Associate Professor in Genetics in the School of Science, Department of Biology, University of Padova, Italy; Teaching activity: Genetics, Population Genetics and, Molecular Phylogenetics; Responsible for the ERASMUS International Student Exhange program for the Department of Biology, and within this framework I am actively involved in maintaining a Double Diploma program between our University and the University of Paris VII (France), for the Master's degree in Molecular Biology and the Master's degree in Genetics (Magistére en Génétique), respectively.
Major research interests
• I have been involved in research aimed at understanding the adaptive meaning of the molecular machinery implicated in the generation and maintenance of biological circadian rhythms in Drosophila melanogaster as well as other insects. In this context I developed most of my experience in conducting behavioural analyses with the objective of establishing the presence of locomotor defects as well as alterations in integrative neuronal functions such as those involved in the response to visual and/or olfactory stimuli.
• I have participated in research in which Drosophila melanogaster was used as a model for the study of genes involved in human hereditary neuromuscular and/or mitochondrial diseases.
• I have been involved in a collaborative research project in which the Drosophila larval neuromuscular junction was used as a model chemical synapse (glutamatergic) in which to study the detailed interplay between proteins and membrane lipids (among which the sphingolipids) in the process of neuronal vesicle recycling.
• Currently, my main interest rests in the use of Drosophila as a model of neuropsychiatric disease. The complex constellation of behavioural phenotypes involved in neuropsychiatric disorders and the largely familiar pattern of inheritance, which is of a complex genetic nature, are the main reasons why so little is known of the pathogenesis of these diseases. Flies allow experimental approaches which are still difficult to address in other vertebrate model organisms, with particular reference to the sophisticated genetics and a very powerful toolbox of transgenic methods for neuronal circuit analysis. In addition, Drosophila has a relatively complex nervous system which shares many fundamental cellular and neurobiological processes with humans.
Altogether the common denominator of my ongoing research activity entails the use of Drosophila melanogaster as a model to study the genetics of behavioural, neuromuscular and synaptic defects which have some relation to known human hereditary diseases.