Alma Balestrazzi
Alma Balestrazzi
affiliation: Università di Pavia
research area(s): Molecular Biology, Cell Biology
Course: Genetics, Molecular and Cellular Biology
University/Istitution: Università di Pavia
1985. Degree with honours in Biology at the University of Pavia.
1991. Awarded by an EMBO Short-Term Fellowship for a stage in the Cambridge Laboratories ("John Innes" Centre for Plant Science Research, Norwich, UK), Department of Molecular Genetics (Multinational Arabidopsis Genome Research Project).
1994. PhD Degree in Genetics and Molecular Biology at the University of Pavia. 1996-1998. Awarded by a Post-Doctor Long-Term Fellowship at the University of Pavia.
2000. Research position (Plant Physiology) at the Department of Genetics and Microbiology - University of Pavia.
Co-author of 48 papers in extenso, published on international journals peer-reviewed, 3 articles on books and 100 communications to International and National Congresses. She has been involved in research projects with grants from MIUR, MPAAF, Regione Lombardia, Fondazione Branca-Bussolera. Head of Reseach Unit (PRIN-2004) and National Coordinator (MPAAF 2011).
Member of IAPTC&B (International Association for Plant Tissue Culture and Biotechnology), SIBV (Italian Societyof Plant Biology), FESPB (Federation of European Societies of Plant Biology).
Teaching activities: Plant Biotechnology (University of Pavia, University of Ferrara and University of Modena and Reggio Emilia); Plant Physiology and Cellular Methodologies (University of Pavia); Molecular Techniques for Biodiversity Conservation (University of Pavia).
Oxidative stress and nucleus: DNA repair mechanisms in the model legume Medicago truncatula

The research activity, carried out in the fields of plant molecular biology and plant biotechnology, affords those issues related to the molecular and cellular mechanisms involved in the regulation of stress response in cultivated plants. Biotic and abiotic stresses induce accumulation of the highly toxic reactive oxygen species which activate programmed cell death events. The latter are associated with severe tissue damage and reduced biomass production. To date, the response to oxidative stress has been well characterized in plant cells, however, mechanisms involved in the maintenance of genome stability are still poorly explored.
The study of mechanisms responsible for the repair of oxidative DNA lesions occurring in plant cells is carried out using the model legume Medicago truncatula (barrel medic). The main subjects of this investigation are the Tdp1 (Tyrosyl-DNA phosphodiesterase), TFIIS (Transcription Elongation Factor SII) and TFIIS-like genes. All these genes, which encode enzymes involved in different DNA repair pathways, contribute to genome stability under oxidative stress conditions. Within this context, the response to genotoxic stress within the nuclear compartment is analysed by monitoring the expression profiles of the target genes (Tdp1, TFIIS, TFIIS-like), control genes (OGG1, FPG) and other genes (APX, SOD) involved in the antioxidant response outside the nucleus. The study is carried out using Medicago truncatula plantlets grown in vitro under oxidative stress conditions induced by heavy metals and osmotic agents, respectively.
For each target gene, expression profiles have been investigated by QRT-PCR in aerial parts and roots of plantlets grown in presense/absence of oxidative stress conditions. A parallel investigation has been carried out in germinating seeds, since DNA repair is activated during the early imbibition phase. Transgenic lines showing overexpression or down-regulation of specific genes encoding DNA repair enzymes have been produced and their characterization is currently in progress.
The present research is carried out in collaboration with the CRA-Fodder and Diary Production Research Centre - LODI, the Radiation Chemistry and EPR-Spectrometry Laboratory (Department of General Chemistry-University of Pavia) and the Instituto de Technologia Quimica e Biologica -University of Lisbona.

Response to ionizing radiations in plant cells: molecular mechanisms and novel approaches for in vitro breeding in ornamental species

Protocols for in vitro mutagenesis of plant explants have been set up and optimized, using a 60-Cobalt source (gamma rays) with high and low dose conditions. Treatments are carried out on leaf explants from commercially relevant genotypes of Petunia x hybrida, in order to obtain flowers with novel colours and morphology. Within this context, the antioxidant response in the nucleus has been investigated, by analysing the levels of oxidative DNA damage, the expression profiles of DNA repair genes and free radical scavenging. The qualitative and quantitative analysis of DNA damage and the repair response are evaluated by "Single Cell Gel Electrophoresis" (Comet Assay). This research activity is carried out in collaboration with the CRA-Research Unit for Floricolture and Ornamental Species (CRA-FSO)- Sanremo and the Radiation Chemistry and EPR-Spectrometry Laboratory (Department of General Chemistry-University of Pavia).

Plant metallothioneins

The role played in planta by metallothioneins in response to heavy metal-stress has been analysed in both genetically modified poplar (Populus alba L.) plants and cell suspension cultures. The possible involvement of metallothioneins in the signal transduction pathway induced by nitric oxide has been also investigated. The present research is carried out in collaboration with the CRA-Fodder and Diary Production Research Centre - LODI and Dipartimento Farmaco-Chimico-Università di Bari.

Innovative 'gene-transfer' approaches for genetic improvement of agronomically relevant species (Medicago genus)

The efficacy of innovative systems for 'marker-free gene transfer' are currently investigated in the model legume Medicago truncatula. The MAT (Multi-Auto-Transformation) vectors have been used in collaboration with the Nippon Paper Group (Tokyo, Japan) to produce marker-free barrel medic trangenic plants with low environmental impact. In a different research project, the P-DNA vectors (Simplot Plant Science, Boise, Idaho, USA), designed for the production of cis-genic plants, avoided of undesired bacterial DNA sequences, are currently under evaluation. The present research is carried out in collaboration with the CRA-Fodder and Diary Production Research Centre - LODI and the Instituto de Technologia Quimica e Biologica -University of Lisbona.
1. Ventura L, Donà M, Macovei A, Carbonera D, Buttafava A, Mondoni A, Rossi G, Balestrazzi A. Understanding the molecular pathways associated with seed vigor. Plant Physiology and Biochemistry, 2012, in press
2. Balestrazzi A, Confalonieri M, Macovei A, Donà M, Carbonera D. Genotoxic stress, DNA repair and crop productivity. In: "Crop Improvement Under Adverse Conditions" N Tuteja and SS Gill Eds. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, 2012, in press
3. Macovei A, Balestrazzi A, Confalonieri M, Faè M, Carbonera D. New insights on the barrel medic MtOGG1 and MtFPG functions in relation to oxidative stress response in planta and during seed imbibition. Plant Physiology and Biochemistry, 2011, 49: 1040-1050.
4. Balestrazzi A, Macovei A, Tava A, Avato P, Raimondi E, Carbonera D. Unraveling the response of plant cells to cytotoxic saponins: role of metallothionein and nitric oxide. Plant Signaling and Behavior, 2011, 6: 1-4.
5. Balestrazzi A, Confalonieri M, Macovei A, Donà M, Carbonera D. Genotoxic stress and DNA repair in plants: emerging functions and tools for improving crop productivity. Plant Cell Reports 2011, 30: 287-295.
6. Macovei A, Balestrazzi A, Confalonieri M, Buttafava A, Carbonera D. The TFIIS and TFIIS-like genes from Medicago truncatula are involved in oxidative stress response. Gene 2011, 470: 20-30.
7. Balestrazzi A, Confalonieri M, Macovei A, Carbonera D. Seed imbibition in Medicago truncatula Gaertn.: expression profiles of DNA repair genes in relation to PEG-mediated stress. Journal of Plant Physiology 2011, 168: 706-713
8. Balestrazzi A, Agoni V, Tava A, Avato P, Biazzi E, Raimondi E, Macovei A, Carbonera D. Cell death induction and nitric oxide biosynthesis in white poplar (Populus alba L.) suspension cultures exposed to alfalfa saponins. Physiologia Plantarum 2011, 141: 227-238.
9. Balestrazzi A, Bonadei M, Zelasco S, Giorcelli A, Gennaro M, Calligari P, Mattivi F, Quattrini E, Carbonera D. Seasonal and tissue-specific transgene expression and resveratrol-3-glucoside (piceid) accumulation in genetically modified white poplars carrying the grapevine StSy gene. Plant Cell, Tissue and Organ Culture 2011, 168: 706-713.
10. Confalonieri M, Borghetti R, Macovei A, Testoni C, Carbonera D, Fevereiro MPS, Rommens C, Swords K, Piano E, Balestrazzi A. Backbone-free transformation of barrel medic (Medicago truncatula) with a Medicago-derived transfer DNA. Plant Cell Reports 2010, 29: 1013-1021.
11. Macovei A, Balestrazzi A, Confalonieri M, Carbonera D. The Tdp1 (Tyrosyl-DNA phosphodiesterase) gene family in barrel medic (Medicago truncatula Gaertn.): bioinformatic investigation and expression profiles in response to copper- and PEG-mediated stress. Planta 2010, 232: 393-407.
12. Balestrazzi A, Locato V, Bottone MG, De Gara L, Biggiogera M, Pellicciari C, Botti S, Di Gesù D, Donà M, Carbonera D. Response to UV-C radiation in topo I-deficient carrot cells with low ascorbate levels. Journal of Experimental Botany 2010, 61: 575-585.
13. Balestrazzi A, Botti S, Zelasco S, Biondi S, Franchin C, Calligari P, Racchi M, Turchi A, Lingua G, Berta G, Carbonera D. Expression of the PsMTA1 gene in white poplar engineered with the MAT system is associated to heavy metal tolerance and protection against 8-hydroxy-2’-deoxyguanosine mediated-DNA damage. Plant Cell Reports 2009, 28: 1197-1192.
14. Balestrazzi A, Bonadei M, Calvio C, Mattivi F, Carbonera D. Leaf-associated bacteria from transgenic white poplar (Populus alba L.) producing resveratrol-like compounds: isolation, molecular characterization and oxidative stress tolerance. Canadian Journal of Microbiology 2009, 55: 829-840.
15. Scaramelli L, Balestrazzi A, Bonadei M, Piano E, Carbonera D, Confalonieri M. Production of transgenic barrel medic (Medicago truncatula Gaernt.) using the ipt-type MAT vector system and impairment of Recombinase-mediated excision. Plant Cell Reports 2009, 28: 197-211.
16. Confalonieri M, Cammareri M, Biazzi E, Pecchia P, Fevereiro MPS, Balestrazzi A, Tava A, Conicella C. Enhanced triterpene saponin biosynthesis and root nodulation in transgenic barrel medic (Medicago truncatula Gaertn.) expressing a novel β-amyrin synthase gene. Plant Biotechnology Journal 2009, 7: 172-182.
17. Balestrazzi A, Bonadei M, Zelasco S, Quattrini E, Calvio C, Galizzi A, Carbonera D. Recovery of useful traits from isolates inhabiting an agricultural soil cultivated with herbicide-resistant poplars. Canadian Journal of Microbiology 2008, 54: 201-208.
18. Locato V, Balestrazzi A, De Gara L, Carbonera D. Reduced expression of top1β gene induces programmed cell death and alters ascorbate metabolism in Daucus carota cultured cells. Journal of Experimental Botany 2006, 57: 1667-1676.
No projects are available to students for the current accademic year.