Carol Elias

Carol Elias, PhD

Professor, Molecular & Integrative Physiology
Professor, Obstetrics & Gynecology

7732B, MS II
1137 E. Catherine St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-5622

(734) 647-2801


I received my postdoctoral training at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard Medical School, Boston-MA in Dr. Clifford Saper and Dr. Joel Elmquist laboratories. Following my postdoctoral training, I returned to Brazil to establish my own independent laboratory, in the Institute of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Sao Paulo, where I worked for about 10 years. I was promoted to the position of Associate Professor in 2004. In 2006, I came back to USA (UTSW, Dallas - TX) for 1-year sabbatical and was invited to join the faculty at the Division of Hypothalamic Research. In 2008, I was appointed Assistant Professor at UTSW, Department of Internal Medicine, in the Division of Hypothalamic Research and promoted to Associate Professor in 2012. In November of 2012, I was appointed Associate Professor in the Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology at the University of Michigan.  My main research interest is Systems Neuroscience and Neuroendocrinology, particularly the brain pathways linking metabolism and reproduction.

Areas of Interest

Research in our laboratory is focused on determining the mechanisms by which metabolic imbalance disrupts the reproductive neuroendocrine axis. We give special attention to the neural and molecular basis of the adipocyte-derived hormone leptin action in reproductive control. Humans and mice with loss-of-function mutations in leptin or leptin receptor genes are obese, diabetic and infertile. Leptin administration to leptin-deficient subjects (but not weight loss alone) restores their reproductive function and, therefore, leptin is thought to play a key role as metabolic signal to the reproductive axis. The link between metabolism and reproduction has been known for decades.  It is well established that a minimum amount of stored energy is required to maintain the tone of the reproductive system. This concept is based on the idea that when survival is threatened by scarcity of food or increased energy demands, male and female of most species divert energy away from reproduction.  This includes sexual maturation, the production of reproductive hormones and gametes, and the maintenance of pregnancy and lactation. If excessive leanness occurs in young women, puberty is often delayed. On the other side of the spectrum, excess stored energy also negatively impacts fertility. Obesity aggravates polycystic ovarian syndrome, ovulatory dysfunctions and may induce hypothalamic hypogonadism. In men, increased adiposity is a recognized factor for infertility likely due to defective gonadal steroidogenesis. In addition, more recently, studies have proposed a link between the obesity epidemics and the increasing rates of advance in puberty onset in girls. Taken together, these findings demonstrate that changing levels of key metabolic cues (e.g., leptin, insulin, ghrelin) are intrinsic components of pubertal maturation and the reproductive health. In our research, we use a series of genetically modified mouse models, systems neuroscience and molecular tools.

Selected Publications:

*Frazão R, Cravo RM, Donato J Jr, Ratra D, Clegg D, Elmquist JK, Zigman JM, Williams KW, Elias CF. Shift in Kiss1 cell activity requires estrogen receptor a. J Neurosci 33, 2807-20. 2013. PMCID: PMC3713640

Cravo RM, Frazao R, Perelo M, Osborne-Lawrence S, Williams KW, Zigman JM, Vianna C, Elias CF. Leptin signaling in Kiss1 neurons arises after pubertal maturation. Plos One 8(3), e58698. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0058698. 2013. PMCID: PMC3591417.

Gautron L, Cravo RM, Elmquist JK, Elias CF. Discrete melanocortin-sensitive neuroanatomical pathway linking the ventral premmamillary nucleus to the paraventricular hypothalamus. Neuroscience 240, 70-82. 2013. PMCID: PMC3661020.

*Williams KW, Sohn J-W, Donato Jr J, Lee CE, Zhao JJ, Elmquist JK, Elias CF. The acute effects of leptin require PI3K signaling in the hypothalamic ventral premammillary nucleus. J Neurosci. 31, 13147-56. 2011  PMCID: PMC3319415.

*Donato J Jr, Cravo RM, Frazão R, Gautron L, Scott MM, Lachey J, Castro IA, Margatho LO, Lee S, Lee C, Richardson JA, Friedman J, Chua S Jr, Coppari R, Zigman JM, Elmquist JK, Elias CF. Leptin's effect on puberty in mice is relayed by the ventral premammillary nucleus and does not require signaling in Kiss1 neurons. J Clin Invest. 121: 355-368. 2011. PMCID: PMC3007164

Cravo RM, Margatho LO, Osborne-Lawrence S, Donato J Jr, Atkin S, Bookout AL, Rovinsky S, Frazão R, Lee CE, Gautron L, Zigman JM, Elias CF. Characterization of Kiss1 neurons using transgenic mouse models. Neuroscience. 173:37-56. 2011.PMCID: PMC3026459

*Donato J Jr, Frazão R, Fukuda M, Vianna CR, and Elias CF. Leptin induces phosphorylation of neuronal nitric oxide synthase in defined hypothalamic neurons. Endocrinology, 151, 5415-5427. 2010. PMCID: PMC2954713.

Williams K, Margatho LO, Lee C, Choi M, Lee S, Scott M, Elias CF* and Elmquist JK*. Segregation of acute leptin and insulin effects in distinct populations of arcuate POMC neurons. J Neurosci 30(7):2472-9. 2010.  PMCID: PMC2836776.

Donato Jr J, Cavalcante JC, Silva RJ, Teixeira AS, Bittencourt JC, EliasCF. Male and female odors induce Fos expression in chemically defined neuronal population. Physiol Behav 99(1):67-77.2010. PMID: 19857504.

*Donato Jr J, Silva RJ, Sita LV, Lee S, Lee C, Lacchini S, Bittencourt JC, Franci CR, Canteras NS, Elias CF. The ventral premammillary nucleus links fasting-induced changes in leptin levels and coordinated luteinizing hormone Secretion. J Neurosci 29(16):5240-50. 2009. PMCID: PMC2696192

Honors & Awards

  • Distinguished Young Researcher - UTSW Med Center, Dallas, TX - USA 2009
  • Distinguished Scholar in Medical Research - UTSW Med Center, Dallas, TX - USA 2008
  • Research Honor (Juarez Aranha Ricardo award) – Brazilian Society for Neuroscience and Behavior 2003
  • Research Award – Scholarship - Brazilian Research Council (CNPq) 2001-2006
  • Scholarship Award – Boston Obesity Nutrition Center 1998    


  • 1997-1999 Postdoctoral training. Neurology and Neuroendocrinology. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA - USA
  • 1997 PhD Neuroscience and Behavior. University of Sao Paulo - Brazil
  • 1994 MA Neuroanatomy. University of Sao Paulo (USP), Sao Paulo, SP - Brazil
  • 1990 BS Biological Sciences. University of Campinas (UNICAMP) - Brazil


Research funded by NIH (R01-NICHD) and Foundation for Prader-Willi Research.

Web Sites