Microbial and Molecular Ecology

Microbial and  Molecular Ecology Laboratory
Sciences – 2nd building – 2nd floor
Research Activities
Research Activities
The Microbial and Molecular Ecology Laboratory has a wide experience in the field of marine microbial ecology, including the viral ecology, and on the interactions between microbial diversity and marine ecosystem functioning. The activities of the laboratory are based on different research lines carried out using innovative and multidisciplinary approaches in the framework of several national and international research projects.  A major focus of our research is the microbial ecology of deep-sea environments (including the deep-sea trenches), but we carried out also researches in other different ecosystems such as the Antarctic Ocean, tropical regions and eutrophicated/polluted coastal marine environments.
(click on the images to enlarge) Interazioni tra virus e procarioti e loro ruolo nel funzionamento degli ecosistemi marini
Impact of viruses on the functioning of marine ecosystems
The effects of viral infection on prokaryotic assemblages are analyzed to understand their ecologic and functional role and the link between microbial biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in a wide range of marine systems, from seamounts to abyssal plains, from anoxic basins to mud volcanoes and hydrothermal vents.
To better study these relationships, specific analytic procedures have been developed and optimized.
Effects of the anthropogenic impact and climate change on the microbial loop
Anthropogenic impacts and climate change might have important effects on the functioning of the microbial and viral loop and vice versa. In this regard, studies are carried out on the effect of different types of anthropogenic impact (e.g. aquaculture, trawling) and global changes (e.g. ocean acidification, temperature rise) on the interactions between viruses and prokaryotes in different ecosystems. 
Effetti dell’impatto antropico e dei cambiamenti climatici sul circuito microbico
Impact of micropollutants on marine ecosystems
Cosmetics and pharmaceuticals can have important effects on marine ecosystems. In this regard, the laboratory carries out studies on the effect of such products, with a focus on sunscreens, on different benthic components both tropical (e.g. corals) and from Mediterranean Sea (echinoderms, gorgonians and madrepores).
Impatto di microinquinanti sugli ecosistemi marini
Role of extracellular DNA in marine sediments
Extracellular DNA represents the dominant component of DNA pools in benthic ecosystems and it’s also the greatest archive of genetic diversity. The laboratory carries out studies to investigate the ecological role of extracellular DNA in biogeochemical cycles, benthic trophodynamics and horizontal gene transfer. Moreover, our research is focused on the investigation of gene sequences preserved within the extracellular DNA pool in the sediment to obtain palaeoecological information (i.e. diversity of past communities).
Nematode genetic diversity
Meiofauna represents a numerically important component of the benthic assemblages and has a key role in the transfer of organic matter and energy at higher trophic levels. The diversity of such component, so far, has been studied chiefly through classical approaches based on morphologic characteristics. Our laboratory has developed specific procedures to carry out analyses on the diversity of nematodes (the most representative phylum of meiofauna) through innovative metagenomic approaches, that can potentially identify the presence of cryptic species, thus enhancing the census of marine biodiversity.
Analisi della diversità genetica dei nematodi
Bio-recovery of polluted marine environments
Marine sediment pollution is now a global concern. Thus, it’s necessary to define approaches and strategies to mitigate the detrimental effects of contaminants and enhance the environmental quality and sustainability. For this purpose, a specific line of research is devoted to the evaluation of the efficiency of biorecovery strategies of polluted marine sediments. Such researches are focused on implementing our knowledge on the relationships between biodiversity of marine microbial benthic communities, biodegradation performances of organic pollutants and on the effects of metal mobility.
Bio-recupero di ambienti marini contaminati
Recovery of damaged marine ecosystems
Global climate changes and anthropogenic pressure are degrading several marine ecosystems. The laboratory carries out researches for the assessment of the health status of marine assemblages and for the identification of innovative strategies for their recovery. Specific care is devoted to the restoration of compromised coral reefs by means of ecocompatible techniques.
Recupero di ecosistemi marini danneggiati
Diversity of prokaryotes and viruses in marine ecosystems
Viruses and prokaryotes represent the greatest reservoir of genetic diversity in the world oceans. In this laboratory, specific protocols have been developed to analyse viral and prokaryotic diversity in different environmental matrices and different ecosystems. In particular, through Next Generation Sequencing approaches, such studies on a wide geographic scale can enhance our knowledge not only on taxonomic diversity but also on the associated putative functions.
Field work
Fossa di Ogasawara (2011) Fossa delle Marianne (2014) Whittard Canyon (2009)
Ogasawara trench (2011) Mariana trench (2014) Whittard Canyon (2009)
Bangka Island (2013) Maldive (2014) Maldive (2014)
Bangka Island (2013) Maldives (2014) Maldives (2014)
tel. 071 2204328
tel. 071 2204294
Dott. Michael Tangherlini
Dott. Eugenio Rastelli
Dott.ssa Elisabetta Manea
Dott.ssa Francesca Marcellini
Laminar flow hoods
Fume hoods
Electrophoretic chambers
NanoDrop fluorometer
Multiparametric probe
Epifluorescence microscopes
Microscopy image analyzer
Ultrasonic bath
Portable incubator
Tangential flow filtration apparatus
Oscillating horizontal shakers