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Professor Lorenzo Frigerio

Job Title
Life Sciences
02476 523181
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Research Interests

Our main interest is the study of the intracellular targeting of proteins in the plant secretory pathway.

Google Scholar profile

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Most plant proteins of interest for human and animal nutrition, or of biotechnological value are located in, or travel through, the secretory pathway. After synthesis, secretory proteins are translocated into the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), where they acquire their mature tertiary and quaternary structure. They are then transported along the secretory system to their final destinations: the ER itself, the Golgi complex, the 'endosomes', the vacuoles, the plasma membrane or the extracellular space. Our research group is interested in three major processes that regulate the plant secretory system:

  • Sorting of proteins to plant storage vacuoles: We have isolated two novel vacuolar sorting signals (from ricin and phaseolin) and are now analysing their ability to interact with vacuolar sorting receptors. We use a combination of biochemistry, genetics and live confocal microscopy. We have recently generated a panel of fluorescent reporter proteins targeted to the vacuolar lumen or the vacuolar membrane. These are being used to study vacuolar biogenesis and targeting in developing Arabidopsis seeds. As part of the EU 'Pharma-Planta' consortium, we are also studying the intracellular targeting and fate of recombinant protein of medical importance, in particular monoclonal antibodies and HIV antigens.

  • ER quality control and protein degradation: how does the endoplasmic reticulum dispose of proteins that fail to fold or assemble correctly? Where does degradation occur? Which molecular chaperones are involved in the degradative process? How does the plant ER handle the synthesis of heterologous proteins with complex folding/assembly patterns, such as immunoglobulins? In collaboration with the Toxin Group, these questions are addressed in vivo by studying the intracellular fate of model secretory proteins, such as the plant toxin ricin, a secretory immunoglobulin A and the storage protein phaseolin. These studies employ biochemistry, cell biology and proteomic techniques.

  • ER shape and function: we have recently initiated the study of the plant reticulon family. Reticulons have been described as major regulators of ER shape in mammalian and yeast cells. The Arabidopsis genome contains 21 members of the reticulon family. We analysed the smallest isoform, RTNLB13, and found that its overexpression in plant cells constricts the ER tubules, thus limiting diffusion of soluble proteins in the ER lumen. In collaboration with Prof Chris Hawes (Oxford Brookes), we are now assessing the effect of reticulon overexpression on the overall function of the anterograde secretory pathway


PhD Plant Genetics. Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore 1995

  • Sparkes, Imogen, Tolley, Nicholas, Hawes, C. R., Frigerio, Lorenzo, 2008. Role of reticulons on ER morphology and secretion. Annual Meeting of the Society-for-Experimental-Biology, Marseille, France, Jul 06-10, 2008, Published in Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology. Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology, pp. S141-S141
Title Funder Award start Award end
Shapeshifting: how is plant ER architecture manipulated by pathogen effectors? - BBSRC standard research grant BBSRC 01 Jun 2022 31 May 2025
Phase separation drives the development of protein storage vacuoles Leverhulme Trust 01 Nov 2020 31 Oct 2023
The cell biology of rubber biosynthesis - the endoplasmic reticulum connection Leverhulme Trust 01 Jun 2016 31 May 2019
13 ERA-CAPS PER ASPERA Frigerio BBSRC 01 Jul 2014 31 Dec 2017
GCRF IAA BBSRC 17 Oct 2016 31 Mar 2017
Studentship for Daniel Brown, funded by TARRC. Project increasing latex yield in the rubber tree Hevea brasilensis by targeted expression of aquaporins. Tun Abdul Razak Research Centre (TARRC) 01 Oct 2012 30 Sep 2016
Tissue specific aquaporin expression for plant water stress resistance BBSRC 01 Oct 2012 31 May 2016
A facility for 3D cellular imaging that bridges light and electron microscopy (BSRC ALERT 14 Equipment grant) BBSRC 21 Jan 2015 20 Jan 2016
Studying the biogenesis of protein storage vacuoles by reprogramming leaf development Leverhulme Trust 01 Jan 2012 31 Dec 2014
Developing interdisciplinary omics tools for organelle and cell type-specific analysis of Arabidopsis thaliana New Phytologist Trust 01 Sep 2014 30 Sep 2014
BSCB Summer Vacation placement - Stephanie Rippon British Society for Cell Biology 03 Jul 2013 14 Aug 2013
How are proteins sorted to storage vacuoles in plant seeds? Leverhulme Trust 01 Jul 2007 30 Jun 2010
The role and impact of endoplasmic reticulum associated degradation in plant cells. Leverhulme Trust 01 Mar 2007 28 Feb 2010
Analysis of Factors Regulating the plant Secretory Pathway British Council 01 Jul 2008 30 Jun 2009
Maximising the yield of plant-made immunoglobulins Wellcome Trust 01 Oct 2006 30 Sep 2008
Plant-derived pharmaceuticals for human health pharmaplant - FP6 (IP) European Commission 01 Feb 2004 31 Jan 2008
Determination of the spatial & temporal parameters governing protein translocation pathways BBSRC 01 Jan 2005 31 Dec 2007

Vice Provost and Chair of the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Medicine
2021 - 2024