the University of Melbourne studying the flora and fauna of Australia, where she was introduced to the wonderful world of fieldwork. Upon returning to the States, she was fortunate enough to work in the laboratory of Dr. Elizabeth Adkins-Regan examining the neural basis of maternal behavior in Japanese quail. It was this experience that turned her focus from a career in veterinary medicine to scientific research.

After graduating, she spent two years as a research technician in the laboratory of Dr. Monica Justice in the Molecular and Human Genetics Department at Baylor College of Medicine. During this time, she also tutored high school students in a variety of natural science courses, volunteered at the Houston Zoo as a K-12 natural science educator, and worked as a marine life rehabilitator with the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network. She began her graduate career at The University of Texas at Austin in August 2002 and was awarded an Institute for Neuroscience Graduate Student Fellowship.

During her tenure at UT Austin, Jackie was active in the Neuroscience Graduate Student Association (NGSA), for which she served and headed the committee to organize the annual INS Neuroscience Symposium, and was heavily involved in organizing the INS student recruitment. She also volunteered as a Women in Natural Sciences mentor. She is a member of the Society for Neuroscience, Society for Endocrinology, Women in Endocrinology, and the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine. She has also received a number of awards in recognition of her research, including a Glen/American Federation for Aging Research Grant, an American Psychological Association Dissertation Research Award, the David Bruton Fellowship, and a Butch DuBois/Brand Source National Scholarship.

Outside of the lab, she is an avid animal lover and continues to foster her interest in animal behavior. She volunteers her time at the Austin Humane Society, assists in finding foster and permanent homes for South Central Bloodhound Rescue, is a trained United Animal Nations Emergency Response Volunteer, and has recently become involved in trialing her dog in agility competitions.


My PhD research examined the neuroendocrine mechanisms influencing the onset of reproductive senescence in female rats. Although rats do not have menstrual cycles and do not undergo menopause, they have a reproductive aging process characterized by a loss of reproductive cycles at middle age. Additionally, the reproductive system is controlled by a neural network, of which many components experience age-related changes. The rat provides an excellent model for studying how these changes affect the onset of reproductive aging. Specifically, my research focused on the action of NMDA receptors on the reproductive axis. I studied how changes in NMDAR subunit composition over time may influence alterations in reproductive function of aging female rats and the contribution of estrogen to these actions. Through administration of an NMDAR selective antagonist, I have documented changing reproductive hormone status and gene transcription of GnRH in young and middle-aged female rats. My techniques included tracking changes in luteinizing hormone pulses through serial blood drawing, and quantifying GnRH mRNA expression using real-time PCR. Additionally, I examined the NR1 and NR2b subunit population in the AVPV, and changes with age and steroid hormone treatment.

Currently, the mechanisms by which reproductive failure occurs, and the relative role of each level of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis, remain largely unknown. While the reproductive system is very complicated and involves a large number of processes, my goal is to obtain clearer understanding of the contributions of a receptor that appears to play an important role in the onset of reproductive senescence.

Maffucci JA, Walker DM, Ikegami A, Woller MJ, Gore AC (2008) The NMDA receptor subunit NR2b affects LH release and GnRH gene expression in female rats, with modulation by estradiol. Neuroendocrinology 87: 129-141

Maffucci JA, Gore AC (2009) Hypothalamic neural systems controlling the female reproductive life cycle: gonadotropin-releasing hormone, GABA, and glutamate. International Review of Cytology: A Survey of Cell Biology, Academic Press, In Press.

Maffucci JA, Gore AC (2006) Age-related changes in hormones and their receptors in animal models of female reproductive senescence. In: Handbook of Models for the Study of Human Aging. ed. PM Conn, Academic Press/Elsevier, 533-552.

Maffucci, JA. (Dec. 2007) Menopause: What every woman (and man) should know. Nside MD San Antonio.

Yin W, Monita MM, Reynolds KK, Wu D, Maffucci JA, Gore AC (2007) GnRH neuroterminal properties in reproductive aging. Endocrine Society Abstract, Toronto, Canada.

Maffucci JA, Walker DM, Makos B, Woller MJ, Gore AC (2006) Neural regulation of reproductive aging in female rats: The role of the NMDA receptor. American Federation of Aging Research Grantee’s Conference, Santa Barbara, CA.

Maffucci JA, Walker DM, Makos B, Woller MJ, Gore AC (2006) The NMDA receptor subunit NR2b affects GnRH gene expression and LH release in female rats, with modulation by estrogen, but not aging. Endocrine Society, Boston, MA.

Gore AC, Maffucci JA, Reynolds K, Wu D, Yin W (2005) Rat models of reproductive aging (and what does the NMDA receptor have to do with menopause?). Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories Symposium on Rat Models & Genomics, Cold Spring Harbor, NY.

Walker DM, LaPlant Q, Maffucci JA, Gore AC (2005) Hypothalamic GnRH gene expression profile in developing male rats, assayed by two quantitative methods. Endocrine Society, San Diego, CA..

Gore AC, Feduccia A, Choudhury L, Yin W, Steinberg RM, Maffucci JA, Hughes SH (2004) Blockade of the nocturnal increase in GnRH release delays the onset of puberty in female rats. Endocrine Society, New Orleans, LA.

Hillsman KD, Hughes SM, Maffucci J, Gore AC (2004) Circadian regulation of the timing of puberty in rats. Society for Neuroscience, San Diego, CA.

Maffucci JA, Ikegami A, Hillsman KD, Woller MJ, Gore AC (2004) NR2b selective antagonists of the NMDA receptor decrease luteinizing hormone levels in young and middle-aged rats. Society for Neuroscience, San Diego, CA.