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Laboratory of Allergic Diseases

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Ana Olivera, Ph.D.

Ana Olivera, Ph.D.

Staff Scientist, Mast Cell Biology Section, LAD

Major Areas of Research

  • The involvement of sphingosine-1-phosphate and its receptors in the allergic response
  • The involvement of sphingolipids in disorders of mast cell activation and proliferation

Program Description

Mast cells are involved in the induction of the allergic response. When an allergen is encountered, mast cells release a number of substances that initiate the allergic response. Sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) is a bioactive lipid generated inside mast cells after allergen exposure, and the formation of this lipid is critical for the initiation of the allergic response. Changes in the amount of S1P in the tissue environment can also alter the phenotype of mast cells, predisposing them to an enhanced responsiveness to an allergen. A better understanding of S1P, its precursors, and its receptors in proliferative and allergic disorders provides insights into the mechanisms for the dysregulated function of mast cells in these diseases.


Dr. Olivera received a doctorate of philosophy from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain, for research on the signaling mechanisms that mediate the contraction of glomerular mesangial cells induced by adenosine. In 1990, she started a postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. Sarah Spiegel and became a research assistant professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology of Georgetown University. There, she studied the role of breakdown products of sphingolipids (ceramide, sphingosine, and sphingosine-1-phosphate) in cell signaling, cellular proliferation, apoptosis, and cell motility. In 2002, she joined Dr. Juan Rivera’s group in the Laboratory of Molecular Immunology of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, where she was appointed staff scientist. In this lab, she investigated the role of sphingosine-1-phosphate in the mechanisms governing mast-cell activation and allergic hypersensitivity. Dr. Olivera is currently working with the Mast Cell Biology Section as a staff scientist.

Selected Publications

Cruse G, Metcalfe DD, Olivera A. Functional deregulation of KIT: link to mast cell proliferative diseases and other neoplasms. Immunol Allergy Clin North Am. 2014 May;34(2):219-237.

Dillahunt SE, Sargent JL, Suzuki R, Proia RL, Gilfillan A, Rivera J, Olivera A. Usage of sphingosine kinase isoforms in mast cells is species and/or cell type determined. J Immunol. 2013 Mar 1;190(5):2058-67.

Olivera A, Eisner C, Kitamura Y, Dillahunt S, Allende L, Tuymetova G, Watford W, Meylan F, Diesner SC, Li L, Schnermann J, Proia RL, Rivera J. Sphingosine kinase 1 and sphingosine-1-phosphate receptor 2 are vital to recovery from anaphylactic shock in mice. J Clin Invest. 2010 May;120(5):1429-40.

Olivera A, Mizugishi K, Tikhonova A, Ciaccia L, Odom S, Proia RL, Rivera J. The sphingosine kinase-sphingosine-1-phosphate axis is a determinant of mast cell function and anaphylaxis. Immunity. 2007 Mar;26(3):287-97.

Olivera A, Urtz N, Mizugishi K, Yamashita Y, Gilfillan AM, Furumoto Y, Gu H, Proia RL, Baumruker T, Rivera J. IgE-dependent activation of sphingosine kinases 1 and 2 and secretion of sphingosine 1-phosphate requires Fyn kinase and contributes to mast cell responses. J Biol Chem. 2006 Feb 3;281(5):2515-25.

Olivera A, Spiegel S. Sphingosine-1-phosphate as second messenger in cell proliferation induced by PDGF and FCS mitogens. Nature. 1993 Oct 7;365(6446):557-60.

Visit PubMed for a complete publication listing.

Last Updated May 27, 2014