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We aim to shed light on the synthesis and storage of secondary metabolites in plants, particularly those involved in plant-environment ecological interactions, and those that could have important implications in promoting human health and reducing the risk of chronic diseases.

Research Objectives

Plants produce a vast assortment of organic compounds, traditionally referred to as secondary metabolites. The great majority of these molecules, in addition to influencing ecological interactions between plant/environment, also promotes health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases in human.

The overall objective of our research activity is to shed light on the synthesis and storage of secondary metabolites in plants, and our activity is mainly based on: i) a genetic and genomic approach to discover genes and enzymes involved in the synthesis of these compounds, and in reverse-genetics studies for their functional characterization; ii) a physiological approach through the study of the regulation of biosynthetic pathways in response to biotic and abiotic stress; iii) a biochemical approach through the functional characterization of the enzymes and assessment of the antioxidant potential of the compounds; iv) an analytical approach through the quantification of secondary metabolites with the development of novel, nondestructive and sustainable methods.

In parallel our activity is focused on the production, through metabolic engineering of microorganisms, of valuable secondary metabolites.

Areas of Scientific Expertise

  1. Isolation of genes involved in the synthesis of secondary metabolites as phenylpropanoids (PP) and sesquiterpene lactones (STL);

  2. Functional characterization of genes through in vitro systems i.e. gene expression in bacteria and yeast;

  3. Functional characterization of genes through in vivo systems, i.e. gene overexpression in Nicotiana benthamiana and VIGS-mediated gene silencing;

  4. Evaluation of gene expression level during plant developmental stages and in different tissues;

  5. Qualitative and quantitative characterization of phenylpropanoids and STLs at different developmental stages and in different tissues and organs, through analytical techniques (HPLC-DAD, GC-MS analysis, spectroscopy techniques);

  6. Expression of plant metabolic pathways in heterologous organisms for the production of valuable secondary metabolites and evaluation of their anti-oxidant properties.

Research Facilities

The following facilities are available:

  • Molecular biology laboratories equipped with PCR, qPCR; laboratory and chambers for plant and cell cultures, DNA/RNA hybridization analysis facilities, gene cloning facilities.

  • Analytical laboratories equipped with HPLC-DAD, GC-MS, fluorescence emission based and Near Infrared Reflectance (NIR) spectrometers, reflectance colorimeter, texture analyzer with acoustic envelope detector (AED).

Research Group

Dr. Cinzia COMINO. Her main subject of research is focused on the isolation and in vitro and in vivo functional characterization of genes involved in the biosynthesis of phenolic acid and sesquiterpene lactone compounds in globe artichoke.

Dr. Alessandra FERRANDINO. Her research activity deals with plant secondary metabolite accumulation as influenced by environment, genotypes, biotic and abiotic stress. She has recently focused on the application of chlorophyll emission based spectroscopy methods to assess specific classes of polyphenols non destructively.

Dr. Andrea MOGLIA. His research interest is focused on the study of genes involved in caffeoylquinic acid metabolism and on the production of plant secondary metabolites in recombinant microorganism through the genetic transformation with plant genes.

Dr. Luca ROLLE. His research activity is focused on the study of oenological and agro-food products, by applying instrumental analytical techniques (HPLC, Texture Analysis, colorimetry, NIR spectroscopy).

Prof. Andrea SCHUBERT Degree in Agricultural Sciences and Specialization in Viticulture and Enology at The University of Turin. Professor of Plant Physiology and Research deputy-Director at DISAFA. My research interests include molecular and physiological aspects of water transport and water stress, stress-responsive sRNAs and gene regulation, and biosynthesis of flavonoids in grapevine. Within this subject, I focus on the elucidation of the pathways of anthocyanin decoration and of cinnamoyl-tartrate esters by characterizing candidate genes at the physiological and biochemical level. I am also concerned with the regulation of such pathways under condition of osmotic and biotic stress and with the implications of such discoveries in the optimization of plant growing and fruit processing techniques.


Prodotti della ricerca

Use of instrumental acoustic parameters of winegrape seeds as possible predictors of extractable phenolic compounds.




Ultimo aggiornamento: 20/04/2015 11:09
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