Department of Biomedical Sciences

Principal areas of expertise: Biochemistry; Biophysics of antimicrobial peptides; Mycorrhizal biology; Biotechnology of fungi


? Structural and functional characterization of antimicrobial peptides

There is an urgent need for new types of antimicrobial agents at a time when we are witnessing an increasing incidence of infections caused by multidrug-resistant pathogenic bacteria and a dwindling supply of conventional antibiotics available to combat these infections. Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are crucial humoral components of the innate immunity system of virtually all organisms, which they defend from the invasion of attacking pathogens. The primary mode of action of AMPs involves nonspecific interaction with, and damage to, the cell membrane of the invading pathogens, and development of resistance to these agents occurs at much lower rates than those for conventional antibiotics. In addition to their antimicrobial activities, many AMPs also bind strongly to endotoxin, the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) component of the outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria and the primary cause of septic shock, a serious clinical problem and a major cause of morbidity and mortality in patients hospitalized in intensive care units worldwide. AMPs show potential for development into therapeutically valuable anti-infective agents, either through their direct antimicrobial activity or through modulation and stimulation of the host’s innate immune response. We are currently investigating, by using a range of biochemical, biophysical and microbiological experimental approaches, the structure/function relationships and the mechanism of antibacterial/anti-sepsis action of selected AMPs of either natural or (semi)synthetic origin.



? Mycorrhizal biology

Another line of research focuses on investigating various aspects of the biochemistry and biology of fungal organisms and plants, and their possible biotechnological applications. There is, in this case, a thorough study of the ectomycorrhizal symbiosis (a mutualistic relationship of great ecological importance established between fungal hyphae in the soil and roots of higher plants) that involves basidiomycetes/ascomycetes and plants in selected ecosystems. The research includes the morpho-anatomical characterization of the ectomycorrhizas found in these environments and their molecular typing through sequencing of the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) of nuclear ribosomal genes. The molecular information are also used to define the phylogeny of the fungal species concerned.



Key publications:

Manzo G, Serra I, Pira A, Pintus M, Ceccarelli M, Casu M, Rinaldi AC, Scorciapino MA (2016) The singular behavior of a ?-type semi-synthetic two branches polypeptide. Three-dimensional structure and mode of action. Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics 18: 30998-31011, 2016

Manzo G, Scorciapino MA, Srinivasan D, Attoub S, Mangoni ML, Rinaldi AC, Casu M, Flatt PR, Conlon JM (2015) Conformational analysis of the host-defense peptides Pseudhymenochirin-1Pb and -2Pa and design of analogues with insulin-releasing activities and reduced toxicities. Journal of Natural Products 78: 3041-3048

Serra I, Scorciapino MA, Manzo G, Casu M, Rinaldi AC, Attoub S, Mechkarska M, Conlon JM (2014) Conformational analysis and cytotoxic activities of the frog skin host-defense peptide, hymenochirin-1Pa. Peptides 61: 114-121

Roy M, Vasco-Palacios A, Geml J, Buyck B, Delgat L, Giachini A, Grebenc T, Harrower E, Kuhar F, Magnago A, Rinaldi AC, Schimann H, Selosse M-A, Sulzbacher MA, Wartchow F, Neves M-A (2017) The (re)discovery of ectomycorrhizal symbioses in Neotropical ecosystems sketched in Florianópolis. New Phytologist 214: 920-923

Leonardi M, Comandini O, Rinaldi AC (2016) Peering into the Mediterranean black box: Lactifluus rugatus ectomycorrhizae on Cistus. IMA Fungus 7: 275-284

Comandini O, Rinaldi AC, Kuyper TW (2012) Measuring and Estimating Ectomycorrhizal Fungal Diversity: A Continuous Challenge. In: Mycorrhiza: Occurrence in Natural and Restored Environments, Pagano M (ed), pp. 165-200, Nova Science Publishers, New York, 2012



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