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Department of
Biochemical Sciences
Ass. Prof.
Maria Luisa Mangoni
University of Rome
"La Sapienza"
P.le Aldo Moro, 5
00185 Rome
Phone 39-06-49917679
Fax 39-06-49917566

The main research topic of Maria Luisa Mangoni’s lab, at the Department of Biochemical Sciences, La Sapienza University of Rome, involves the structure-function characterization of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) from frog skin secretion and their synthetic analogs, by combining biochemical, microbiological and biophysical approaches.

Antimicrobial assays on the planktonic and the sessile germ form are performed by this lab group either using peptides alone or in combination with each other or with conventional antibiotics. Biological assays testing the potential cytotoxic effect of these molecules on mammalian cells are also carried out. More precisely, mode of action studies of AMPs on both intact cells and artificial systems (e.g. liposomes of different lipid composition) are widely investigated. The major aspects concern:
- the peptides’ microbial killing kinetics under environmental conditions mimicking those found in vivo (e.g. biological fluids)
- the peptides’ membrane depolarization/perturbation activity, by following the intracellular influx of fluorescent probes or the release of intracellular enzymes. Fluorescence microscopy techniques, based on a triple staining method, are also implicated.
- the peptides’ ability to permeate phospholipid bilayers, monitoring the leakage of pre-incapsulated markers of different size.

Another important research line of this lab group includes studies addressing the peptides’ ability to neutralize the toxic effect of lipopolysaccharide (LPS or endotoxin) and the underlying molecular mechanisms by means of cellular biology and biophysical experiments.

In addition, the role of amphibian AMPs in the innate immunity of vertebrates is evaluated employing amphibians as a model system.

Overall, beside expanding the knowledge on the function of AMPs in the host immune system, the experimental work of this research team aims at developing stable alternative anti-infective agents with new modes of action and with the ability to limit the induction of microbial resistance, which currently represents a serious life threat.