Massimo Di Giulio

CNR Researcher (Ricercatore)

Research Interests

Examples of my work are:
     1. The coevolution theory of the origin of the genetic code suggests that the genetic code is an imprint of the biosynthetic relationships between amino acids. This theory does not seem to attribute a role to the biosynthetic relationships between the earliest amino acids that evolved along the pathways of energetic metabolism. As a result, it is unable to clearly define the very earliest phases of genetic code origin. In order to remove this difficulty, I have suggested an extension of the coevolution theory that attributes a crucial role to the first amino acids that evolved along these biosynthetic pathways and to their biosynthetic  relationships, even when defined by the non-amino acid molecules that are their precursors.
    2. It is hypothesised that tRNA genes evolved only after the evolutionary stage of the last universal common ancestor through the assembly of two mini-genes codifying for different RNA hairpin structures. Observations strongly corroborate this theorization because it has been found that some tRNA genes are completely separate in two minigenes codifying for the 5’ and 3’ halves of this molecule. It has been shown that these tRNA genes codifying for the 5’ and 3’ halves of this molecule are the ancestral form from which the tRNA genes continuously codifying for the complete tRNA molecule are thought to have evolved. This, together with the very existence of completely separate tRNA genes codifying for their 5’ and 3’ halves, proves a non-monophyletic origin for tRNA genes, as a monophyletic origin would exclude the existence of these genes which have, on the contrary, been observed.

 

Short CV

1976        PhD in Biology at the University of Naples: I discussed an experimental thesis on genetics of bacteria.
1976-1979    I was engaged as Professor of Science at the National High Schools. In this period I was interested to study the molecular evolution, in particular I approached to the origin of the genetic code.
1980-1986    I was Research Fellow at the International Institute of Genetics and Biophysics, Nationl Research Council, Naples. I studied both the regulation of the ILV operon and the physical map of the genome of some bacteria by the construction of a organised cosmide bank. I learned the basic techniques of the molecular biology and I was interested to the molecular evolution.
1987-2009    I am working at the Institute of Genetics and Biophysics 'Adriano Buzzati Traverso'. I am investigating the origin of translation. My activity research is clarifying the relative importance of the theories that explain the genetic code organisation. In particular, I have identified in the beta-sheets of the proteins the main adaptive theme that promoted the origin of the organisation of the genetic code. I have suggested an extension of the coevolution theory that attributes a crucial role to the first amino acids that evolved along these biosynthetic pathways and to their biosynthetic  relationships, even when defined by the non-amino acid molecules that are their precursors. Furthermore, I have proposed a model that explains the origin of the tRNA molecule; this model suggests that the tRNA could be evolve by means a duplication of the RNA hairpin structure.. I have also studied the non-monophyletic origin of the tRNA molecules. In the last years, I have studied the thermophilic nature of the last universal common ancestor and the possibility that the genetic code might have originated at high hydrostatic pressure and high temperature. In other words, I was trying to identify the primordial environment in which life originated. More recently, I have suggested  the polyphyletic origin of genes.
November-December 1997     Visiting scientist at the Department of Biochemistry, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong, guest of Professor J. Tze-Fei Wong.
April-June 2000    I participated in a program in molecular evolution at the Institute for Theoretical Physics of the University of California at Santa Barbara, CA, USA.
May-August 2004 Visiting scientist at the Department of Molecular, Celluar and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA., guest of Professor M. Yarus.
November-December 2005    Visiting scientist at the Department of Biochemistry, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong, guest of Professor J. Tze-Fei Wong.
November-December 2007 Fellow at the Collegium Budapest, Centre for Advanced Study, Budapest, Hungary.
May- June 2009 Visiting scientist at the Department of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois, USA, guest of Professor Gustavo Caetano-Anolles.

 

Selected Publications

  • Di Giulio M. An extension of the coevolution theory of the origin of the genetic code. Biol Direct. 2008 Sep 5;3:37.
  • Di Giulio M. A comparison of proteins from Pyrococcus furiosus and Pyrococcus abyssi: barophily in the physicochemical properties of amino acids and in the genetic code. Gene. 2005 Feb 14;346:1-6.
  • Di Giulio M. The late stage of genetic code structuring took place at a high temperature. Gene. 2000 Dec 30;261(1):189-95.
  • Di Giulio M. The non-monophyletic origin of the tRNA molecule. J Theor Biol.1999 Apr;197(3):403-14.
  • Di Giulio M. On the origin of the transfer RNA molecule. J Theor Biol. 1992 Nov 21;159(2):199-214.

     

Collaborations

People

Powered with Priscilla CMS by ^____^ - Design by mamoka - XHTML/CSS by petraplatz - Accesso redazione