The study and understanding of evolution through natural selection is my main interest. A deep understanding of the relationship between genes, their function, their evolution, shall give us a better chance to explain the animal and human behaviour and will reveal once again the beauty of nature.
The model system of my expertise is the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Flies are model organisms for studying neurogenetics, molecular evolution and behavioural genetics. The combination of these studies can lead to elucidate molecular mechanisms of animal behaviour.
Since life began four billion years ago, organisms were subjected to continuous night day cycles that most probably drove the selection of a molecular clock that allow them to anticipate daily variation in environmental clues. It is possible to recognize a molecular mechanism that generates circadian rhythms of behaviour, metabolism and physiology in all higher organisms and in some prokaryotes. Not only had I studied the circadian system in Drosophila melanogaster but also in non model organisms like the wasp Nasonia vitripennis and the silk moth Bombyx mori.
The photoperiodic adaptation of animals that inhabit temperate climate is very interesting from an evolutionary point of view and to monitor climate changes through the so called southernization of populations. From this prospective I am involved in the study of the photoperiodic diapause and cold adaptation in Drosophila melanogaster.
Alongside Drosophila melanogaster I used the non model organism Nasonia vitripennis to investigate the role of DNA methylation and other epigenetic “markers” in the photoperiodic timing. This fascinating jewel wasp,in fact, shows a maternally induced diapause in response to winter-like days.
Another subject that has recently won my attention is the post transcriptional pre translational regulation of expression mediated by microRNAs. I am studying these fascinating molecules both in relation to the circadian and photoperiodic systems. I have also been involved in studies of sleep, memory, learning and shift work.
My researches have been founded by NERC, BBSRC and University of Padova.