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Irene Stefanini


The yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae was the first eukaryote to have its genome completely sequenced and its physiology and metabolism are known in details. The deep knowledge on this microorganism, its simplicity and its similarity to higher eukariotic cells allowed the use of S. cerevisiae to gain insights on fundamental cellular processes, to understand human diseases at the molecular level and to identify new drugs and their mechanisms of action.

is_pic.pngNevertheless, all of these studies were carried out on a single strain, S288C, far from being representative of the real genetic settings of the yeast biodiversity. The recent identification of S. cerevisiae isolates from a wide range of environments and the whole-genome sequencing of more than 1000 strains revealed the extent of this yeast biodiversity. Analyses on a restricted set of strains and treatments revealed that newly discovered populations of S. cerevisiae bear phenotypes reflecting their phylogeny and differing from that of the S288C strain.

The laboratory aims at the exploitation of S. cerevisiae biodiversity to disclose the connection between the individual’s genome and several phenotypes. Among these, the response to different environmental factors, to several classes of drugs and the expression of relevant clinically and environmental traits. The quantification of these traits is per sé a golden tool to understand how yeasts evolved and adapted to the environment, expanding the actual knowledge on phenotypic variability of S. cerevisiae. In addition, these traits will be instrumental to exploit the role of this yeast as model for other pathogenic fungi (i.e. Candida and Aspergillus spp.).

Selected publications:

1. Stefanini I, Dapporto L, Berná L, Polsinelli M, Turillazzi S, Cavalieri D. Social wasps are Saccharomyces mating nest, Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016; 113(8):2247-51.

2. Dapporto L, Stefanini I, Rivero D, Polsinelli M, Capretti P, De Marchi P, Viola R, Turillazzi S, Cavalieri D. Social Wasp intestines host the local phenotypic variability of Saccharomyces cerevisiae strains. Yeast 2016; 33(7):277-87.

3. Stefanini I*, Dapporto L, Legras J-L, Calabretta A, Di Paola M, De Filippo C, Viola R, Capretti P, Polsinelli M, Turillazzi S, Cavalieri D. Role of social wasps in Saccharomyces cerevisiae ecology and evolution. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012; 109(33):13398-403.

4. Stefanini I, Trabocchi A, Marchi E, Guarna A, Cavalieri D. A systems biology approach to dissection of the effects of small bicyclic peptidomimetics on a panel of Saccharomyces cerevisiae mutants. J Biol Chem. 2010; 285(30):23477-85.