Sama Sleiman

Associate Professor of Biology
Chairperson, Department of Natural Sciences

Dr. Sama Sleiman is an associate professor of biochemistry in the Department of Natural Sciences. She is also the program lead for biology and graduate education. She joined LAU as an assistant professor of biochemistry in September 2014.

During her postdoctoral work at Cornell University, Dr. Sleiman focused on transcriptional dysregulation and the role of epigenetics in neurodegenerative diseases. Her work led to the conclusion that there are common genetic pathways that lie at the intersection of cancer and neurodegeneration. Because of her interests in epigenetics and neuronal signaling, she joined NYU as a junior faculty member and worked on deciphering how epigenetic modulators regulate brain derived neurotrophic factor (Bdnf) expression in psychiatric diseases such as depression and schizophrenia.

Research Interests and Projects

Dr. Sleiman’s group is interested in understanding how physical exercise induces beneficial responses in the brain and ameliorates the symptoms of depression. She is also interested in identifying both the transcriptional and post-transcriptional networks that regulate neuronal death during central nervous disease in an attempt to identify novel therapeutic targets. Her group is working on four major projects: 1) Understanding how physical exercise induces Bdnf expression in the hippocampus to mediate its positive effects on memory formation and synaptic plasticity. 2) Identifying novel exercise factors that mediate the positive effects of exercise and testing whether they can serve as antidepressants. 3) Deciphering the epigenetic pathways, particularly the role of histone deacetylases in neuronal death during both chronic and acute insults to the central nervous system. 4) Identifying the post-transcriptional networks induced by neurotoxic stress, specifically the microRNAs involved in the regulation of neuronal death during disease.

SDGs Research Mapping

Dr. Sama Sleiman conducts research relevant to the following SDGs:

Selected Publications

  1. Khalifeh M, Hobeika R, El Hayek L, Saad J, Eid F, El-Khoury R, Ghayad LM, Jabre V, Nasrallah P, Barmo N, Stephan JS, Khnayzer R, Khalil C, and Sleiman SF*. (2020). Behavarioral Brain Research. Mar 16;382:112499. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2020.112499.
  2. Stephan JS. and Sleiman SF*. (2019) Exercise factors as potential mediators of cognitive rehabilitation following traumatic brain injury. Current Opinion in Neurology Dec;32(6):808-814. doi: 10.1097/WCO.0000000000000754.
  3. Nasrallah, P., Abou Haidar, E., Stephan JS., El Hayek, L., Karnib, N., Khalifeh, M., Barmo, N., Jabre, V., Houbeika, R., Ghanem, A., Nasser, J., Zeeni, N., Bassil, M., and Sleiman, SF*. (2019). Branched-chain amino acids mediate resilience to chronic social defeat stress by activating BDNF/TRKB signaling. Neurobiology of Stress, Volume 11, November 2019. doi: 10.1016/j.ynstr.2019.100170
  4. El Hayek, L., Zibara, V., Abi Assaad, R., Emmanuel, N., Karnib, N., El-Ghandour, R., Bilen, M., Ibrahim, P., Younes, J., Abou Haidar, E., Stephan, JS., and Sleiman, SF.* (2019). Lactate mediates the effects of exercise on learning and memory through SIRT1-dependent activation of hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). J Neurosci. 2019 Jan 28. pii: 1661-18. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1661-18.2019.
  5. Karnib, N.&, El-Ghandour, R. &, El Hayek, L., Nasrallah, P., Ibrahim, P., Bilen, M., Stephan, JS., Holson, EB., Ratan, RR., and Sleiman, SF.* (2019). Lactate is an antidepressant that mediates resilience to stress by modulating the hippocampal levels and activity of histone deacetylases.  Neuropsychopharmacology. 2019 Jan 8. doi: 10.1038/s41386-019-0313-z.
  6. Sleiman, SF.*, Kessna-Henry, J., Al-Haddad, R., El-Hayek, L., Abou Haidar, E., Stringer, T., Ulja, D., Karrapagounder, S., Holson, E., Ratan, RR., Ninan, I. and Chao, MV (2016). Exercise promotes the expression of BDNF through the action of ß -hydroxybutyrate. elife. 2016;5:e15092. DOI: 10.7554/elife.15092.
  7. Al-Haddad, R., Karnib, N., Abi Assaad, R., Bilen, Y., Emmanuel, N., Ghanem, A., Younes, J., Zibara, V., Stephan, J.S. and Sleiman, SF*. (2016). Epigenetic changes in Diabetes. Neuroscience letters, 625 (2016) 64-69, DOI: 10.1016/j.neulet.2016.04.046
  8. Karuppagounder SS, Alim I, Khim SJ, Bourassa MW, Sleiman SF., John R, Thinnes CC, Yeh TL, Demetriades M, Neitemeier S, Cruz D, Gazaryan I, Killilea DW, Morgenstern L, Xi G, Keep RF, Schallert T, Tappero RV, Zhong J, Cho S, Maxfield FR, Holman TR, Culmsee C, Fong GH, Su Y, Ming GL, Song H, Cave JW, Schofield CJ, Colbourne F, Coppola G, Ratan RR. (2016). Therapeutic targeting of oxygen-sensing prolyl-hydroxylase domain enzymes abrogates ATF4-dependent death and improves outcomes from brain hemorrhage. Science Translational Medicine 2;8(328):328ra29.
  9. Sleiman, SF.* and Chao MV. (2015). Downstream Consequences of Exercise Through the Action of BDNF. Brain Plasticity, 1(1): 143-148
  10. Olson, D., Sleiman, SF., Bourassa, M., Ratan RR., and Holson, E. (2015). Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors Protect Neurons from Oxidative Stress by Forming Catalase Mimetic Complexes with Intracellular Iron. Chemistry and Biology. 23;22(4):439-45.
  11. Sleiman, SF*., Bourassa, M., Olson, D, Karuppagounder, S., Basso, M., Coppola, G., Pinto, JT., Holson, E. and Ratan RR* (2014). Hydroxamic acid based HDAC inhibitors can mediate neuroprotection independent of HDAC inhibition. J. Neurosci., Oct. 34(43): 14328-14337.

Academic Degrees

  • PhD in Molecular Cellular Developmental Biology, The Ohio State University, 2008.
  • MS in Anatomy and Cell Biology, Universite de Sherbrooke, 2001.
  • BS in Biology, American University of Beirut, 1998.