At present my interests focus on RNA silencing-based plant-pathogen interaction mechanisms with a particular attentions to the post-transcriptional gene silencing. My studies implicate the use of both classic cell/molecular biology and Next Generation Sequences approaches. The aim is to add some layer of knowledge in this field through the identification and characterization of functional short non-coding RNAs and their targets of both endogenous (plant genome) or exogenous (pathogen) origin. Diversity and functions of plant effector proteins involved in the RNA silencing pathways are also targets of my studies (i.e. Argonautes, AGOs; Dicers, DCLs; RNA polimerases, RDR).
The genome of positive strand RNA plant viruses i) is recognized as a foreigner by the host plant, ii) it induces RNA silencing and iii) it contains all the signals to use make advantage of the host translational machinery to be translated, similarly to host mRNAs. Therefore my research is carried out mainly using the model system Nicotiana benthamiana (or other solanaceous plants) – virus (Tombusvirus or other positive strand RNA viruses). In collaboration with other Italian and European research groups other in vitro (cell lysates) and in vivo heterologous systems (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) are also used in support of my researches.
Specific founded research projects are allowing to transfer some of the acquired results and knowledge to crop system with relevant impact i.e. Vitis vinifera, Solanum lycopericum e Cicer arietinum in order to pursue applicative objectives such as viral metagenomics in plant populations, mechanism plant resilience to biotic-abiotic stresses, conservation and charcterization of plant diversity.