Molecular Plant Physiology. Coordinator: Trost

Plants adsorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and are an essential source of food, energy and chemicals. The laboratory studies the molecular basis of metabolism in model photosynthetic organisms thereby contributing to the development of the “ideal plant”

Research themes

Carbon metabolism

The project is focused on the study of the different pathways of carbon metabolism (Calvin-Benson cycle, primary starch degradation, glycolysis and alcoholic fermentation). The aim of our research is to shed light on the enzymatic regulation mediated by redox post-translational modifications. Along with that, we study how the formation of supramolecular complexes and protein aggregation influence cellular proteostasis. Our research activity includes both physiological analyses on the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana and biochemical and structural studies on recombinant proteins.

Redox homeostasis

Ascorbate and glutathione are the main regulators of redox homeostasis of plant cells. Moreover, glutathione is involved in important redox modifications of the proteome such as S-glutathionylation and S-nitrosylation. Our research project involves the use of model organisms (both wild type and transgenic), particularly the unicellular algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, the bryophyte Pyschomitrella patens e the higher plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Our aim is to study the functionality of several enzymatic systems, both soluble and trans-membrane, which are involved in cellular redox homeostasis during development and in various stress conditions. These in vivo studies are supported by in vitro analysis of proteins that are essential for the homeostasis of protein thiols (thioredoxins and glutaredoxins), glutathione (glutathione reductase, S-nitrosoglutathione reductase) and ascorbate (cytochromes b-561).

Microalgae and the recycling of industrial wastes

This project is financed by the “Programma Operativo Nazionale” (PON RI 2014-2020) from the Italian Ministry of Instruction, which involves research activity on economic and environmental sustainability. The aim of the study is the creation of a pilot plant, fueled with agricultural and dairy wastes, in order to produce biodiesel and other chemicals from microalgae. This project is composed of two activities: the selection of suitable microalgal strains and the production of enzymes able to convert agricultural biomasses into simple sugars that can be used for the mixotrophic growth of the selected algae.

Lab members

Prof. Paolo Trost (Full professor). Institutional web page

Prof.ssa Francesca Sparla (Associated professor). Institutional web page

Prof. Mirko Zaffagnini (Associated professor). Institutional web page

Dott. Libero Gurrieri (Postdoc). Institutional web page

Dott. Jacopo Rossi (PhD student). Institutional web page

Maria Meloni (Molecular and cellular biology student)

Tancredi Bin (Molecular and cellular biology student)

Rachele Ingrisano (Molecular and cellular biology student)

Edoardo Tosato (Molecular and cellular biology student)

Internship projects

Each Academic Year the Molecular Plant Physiology laboratory provides 9 internships for bachelor’s degree Courses and 3 internships for master’s degree Courses. Preferably we provide positions for students of Biological Sciences (Bachelor's Degree), Biotechnology (Bachelor's Degree), Molecular and Cell Biology (Master's Degree) and Sciences and Management of Nature.

Main publications

Zaffagnini, M., Marchand, CH., Malferrari, M., Murail, S., Bonacchi, S., Genovese, D., Montalti, M., Venturoli, G., Falini, G., Baaden, M., Lemaire, S.D., Fermani, S., Trost, P. (2019) “Glutathionylation primes soluble glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase for late collapse into insoluble aggregates”. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 116 (51):26057–26065.

Gurrieri L., Del Giudice A., Demitri N., Falini G., Pavel N.V., Zaffagnini M., Polentarutti M., Crozet P., Marchand C.H., Henri J., Trost P., Lemaire S.D., Sparla F., Fermani S. (2019) “Arabidopsis and Chlamydomonas phosphoribulokinase crystal structures complete the redox structural proteome of the Calvin-Benson cycle”. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 16;116(16):8048-8053.

Zaffagnini M., Fermani S., Marchand C.H., Costa A., Sparla F., Rouhier N., Geigenberger P., Lemaire S.D., Trost P. (2019) “Redox Homeostasis in Photosynthetic Organisms: Novel and Established Thiol-Based Molecular Mechanisms”. Antioxid Redox Signal. 31(3):155-210.

Gurrieri L., Distefano L., Pirone C., Horrer D., Seung D., Zaffagnini M., Rouhier N., Trost P., Santelia D., Sparla F. (2019) “The Thioredoxin-Regulated α-Amylase 3 of Arabidopsis thaliana Is a Target of S-Glutathionylation”. Front Plant Sci. 10:993.

Zanella, M., Borghi, G.L., Pirone, C., Thalmann, M., Pazmino, D., Costa, A., Santelia, D., Trost, P., Sparla, F. (2016) “β-amylase 1 (BAM1) degrades transitory starch to sustain proline biosynthesis during drought stress”. Journal of Experimental Botany 67:1819-26.