Research Areas

Fungal bioremediation

The degradation ability of several filamentous fungi towards important pollutants is being exploited in our laboratory. Some studies focus specifically on model persistent organic pollutants’ natural decay in soil.
Techniques such as liquid chromatography coupled with Q-TOF mass spectrometry and bi-dimensional electrophoresis are being employed to reveal the derived fungal metabolome and proteome, respectively.

Ionic liquids in biological sciences

Ionic liquids’ rapid advance towards potential and actual applications enforces the need for a comprehensive determination of their environmental, health and safety impact. Their lack of vapour pressure is, relatively to traditional volatile molecular solvents, a significant advantage, yet true “greenness” should incorporate a sustainable synthesis, low toxicity, and limited environmental persistence. The environmental fate of ionic liquids in aquatic and terrestrial regimes is a complex equation which crosses numerous unknown abiotic and biotic factors. Better understanding of their toxicity and biodegradability is crucial. The team is using metabolic profiling, proteomics and transcriptomics, in order to comprehensively investigate ionic liquids’ impact on fungal metabolism.

Particular ionic liquids augment diversity of low-molecular-weight metabolites biosynthesised by fungi. At the same time, they provoke major alterations in transcript levels of genes mediating both regulatory and developmental processes and “de-silence” cryptic genes encoding secondary metabolite biosynthetic enzymes. Many potentially valuable fungal secondary metabolites are actually over-looked; ~90% remain “cryptic” in the artificial setting of the microbiology laboratory. We are currently using Neurospora crassa and Aspergillus nidulans as model Ascomycota fungi to better understand the transduction pathway that connects chemical stimulus to cellular response. Ultimately we aim to identify new cryptic secondary metabolites and solve their biosynthetic pathways.

Ionic liquids in sustainable extraction processes

Research interests focus on the application of ionic liquids as alternative solvents for sustainable biotechnological processes. Such processes, which aim at product valorisation, include for example the extraction of biopolymers and other recalcitrant materials. The team’s early milestones in this research area are inspiring the development of novel bio-refinery process, which cover very distinct applications, from biomaterials design to novel bioremediation systems.