Viroids are small, circular and non-coding RNAs able to replicate and move systemically in their host plants, which in turn may become sick. Several viroids infect economically relevant crops (citrus, pome and stone fruits, vegetables, ornamentals) and may induce severe yield losses. In the absence of viroid-derived proteins, the infectivity and pathogenicity of these RNAs mainly depend on host enzymes and/or on catalytic activities and regulatory capabilities provided by the viroid RNA itself. Therefore, viroids not only are pathogens, but may also become valuable tools to perform basic research addressing regulatory roles of non-coding RNAs in plants. My research activity focuses on the epidemiology, taxonomy, and molecular biology of viroids, mainly addressing their geographic distribution, sequence variability and pathogenesis. From an applied point of view, I am interested in developing viroid and virus detection methods, especially in woody plants. Most recent studies were based on high-throughput sequencing technologies that, used to investigate the virome associated with several fruit tree species, allowed the identification and characterization of several new viruses and a new viroid-like RNA. More recently, my research activity extended to the characterization of the virome and the microbiome of an insect, Trioza eritreae, one of the vectors of huanglongbing disease in citrus. Finally, being coordinator of specific procurements and/or tasking grants funded by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), I am deeply involved in developing pest and commodity risk assessments.
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