SENIOR RESEARCH SCIENTIST (CURRENTLY ACTING DIRECTOR OF IVV)
Presently the main interest is in understanding the response of plants to viral infections. The model plant is tomato, and the viruses are TSWV and TYLCSV. Modifications in plant gene expression is analysed using microarrays, qRT-PCR, siRNA-seq, as well as bioinformatics.
The impact of symbiotic interaction between tomato and mycorrhizal fungi on the establishment of virus infection is also investigated, with the aim to define if mycorrhization plays a beneficial role in this plant/pathogen interaction or not. This is analysed using transcriptomics as well as by studying phytohormone regulation.
Recently, recombinant molecules between the two Begomovirus species TYLCSV and TYLCV were characterized from tomato samples collected in Sicily, highlighting the plasticity of geminivirus genomes.
Another field of interest is virus resistance, either by genetic modification of the plant genome (transgenic plants), or using naturally occurring genes (classical breeding), targetting TYLCSV and TSWV. An antiviral strategy against geminiviruses was patented.