Main interest is to study the molecular mechanisms involved in the susceptible and resistant response of plants to nematode challenge. In particular we are studying genes that codify for enzymes that play a principal role both during the oxidative burst and during plant defence response to both root-knot and cyst nematodes specifically in tomato-Meloidogyne incognita and pea-Heterodera goettingiana interactions. Actually we are unravelling the role of chemical (BTH an analogue of salicylic acid) and physical (ozone) inducers on gene expression of targets involved in detoxification processes or mainly in plant defence response (e.g. lignin synthesis). The aim is to use the knowledge of these mechanisms to obtain valid tools for the control of infections by nematodes in crop plants.
Methodologies utilized include molecular techniques that can identify and characterize genes and gene products involved in the plant response to nematode challenge: polymerase chain reactions (RT-PCR and qPCR), cDNA-AFLP analysis of gene expression, in situ hybridization on plant sections.
Another field of interest is the characterization of specie-specific genes coding for cuticular collagens in the root-knot nematode M. incognita with the aim to evaluate their role during the life-cycle “in planta” and to elaborate strategies to contain the infection.