The research activity mainly concerns the study of fungal diseases of Mediterranean crops and plant / pathogen / microbial antagonist interactions investigation. The research carried out helped to determine the etiology of important plant diseases, to define the biology of pathogens, to develop advanced tools for the detection of biocontrol agents and pathogens, and to develop protection strategies for plants and ortho- fruit from infections, in field and post-harvest.
Recent research works have concerned the microbial agent Pochonia chlamydosporia, phytopathogenic nematodes antagonist, endophyte and growth promoter of numerous plant hosts. In particular, libraries of RNA and smallRNA were produced and processed, synthesized starting from RNA extracted from the antagonist in an artificial medium or from inoculated plants, developing bioinformatic analysis of high-throughput molecular data, generated using “next generation” techniques with“ Illumina” technology. The processing of the data allowed to produce a “de novo assembling” of the P. chlamydosporia transcriptome, to evaluate the genes of the fungus and of the plants expressed during the interaction with the host (endophyte) or with the nematode (parasitism), reaching to a more complete understanding of plant-endophyte relationships, with important practical implications on the potential of P. chlamydosporia as a management tool of the rhizosphere.
Furthermore, the gene expression of tomato roots was investigated, under conditions of double stress (water deficit and nematode infection), to evaluate the effect of mycorrhization and water stress, in a scenario of global climate change.
Currently, the research activity uses metagenomics, functional genomics and transcriptomics approaches and aims to acquire information on cryptic microorganisms associated with microbial biocontrol agents, insects and nematodes of economic relevance, in order to identify and characterize new species and/or to understand their function and interaction with the host.
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