Molecular genetics of development and diseases. Coordinator: Gargiulo

The research is focused on the study of issues related to the normal development and the onset of disease. The model we use is Drosophila melanogaster. The lines of research we are conducting include the genetics of cancer, neurodegenerative diseases modeling and the study of changes in the immune response and insect development induced by biotic and abiotic factors.

Research themes

Analysis of signaling pathways controlling morphogenesis, differentiation and integrity of epithelial layers.

Epithelial morphogenesis contributes greatly to the development and homeostasis of the organs and body parts. The key characteristic of epithelial cells is the asymmetrical distribution of adhesion molecules which confer cell-cell contacts that hold together the epithelium. The Drosophila epithelia provide excellent models for studying the molecular and cellular processes governing epithelial establishment and maintenance. Our research focuses on the complex network of signaling events acting during Drosophila development to define the pattern of growth and differentiation.

Analysis of the anti-tumor awd/Nme gene function.

This line of research focuses on the study of Nme anti-metastatic gene in the Drosophila model system. In humans the Nme gene family consists of ten related genes, and for the Nme1 gene a metastasis suppressor function has been recognized in a variety of tumor types. Nme1 protein possesses multiple molecular and cellular functions not yet fully elucidated. Our studies on awd, the Drosophila Nme1 homologue, allowed us to characterize some of the functions played by Awd protein during development. A better knowledge of the molecular mechanisms underlying Awd/Nme1 function will be relevant for the identification of prognostic and therapeutic targets.

Drosophila modeling of SCAN1 disease.

Spinocerebellar ataxia with axonal neuropathy-1 (SCAN1) is a rare hereditary form of ataxia. SCAN1 patients develop cerebellar ataxia and peripheral axonal motor and sensory neuropathy from late infancy to become wheelchair-bound with cerebellar atrophy at early adulthood.To investigate pathogenesis of SCAN1, by using a combinatorial approach of molecular and genetic techniques, we obtained a Drosophila model of this disease. From the analyses so far we carried out, we found that the fly model recapitulates some of the SCAN1 disease abnormalities.

Insect immunity and development.

In our studies we are using Drosophila as model system to uncover the molecular mechanisms of how biotic and abiotic factors can affect the immune response and development of insects.  This research is relevant to identify genes and molecules with potential insecticide activity. In order to better define the immunomodulatory activity of widely used neurotoxic insecticides,we are currently studying how the nervous system modulates the insect immune response.

Lab members

Giuseppe Gargiulo Full Professor UNIBO web page

Valeria Cavaliere Associate Professor UNIBO web page

Giulia Cattabriga Research Fellow UNIBO web page

Internship projects

For information about internship, please contact the coordinator.

Corso di Laurea in Scienze Biologiche

Corso di Laurea in Biologia Molecolare e Cellulare

Main publications

Serafini, G., Giordani, G., Grillini, L., Andrenacci, D., Gargiulo, G. & Cavaliere, V. The Impact of Drosophila Awd/NME1/2 Levels on Notch and Wg Signaling Pathways. Int J Mol Sci 21, 7257 doi:10.3390/ijms21197257 (2020).

Mezzofanti, E., Ignesti, M., Hsu, T., Gargiulo, G. & Cavaliere, V. Vps28 Is Involved in the Intracellular Trafficking of Awd, the Drosophila Homolog of NME1/2. Front Physiol 10, 983, doi:10.3389/fphys.2019.00983 (2019).

Romani, P., Ignesti, M., Gargiulo, G., Hsu, T. & Cavaliere, V. Extracellular NME proteins: a player or a bystander? Lab Invest 98, 248-257, doi:10.1038/labinvest.2017.102 (2018).

Romani, P., Duchi, S., Gargiulo, G. & Cavaliere, V. Evidence for a novel function of Awd in maintenance of genomic stability. Sci Rep 7, 16820, doi:10.1038/s41598-017-17217-0 (2017).

Ignesti, M. et al. Notch signaling during development requires the function of awd, the Drosophila homolog of human metastasis suppressor gene Nm23. BMC Biol 12, 12, doi:10.1186/1741-7007-12-12 (2014).

Di Prisco, G. et al. Neonicotinoid clothianidin adversely affects insect immunity and promotes replication of a viral pathogen in honey bees. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 110, 18466-18471, doi:10.1073/pnas.1314923110 (2013).