Stress limits growth and yield in crop plants worldwide. Environmental stress is very commonly experienced by crop plants, and its intensity and frequency is increasing due to competition for fertile land with other uses, and to global climate change. Wild plants have a strong ability to react to stress, while most crop plants have lost these characteristics upon breeding. Understanding the mechanisms that underlie resistance to stress is pivotal to identify traits that can be inserted into crop plants to increase their resilience in a stressful environment. Our mission is to contribute to this endeavour, with the ultimate goal to provide knowledge and tools that may integrate in solutions for farmers and policymakers.

Strigolactones and stress

Strigolactones are carotenoid-derived plant metabolites with a multitude of functions, both in the plant and in the biotic surrounding environment. They have a prominent role as hormones, influencing whole-plant morphology and development also in response to environmental stress. Understanding their biology may help to improve plant yield and resilience in stressful environments.1. We want to understand what the local and systemic changes of strigolactone levels - observed in different organs of plants undergoing osmotic stress - mean for whole-plant hormonal balance, physiology and water relations.2. We are elucidating the molecular underpinnings of strigolactone effects in stress resilience, focusing on cross-talk with ABA and miRNAs.3. We feed our knowledge into crop management tools such as biostimulants, that may improve plant performances and yield under environmental stress.
contact: Francesca Cardinale

Drought stress in grapevine

Adaptation of grapevines to water deficit is a wide and complex biological process that implies global changes in plant hydraulics, carbon distribution within the plant, signaling among plant organs, gene expression and primary and secondary metabolite biosynthesis and accumulation.Our research aims to understand how plant signals drive grapevine adaptation to water availability with consequences on growth and fruit quality. In grapevine, the rootstock and the scion concur to whole-plant resistance to drought. These plant components interact through a complex of hydraulic, hormonal (especially abscisic acid, ABA) and molecular (miRNAs) signal exchange. We are interested to discover how xylem development, whole plant hydraulic conductance, and carbon allocation are affected under stress and in different grapevine genotypes.
contact: Claudio Lovisolo

Grapevine responses to phytoplasma diseases

Flavescence dorée (FD) is a severe grapevine phytoplasma disease causing serious damage to European viticulture. Control strategies for FD are still unsatisfactory, partly because of insufficient knowledge of basic biological aspects, such as the genetic characteristics of the causal agent, spatial and temporal pathways of its spread, and plant responses to infection. Also the causes of spontaneous recovery, often observed in the field, are not known.We study the biological responses of grapevine to FD with non-targeted approaches (transcriptomics) and with the targeted study of specific metabolic and signaling pathways, in particular related to soluble sugars and ABA.
Contact: Andrea Schubert

Xylem recovery from water stress.

Recent episodes of anomalous drought and heat have caused tree mortality and crop failure, raising interest into processes underlying plant resistance and resilience to water stress. Reduction of plant hydraulic efficiency, due to presence of embolisms, is a major cause of drought-induced plant death. It has been demonstrated that many plant species can counter embolism formation with a fast refilling process; however a full understanding of the biology behind embolism recovery is currently lacking. Our research aims to elucidate the biological mechanisms at the base of xylem repair adopting a multidisciplinary approach, which integrates molecular, biophysical, chemical and physiological techniques.
Contact: Francesca Secchi

Molecular processes behind osmotic stress memory

Plant responses to stress can be amplified by exposure to a previous stress episode. This “memory of stress” can be induced also by priming treatments. Understanding osmotic memory would potentially greatly benefit crop plants growing in temperate climates where irrigation and rainfall are spaced by increasingly severe drought episodes.We focus on the roles of strigolactones in controlling osmotic memory, in particular as concerns stomatal closure and re-opening during the recovery phase from stress. We follow 'omic' and targeted research approaches in Arabidopsis and in tomato, addressing the interaction of hormone networks and epigenetic mark deposition on target genes.

Contact Ivan Visentin

Latest publications

  • Cardinale F, Prandi C (2021) Strigolactones. Book series: Methods in Molecular Biology, Springer Science editions, NY, USA, in press
  • Sánchez E, Cubas P, Cardinale F, Visentin I (2021) Evaluation of the Bioactivity of Strigolactone-Related Molecules by a Quantitative Luminometer Bioassay. In: Strigolactones (Cardinale F, Prandi C eds). Book series: Methods in Molecular Biology, Springer Science editions, NY, USA, in press
  • Secchi F, Pagliarani C, Cavalletto S, Petruzzelis F, Tonel G, Savi T, Tromba G, Obertino MM, Lovisolo C, Nardini A, Zwiniecki MA 2021 Chemical inhibition of xylem cellular activity impedes the removal of drought-induced embolisms in poplar stems - new insights from micro-CT analysis New Phytol 229:820-830
  • Korwin Krukowski P, Ellenberger J, Röhlen-Schmittgen S, Schubert A, Cardinale F (2020) Phenotyping in Arabidopsis and crops—are we addressing the same traits? A case study in tomato. Genes 11(9):1011
  • Santoro V, Schiavon M, Gresta F, Ertani A, Cardinale F, Sturrock CJ, Celi L, Schubert A (2020) Strigolactones control root system architecture and tip anatomy in Solanum lycopersicum L. plants under P starvation. Plants 9(5):612
  • Visentin I, Pagliarani C, Deva E, Caracci A, Turecková V, Novak O, Lovisolo C, Schubert A, Cardinale F (2020) A novel strigolactone-miR156 module controls stomatal behaviour during drought recovery. Plant Cell Environ 43:1613-1624
  • Pagliarani C, Casolo V, Ashofteh Beiragi M, Cavalletto S, Siciliano I, Schubert A, Gullino ML, Zwieniecki MA, Secchi F (2019). Priming xylem for stress recovery depends on coordinated activity of sugar metabolic pathways and changes in xylem sap. Plant Cell Environ 42:1775-1787
  • Caser M, Chitarra W, D'Angiolillo F, Perrone I, Demasi S, Lovisolo C, Pistelli L, Pistelli L, Scariot V (2019) Drought stress adaptation modulates plant secondary metabolite production in Salvia dolomitica Codd. Ind Crops Prod 129:85-96
  • Rameau C, Goormachtig S, Cardinale F, Bennett T, Cubas P (2019) Strigolactones as Plant Hormones. In: Strigolactones - Biology and Applications. H. Koltai, Prandi C eds. Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019, pp. 47-88. ISBN 978-3-030-12152-5 ISBN 978-3-030-12153-2 (eBook)
  • Ferrero M, Pagliarani C, Novák O, FerrandinoA, Cardinale F, Visentin I, Schubert A (2018) Exogenous strigolactone interacts with abscisic acid mediated accumulation of anthocyanins in grapevine berries. J Exp Bot 69(9):2391-2401
  • Sánchez E, Artuso E, Lombardi C, Visentin I, Lace B, Saeed W, Lolli ML, Kobauri P, Ali Z, Spyrakis F, Cubas P, Cardinale F, Prandi C (2018) New insights into Structure-Activity Relationship of strigolactones via a novel, quantitative in planta bioassay. J Exp Bot 69(9):2333-2343
  • Carlsson GH, Hasse D, Cardinale F, Prandi C, Andersson I (2018) The elusive ligand complexes of the DWARF14 strigolactone receptor. J Exp Bot 69(9):2345-2354
  • Cardinale F, Korwin Krukowski P, Schubert A, Visentin I (2018) Strigolactones: mediators of osmotic stress responses with a potential for agrochemical manipulation of crop resilience. J Exp Bot 69(9):2291-2303