Disease and Stress Biology
The D&SB research is focused on plant biodiversity, conservation and screening of bioactive metabolites; biomedical applications of plant secondary metabolites; new and non-toxic strategies to control and fight pathogenic fungi.
Ricardo Boavida Ferreira
Professor Catedrático Instituto Superior de Agronomia, UTL
PhD 1987 in Biochemistry, University of East Anglia, U.K
Phone (+351) 214469651
The biodiversity and conservation studies are centred on in vitro vegetative propagation of endemic Portuguese plant species, some of which under risk of extinction. The novel bioactive metabolites (including polyphenols) present in these plant species are being scrutinized and chemically characterized. In the biomedical applications, the plant secondary metabolites selected are being evaluated for antioxidant, antiproliferative and/or antimicrobial activities. For that purpose several models, such as human neuroblastoma, colorectal and cancer cells, yeast, human and also plant fungal pathogens are being used. For example, for neurodegeneration cell models, neuroblastoma cells treated with rotenone and yeasts overexpressing alpha-synuclein are used for selection of natural products potentially useful in treatment and/or prevention of Parkinson´s disease. To access the bioavailability of these natural products, particularly of antioxidant compounds from edible plants, like berry fruits, in vitro digestion and human intervention studies are underway.
The search and development of novel and non-toxic fungicides active against human and plant pathogens allow the development of new strategies to control and fight pathogenic fungi. For that purpose human and plant cell interactions with pathogenic fungi are being analysed, in particular, host-induced changes in human fungal pathogen exoglycomes. In plants, molecular interactions of grapevine with pathogenic fungi responsible for grapevine powdery mildew and wood diseases are also being studied. Genetically transformed grapevine, rose and other plants, constitutively expressing antifungal proteins (e.g. blad) are being evaluated, and specific bioelectronic methodologies capable of detecting and treating asymptomatic grapevine plants infected with recalcitrant fungal wood diseases are under development. Finally, for an additional understanding of fungal interactions, the challenging of Aspergillus fumigatus and A. alternata by other fungi are being examined.
Taking advantage of novel and promising natural products, such strategies could provide in a near future, treatments with low toxicity levels. A number of patent applications have been granted, are under examination or are under preparation.
Cláudia Nunes dos Santos, Senior Lab staff
Marta Alves, Ph.D.
Paula Pinto, Ph.D.
Lucélia Tavares, Ph.D.
Rui Pimpão, Ph.D. student
Alexandre Borges, Ph.D. student
Diana Macedo, Ph.D. student
Inês Figueira, Ph.D. student
Andreia Gomes, M.Sc.
Carolina Jardim, M.Sc.
- Tavares, L.; Carrilho, D.; Tyagi, M.; Barata, D.; Serra, A.T.; Duarte, C.M.M.; Duarte, R.O.; Feliciano, R.P.; Bronze, M.R.; Chicau, P.; Espírito-Santo, M.D.; Ferreira, R.B.; dos Santos, C.N. (2010) Antioxidant Capacity of Macaronesian Traditional Medicinal Plants. Molecules , 15: 2576-2592.
- Monteiro, S., Freitas, R., Rajasekhar. B.T., Teixeira, A.R. e Ferreira, R.B. (2010) The unique biosynthetic route from Lupinus β-conglutin gene to blad. PLoS ONE, 5: e8542.
- Ferreira, R.B., Monteiro, S., Freitas, R., Santos, C.N., Chen, Z., Batista, L.M., Duarte, J., Borges, A. and Teixeira, A.R. (2007) The role of plant defence proteins in fungal pathogenesis. Molecular Plant Pathology, 8: 677-700.
For further information visit the laboratory's website
O D&SB, em parceria com grupos nacionais e internacionais, utiliza investigação fundamental para tentar resolver problemas do dia-a-dia (estudar a base molecular de determinadas doenças que atacam o Homem e as plantas), com o objectivo de, a longo prazo, serem desenvolvidos tratamentos com baixos graus de toxicidade. Os fungos patogénicos são uma das causas de várias doenças graves. Assim, por exemplo, encontram-se em estudo a interacção destes fungos com células humanas e plantas; a modificação genética de plantas para expressão de compostos antifúngicos; a pesquisa de produtos naturais provenientes de plantas endémicas na prevenção e tratamento da neurodegeneração, como a doença de Parkinson. Nesta área estão a ser desenvolvidos estudos de nutrição humana, com o intuito de identificar os compostos que conseguem transpôr a barreira digestiva e posteriormente a barreira hematoencefálica, mantendo a sua bioactividade.