Foto del docente

Francesco Spinelli

Associate Professor

Department of Agricultural and Food Sciences

Academic discipline: AGR/03 Arboriculture and Fruitculture

Research

Keywords: fruit quality volatile organic compounds plant-microbe interactions sustainable fruit production Actinidia (kiwifruit) Bioregulators in fruit production

My present research investigates the possibility of developing alternative methods (electronic nose, near infrared spectroscopy NIRs) for the identification of microorganisms and the plant disease diagnosis. Moreover, the organic volatile compounds (VOCs) production during the plant-microbe interaction has also been considered for their possible effect in the plant-pathogen interactions.

Among the organic volatile compounds, special attention was paid to ethylene and jasmonic acid derivatives for their influence on plant resistance mechanisms.

From 2009-2010, my research is also focused in elucidating the pathogenic interactions occurring between kiwifruit species (A. deliciosa and A. chinensis) and the bacterium Pseudomonas syringae pv actinidiae.

The research aims to develop a method allowing to monitor in vivo the plant-bacteria interactions during the infection process. This non-destructive method will allow the direct visualization of the spatio-temporal interactions of P. syringae pv actnidia (PSA) in intact Actinidia chinensis and A. deliciosa tissues.  To reach this objective, a stable and broad host- range plasmid vector, pDSK-GFPuv, which expresses GFPuv (driven by a constitutive chloroplast promoter, psbA) at high levels has been inserted in competent PSA cells.

The GFPuv-labeled plant pathogenic bacteria not only can be easily visualized at the cellular level under a fluorescence microscope but also are clearly visible, as bacterial colonies, to the naked eye at the whole-plant level under longwavelength UV light. The plant-pathogen interactions are studied be means of fluorescent steromicroscope and by confocal laser scanning microscopy.

In addition,  a reliable protocol for inoculation which is able to mimic the natural infection and it is, at the same time, repeatable has been tested. The inoculation method allows to obtain symptomatic plants in a relatively short with symptoms similar to the ones observed in field.




Development of novel e-nose based diagnostic system – Q-DETECT

Summary: the research deals with the development of alternative methods (electronic nose, near infrared spectroscopy NIRs) for the diagnosis of plant disease and the identification of plant-associated microorganisms. The most recent researches investigate also the possible biological role of VOCs and the airborne plant-to-pant or plant-microbe interactions.

Possible Thesis Duration: 6 months

Expertises/competences achieved during the research thesis:electronic nose use and data-processing, basic bacteriology, micropropagation, VOCs analysis and identification ability, nucleic acid extraction as well as PCR detection of bacterial species.

External collaborations:

Prof. S. Cristescu - Radboud University,  Life Science Trace Gas Facility, Heyendaalseweg 135, 6525 AJ, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Dr. J.L. Vanneste – Plant and Food, Ruakura Research Centre, East Street Private Bag 3123, Hamilton, New Zealand

Develop of new methods for the real-time monitoring of Pseuomona syringae pv. actinidiae directly in plant.

Summary: The research aims to develop a method allowing to monitor in vivo the plant-bacteria interactions during the infection process. These non-destructive methods will allow the direct visualization of the spatio-temporal interactions of P. syringae pv actnidia (PSA) in intact Actinidia chinensis and A. deliciosa tissues.

To reach this objective, a stable and broad host- range plasmid vector, pDSK-GFPuv, which expresses GFPuv (driven by a constitutive chloroplast promoter, psbA) at high levels will be inserted in competent PSA cells.

The GFPuv-labeled plant pathogenic bacteria not only can be easily visualized at the cellular level under a fluorescence microscope but also are clearly visible, as bacterial colonies, to the naked eye at the whole-plant level under longwavelength UV light.

The plant-pathogen interaction will be successively studied be means of fluorescent steromicroscope and by confocal laser scanning microscopy.

Once the protocols have been optimized for this pathosystem, they will allow to clarify crucial aspects of the infection process such as:

-              how the bacteria invade the plant tissues

-              how far the bacteria spread inside the plant tissues

-              how the plant defenses can contain the bacteria spread

The knowledge of this aspects will help in developing the most appropriate cultural strategies to contain the disease and to evaluate the most effective treatments to reduce the infection incidence and severity.

Finally, these methods may also be applied for Determination of temperature thresholds for PSA infection.

Possible Thesis Duration: according with the specific subject at least 3 days per week for 6 months.

Expertises/competences achieved during the research thesis:nucleic acid extraction, bacterial transformation, microscopy techniques, diagnostic methods

External collaborations: University of Siena, Department of BioPhysics-Univeresity of Bologna, Plant&Food Research (New Zealand).