• Istituto di Biologia e Patologia Molecolari

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Istitute of Molecular Biology and Pathology - National Research Council
Department of Biology and Biotecnology - Charles Darwin
Sapienza University of Rome - sede di Via degli Apuli 4 00185 Roma

My research interest is in the field of mitosis. I am particularly interested in the mechanisms of spindle assembly in mammalian cells, with a focus on roles played by the kinase Aurora-A, a major mitotic regulator frequently overexpressed in tumors and regarded as a promising target in cancer therapy.

I investigated the mechanisms of mitotic spindle pole fragmentation induced by Aurora-A inactivation identifying novel functions of Aurora-A in the control of the microtubules-generated forces. By studying the effects of the Aurora-A pharmacological inhibitor MLN8237 in human cells I evidenced the aspecificity of the treatments and a high cell-to-cell variability in the cellular response, including also potentially pro-tumorigenic effects. Through literature and data-mining searches, I found that TPX2 (the major regulator of Aurora-A) is frequently co-overexpressed with Aurora-A, suggesting that Aurora-A and TPX2 constitute a functional complex with oncogenic properties.

I am currently carrying out a project aimed at the identification of inhibitors of the interaction between Aurora-A and TPX2. The project is based on the hypothesis that targeting interactions between kinases and specific activators can be exploited to develop innovative inhibitors with increased specificity of action.

As part of my research activity, I operate in strict contact with Nikon specialists, to constantly implement and optimise advanced  microscopy  methodologies at the IBPM microscopy platform.

1. L. Di Francesco, A. Verrico, I.A. Asteriti, P. Rovella, P. Cirigliano, G. Guarguaglini, M.E. Schininà, P.Lavia. (2018) Visualization of human karyopherin beta-1/importin beta-1 interactions with protein partners inmitotic cells by co-immunoprecipitation and proximity ligation assays. Scientific Reports, 8: 1850.

2. M. Ferrara , G. Sessa , M. Fiore , F. Bernard , I.A. Asteriti, E. Cundari , G. Colotti , S.Ferla , M. Desideri , D. Del Bufalo , A. Brancale, F. Degrassi. (2018) Small molecules targeted to the microtubule-Hec1 interaction inhibit cancer cell growth through microtubule stabilization. Oncogene, 37:231-240.

3. I.A. Asteriti, F. Daidone, G. Colotti, S. Rinaldo, P. Lavia, G. Guarguaglini, A. Paiardini. (2017) Identification of small molecule inhibitors of the Aurora-A/TPX2 complex. Oncotarget 8:32117-32133.

4. S. Gallini, M. Carminati, F. De Mattia, L. Pirovano, E. Martini, A. Oldani, I.A. Asteriti, G. Guarguaglini and M. Mapelli. (2016) NuMA Phosphorylation by Aurora-A Orchestrates Spindle Orientation. Curr Biol. 26:458-69.

5. I.A. Asteriti, F. De Mattia, G. Guarguaglini. (2015) "Cross-talk between Aurora-A and Plk1 in mitotic control". Frontiers in Oncology 5:283.

6. I.A. Asteriti, E. Di Cesare, F. De Mattia, V. Hilsenstein, B. Neumann, E. Cundari, P. Lavia and G. Guarguaglini. (2014) The Aurora-A inhibitor MLN8237 affects multiple mitotic processes and induces dose-dependent mitotic abnormalities and aneuploidy. Oncotarget 5:6229-6242.

7. I.A. Asteriti, M. Giubettini, P. Lavia and G. Guarguaglini. (2011) Aurora-A inactivation causes mitotic spindle pole fragmentation by unbalancing microtubule-generated forces Mol Cancer  10:131. IF 5.888

8. M. Giubettini, I.A. Asteriti, J Scrofani, M. De Luca, C. Lindon, P. Lavia and G. Guarguaglini. (2011) Control of Aurora-A stability via interaction with TPX2. J Cell Science 124: 113-122. 

9. I.A. Asteriti, W. M.Rensen, C. Lindon, P. Lavia and G. Guarguaglini. (2010) The Aurora-A/TPX2 complex: a novel oncogenic ‘holoenzyme’? BBA Rev Cancer 1806: 230-239.

10. M. De Luca, L. Brunetto, I.A. Asteriti, M. Giubettini, P. Lavia and G. Guarguaglini. (2008) Aurora-A and ch-TOG act in a common pathway in control of spindle pole integrity. Oncogene 27: 6539-6549.


- 2013: PhD in Genetics and Molecular Biology (“Sapienza” University of  Rome)

-2009: Graduation in Applied Biology to Biomedical Research (2nd level Degree) “Sapienza” University

-2007: Diploma in Biology (1st level Degree), “Sapienza”


Work experience

-December 2018-present: CNR-Research scientist  (permanent position)

- April 2016-December 2018: CNR-Research scientist  (III level; TD supported by FIRC- National selection)

- 2009-present: Participation to the set up and management of the Nikon Reference Center for Central-Southern Italy at IBPM-CNR

- February 2013-April 2016: Post-doctoral fellow at IBPM-CNR

- July 2013 and April-May 2012: Eurobioimaging Visitor and EMBO short term fellow at the Advanced Light Microscopy Facility (ALMF), European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) Heidelberg, Germany

- November 2010-February 2011 and November 2009-February 2010: contract as consultant for Microlab srl (Roma) in the evaluation of the microscopy software NIS Elements (Nikon).

- November 2009-October 2012: PhD student at the IBPM-CNR



Awards and fellowships

- April 2016: EMBO travel grant for partecipating the EMBO workshop "Fluorescence microscopy methods to study protein-protein interactions in living cells." Rennes 06-11June 2016.

-April 2016: selected for partecipation to the EMBO workshop "Fluorescence microscopy methods to study protein-protein interactions in living cells." Rennes 6-11 June 2016.

- 2016: 3-year Post-doctoral Fellowship from the Italian Foundation for Cancer Research (project: Protein-protein interactions as new targets for anti cancer strategies: the case of the Aurora-A/TPX2 complex).

- 2015: Post-doctoral Fellowship from Fondazione Umberto Veronesi (project: Targeting the Aurora-A/TPX2 complex as a novel anti-cancer strategy”).

- February 2013: awarded a CNR-post-doctoral fellowship (assegno di ricerca) in the framework of the project funded by AIRC: “Investigation of the Aurora-A/TPX2 complex as an oncogenic "holoenzyme" and novel target in cancer therapy”.

 - March 2012: SIBBM travel grant supporting the Eurobioimaging visit to the ALMF-EMBL (Heidelberg, DE).

- January 2012: selected for the Proof of Concept Studies of the Eurobioimaging consortium. (Project: "From cell biology to cancer therapy: a high-throughput microscopy approach for the study of Aurora-A inhibition in human cells"; Site of visit: Advanced Light Microscopy Facility-EMBL, Heidelberg, DE)

- July 2011: awarded a CNR fellowship (assegno di ricerca) in the framework the project “Cellular Imaging applied to the development of novel anti-cancer drugs” funded by Fondazione Monte dei Paschi di Siena.