The Institute of Biosciences and Bioresources, within its headquarters in BARI, is mainly involved in the collection and safeguard of agricultural, natural, and forest plant genetic resources. Established in 1970 as a "Germplasm Bank", it currently stores some 65,000 samples of wild and cultivated species, mainly cereals and legumes, and also other herbaceous species from the Mediterranean region.
The research lines related to the collection and ex situ or in situ management of plant germplasm include exploration, conservation, rejuvenation, characterization, documentation of and adding value to the resources collected in agricultural, natural and forest areas, also exposed to biotic and abiotic stress conditions.
Following specific European directives, attention is also paid to endangered crop and wild species and plant communities, by means of classification, mapping and monitoring of natural, semi-natural and agricultural habitats.
Together with the more traditional activities related to the management of genetic resources, other research lines have been developed in various fields of plant genetics and genetic improvement. Methodologies span from biochemistry, molecular biology, bio-informatics, to innovative approaches of genotyping, phenotyping, "omics" (genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics) technologies, applied to the study of plant evolution, and to activities aimed at improving quality and safety of cereals, legumes, and vegetable crops.
Current research activities are: (1) Analysis of the extant genetic variation of forest tree species through the use of genetic markers (ESTs, SSRs, SNPs, etc.), targeted on the genetic structure of populations, their phylogenetic relationships, the gene flow within and between populations, the geographic delineation of their gene pools, and the mechanisms underlying the maintenance in nature of the genetic variation and its adaptive potential. (2) Research on the adaptive mechanisms of forest tree species and their response to abiotic (e.g., drought) and biotic (e.g., pests, diseases) stresses. Identification through next-generation sequencing techniques of candidate genes (e.g., SNPs) involved in the adaptive and selective processes concerning the main environmental factors. Association genetic studies on ecologically and economically relevant traits evaluated in situ. (3) Analysis of risks related to the release in the environment of genetically-modified trees, by modeling the potential impacts of transgene released via gene flow on extant biodiversity and, in general, on the ecosystems, by gene contamination analysis in model systems. (4) Research on biochemical and ecophysiological responses of plant genotypes to biotic and abiotic stresses, aimed at the identification of secondary metabolites (e.g., volatile terpenes) as markers for pest and disease resistance. Analysis of the ecological roles of the emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in response to environmental stresses. Investigations aimed at identifying the ecophysiological mechanisms in response to water stress and different light regimes. (5) In vitro propagation of forest tree species, aimed at selecting and maintaining valuable genotypes (micropropagation, organogenesis, somatic embryogenesis) for application in the agri-food and pharmaceutical industry. In vitro cultures of species for assessing their tolerance to heavy metals aimed at phytoremediation.
The unit aims to foster fundamental biology on the molecular mechanisms at the base of development, differentiation, aging and degeneration, reproduction, adaptation, exogenous and endogenous stress response, genome integrity, apoptosis, gene expression, protein stability, transport, and metabolism, and signal trasduction.
Studies also concern the development of biomolecules and biotecnologies linked to green chemistry, human health, and eco-sustainable growth.
Research activities also include the roles of nutraceuticals and of genome variability in health and prevenction of pathologies.
The Palermo division of IBBR was founded in 1970 as Center for Genetic Improvement of Citrus (CMGA). In 1999 it was renamed Research Institute of Citrus Genetics (IRGA). From 2001-2002 it was part of the CNR Institute of Plant Genetics (IGV) first, and since 2013 of the Institute of Biosciences and Bioresource (IBBR).
The Division is deeply connected to the regional productive system, and especially with the grapevine, citrus and olive industry, in order to promote the technological innovation.
The research activity of the Division is currently oriented on the following topics:
o Genome analysis for crops and wild species, aimed to the identification of genes associated to interest traits
o Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) and bioinformatics for de novo assembly of genomes and transcriptomes, aimed to the identification of new molecular markers and to differential expression studies
o Genetic improvement by traditional and biotechnological approaches
o Molecular analysis of senescence and apoptosis
o Characterization and conservation of plant genetic diversity
o Development and use of genetically encoded sensors for in vivo metabolite quantification
o Tissue culture for sanitation from virus and bacteria through somatic embryogenesis
o Pathogen diagnosis of crops and wild species by traditional and innovative methodologies
o Development of new Citrus rootstocks, varieties and genotypes for agricultural and ornamental purposes
o Molecular analysis of plant response to heavy metals
o Role of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (ROS and RNS) in biotic and abiotic stress
o Management of germplasm banks for grapevine, olive and Citrus spp.
The activities carried out at the Division of Perugia of IBBR are finalized at improving crop and forest productivity, in terms of quality, quantity and sustainability, by means of genomic, genetic and biotechnological approaches. To this end, germplasm collection and characterization, functional genomics, population genetics analysis, traceability and breeding by classical and biotechnological approaches are performed. Basic aspects related to biosynthesis, accumulation and transport of molecules in plant cells are also investigated.
Research activities are performed in model and crop species and in detail consist on genomics of olive (Olea europaea) and truffles (Tuber spp.); functional genomics in Medicago truncatula, Arabidopsis thaliana, Lotus spp.; gene identification and manipulation of biosynthetic pathways (Lotus spp., alfalfa, olive) and reproductive systems (Paspalum, Tuber spp.); production and storage of novel compounds in model and crop systems for pharmaceutical and industrial uses; development of molecular markers for food traceability and genotyping of species, ecotypes and cultivars; exploration and introduction of novel crops for food (quinoa), feed (seed legumes) and energy production (alfalfa and Panicum for biomass, tobacco for oil).
Applied methodologies: genome sequencing and annotation, highthrouput transcriptomic analysis, micro transcriptomic by LCM; gene modification, expression and targeting into nucleus, cytoplasm and/or organelles of model and crop plants of genes/molecules by means of Agrobacterium and biolistic methods; proteins synthesis, folding and targeting in plant cell by means of Pulse-Chase Labeling and immuno-precipitation, immuno-cytochemistry, subcellular fractionation, immuno-electron microscopy, SDS-PAGE and protein blot analysis; different approaches of host plant inoculation with symbiotic fungi; in vitro isolation and cultivation of mycelia of symbiotic fungi; in vitro culture of plant cells, protoplasts, and tissues; plant mutagenesis, phenotyping and selection.
Research at UOS Portici is focused on plant genetics in the model species Arabidopsis, in Solanaceous crops and their wild relatives, and in biomass species using genomic, epigenomic, molecular biology, and biotechnological approaches.
Specific areas of interest and expertise include:
- Genetics and physiology of plant/environment interactions
- Genetics and epigenetics of plant reproductive biology
- QTL analysis and marker-assisted breeding
- Biology and genomics of cytoplasmic organelles
- Metabolic engineering
- Development, evaluation and exploitation of plant genetic resources
Research activities of basic and applied research are aimed at improving the sustainability of agricultural practices and the yield and quality of plant food and non-food products in terms of nutritional, commercial and industrial value.