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Professor Lorenzo Frigerio

Pro-Vice Chancellor (Education)


Phone: 024 765 23181

Office: C107 


Frigerio webpage

Research clusters

Plant, Insect & Agricultural Biosciences

Cells & Development

Research Interests

The majority of the plant proteins that humans and animals eat are produced and stored in the secretory pathway, which is a system of organelles found inside each plant cell, starting with the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) – a network of membrane tubules that resembles a fishnet – and ending with the vacuole – a large container that can act as both a storage compartment or a dustbin, depending on the cell type.

We study how the endoplasmic reticulum gets its peculiar shape and how this shape relates to its function as a protein assembly factory. When pests or bacterial pathogens attack a plant, the ER changes shape very rapidly. We are trying to work out how this shape change helps the plant protect itself.

We also study how the vacuole changes its function from a site of degradation into a container of protein accumulation during the maturation of plant seeds. Understanding these processes is essential for exploiting the capacity of plants to produce and accumulate large amounts of nutritious, or high-value proteins.

Research: Technical Summary

We use a combination of plant genetics, biochemistry and live imaging to study the biogenesis of secretory pathway organelles in plant cells. In particular, we are interested in endoplasmic reticulum (ER) morphogenic proteins and how they affect ER architecture and function, especially under biotic stress.

We also study the biogenesis of protein storage vacuoles (PSV) in plant seeds. PSV are the main repository of proteins in seeds, therefore essential for human and plant nutrition. We have recently established that PSV arise from pre-existing embryonic lytic vacuoles during seed maturation. We are now elucidating the steps that convert a protease-rich, degradative organelle into a haven for seed storage proteins

PhD Plant Genetics. Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore 1995