• Istituto di Biologia e Patologia Molecolari

Tel :+390649912842
Fax :+39064456866
Professor Emeritus

Department of Biology and Biotecnology - Charles Darwin
Sapienza University of Rome
Istituto Fisiologia Generale - Primo piano P.Le A.Moro 5 00185 Roma

Drosophila as a model organism for the analysis of telomere organization and cell division


One of the most efficient approaches to elucidate a complex biological process is its dissection by molecular genetic analysis. Thanks to its sophisticated formal genetics and the availability of a well-annotated genomic sequence, Drosophila melanogaster is an ideal model system for this approach. 


We are using Drosophila melanogaster to investigate two basic problems in cell biology: telomere organization and function and the molecular mechanisms of cell division. 

1. Telomere organization. We are analyzing the structure and DNA-binding activity of terminin, a non-conserved Drosophila telomere-capping complex that is functionally analogous to human shelterin. We are also investigating the functions of some conserved terminin-interacting proteins and their human homologues. These studies, in collaboration with professor Saggio’s group, have recently led to the identified a novel human factor required for telomeric DNA replication (funded by an AIRC grant under CNR administration). 


2. Mechanisms of Drosophila spindle assembly. We are focusing on genes/proteins that control duplication, stability or microtubule nucleation ability of centrosomes. We are also interested in the factors that control kinetochore-driven microtubule growth. We are currently studying several new proteins involved in these processes, all with clear human homologues.

Lattao R., Bonaccorsi S. and Gatti M. (2012). Giant meiotic spindles in males from Drosophila species with giant sperm tails. J. Cell Sci., 125: 584-588.


Raffa GD., Raimondo D., Sorino C., Cugusi S., Cenci G., Cacchione S., Gatti M. and Ciapponi L. (2010). Verrocchio, a Drosophila OB-fold containing protein, is a component of the terminin telomere-capping complex. Genes & Dev., 24: 1596-1601.


Raffa GD., Siriaco G., Cugusi S., Ciapponi L., Cenci G., Wojcick E. and Gatti M. (2009). The Drosophila modigliani (moi) gene encodes a HOAP-interacting protein required for telomere protection. Proc. Natl. Acad Sci. USA 106: 2271-2276.


Somma MP., Ceprani F., Bucciarelli E., Naim V., De Arcangelis V., Piergentili R., Palena A., Ciapponi L., Giansanti MG., Pellacani C., Petrucci R., Cenci G., Vernì F., Fasulo B., Goldberg ML., Di Cunto F. and Gatti M. (2008) Identification of Drosophila mitotic genes by combining co-expression analysis and RNA interference. PloS Genetics, 4(7): e1000126. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000126.


Giansanti MG., Bucciarelli E., Bonaccorsi S. and Gatti M (2008) Drosophila Spd-2 is an essential centriole component required for PCM recruitment and astral microtubule nucleation. Curr. Biol., 18: 303-309.


Musarò M., Ciapponi L., Fasulo B., Gatti M. and Cenci G. (2008). Unprotected Drosophila telomeres activate the spindle assembly checkpoint. Nature Genetics, 40: 362-366


Raffa GD., Cenci G,. Siriaco G., Goldberg ML. and Gatti M. (2005). The putative Drosophila transcription factor Woc is required to prevent telomeric fusions. Mol Cell. 20: 821-831.


Cenci G., Siriaco G., Raffa GD., Kellum R. and Gatti M. (2003) The Drosophila HOAP protein is required for telomere capping. Nature Cell Biol., 5: 82-84.


Bucciarelli E., Giansanti MG., Bonaccorsi S. and Gatti M., (2003) Spindle assembly and cytokinesis in the absence of chromosomes during Drosophila male meiosis. J. Cell Biol., 160: 993-999.


Bonaccorsi S., Giansanti MG. and Gatti M. (2000) Spindle assembly in Drosophila neuroblasts and ganglion mother cells. Nature Cell Biol., 2: 54-56.


1970: Laurea (Degree) in Biology cum Laude; Sapienza, University of Rome.


1970-74: University fellow; Sapienza, University of Rome. (No formal Ph. D. program available in Italy till 1983)





Current position: Professor of Genetics, Department of Biology and Biotechnology; Sapienza, University of Rome.


2011: Elected EMBO member.


2010: “Sapienza Ricerca” award 2010.


1998-2000: President of the Italian Genetic Society.


1996-2002: Director of the CNR Center for Evolutionary Genetics.


1990: Visiting Professor (six months), Dept. of Genetics and Development, Cornell University.


1989-95: Chairman of the Department of Genetics and Molecular Biology; Sapienza, University of Rome.


1986: Eleanor Roosvelt Cancer Society fellowship, Stanford University.


1985: NATO senior fellowship (six months), Department of Biology, University of California, San Diego.


1980: Professor of Genetics; Sapienza, University of Rome.


1977-80: Associate Professor of Genetics; Sapienza, University of Rome.


1974-76: Assistant professor of Radiation Genetics; Sapienza, University of Rome.


1976-77: NATO senior fellowship and then Assistant Biologist, Department of Biology, University of California, San Diego.