Plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria for in vitro and ex vitro performance enhancement of Apennines’ Genepì (Artemisia umbelliformis subsp. eriantha), an endangered phytotherapeutic plant

Top row (left to right): Loretta Pace, Marika Pelligrini, Sara Palmieri
Bottom row (left to right): Rachele Rocchi, Loreta Lippa, Maddalena del Gallo

One of the current environmental threats of public and scientific concern is the high altitude plant disappearance due to the climate changes. Rainfall reduction, rare snowfalls, decrease of snow coverage, and increase of temperatures, led to the rarefaction of high-altitude species, with a gradual long-term transformation towards more drought-tolerant plants. Several Central Apennines vascular plants are affected by this endangerment. Besides these threat, Apennines genepì (Artemisia umbelliformis ssp. eriantha, Asteraceae family) is endangered also by the illegal and indiscriminate harvesting to produce the homonymous liqueur. Synthetic seeds represent a valid propagation technique to response to this threat. However, this technology requires some implementations to improve low germination and plantlet development rates. Many bacteria belonging to plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) group, can improve these lacks, also improving acclimatization and hardening. Aim of our work was to evaluate the suitability of the bacterial consortium formed by four PGPR strains as an enrichment agent of Apennines genepì synthetic seeds. To evaluate the effectiveness as improving agent, the consortium was incorporated in the synthetic seeds, compared to a control and followed until ex vitro cultivations. Plants were investigated for their growth and development parameters, total phenolic and flavonoid contents, antioxidant properties, polyphenolic compounds concentrations, and volatile fractions. Our findings demonstrated the applicability of the investigated bacterial consortium as enrichment agent in synthetic seed technology. These findings may present some positive environmental implications. Effective synthetic seed propagation may be valid for the restoking of endangered plants and/or for the commercialization of plants subjected to illegal and undiscerning collections.

Loretta Pace, Marika Pellegrini, Sara Palmieri, Rachele Rocchi, Loreta Lippa and Maddalena Del Gallo. Plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria for in vitro and ex vitro performance enhancement of Apennines’ Genepì (Artemisia umbelliformis subsp. eriantha), an endangered phytotherapeutic plant. In Vitro Cellular & Developmental Biology – Plant, 56:134–142, 2020.

Delineating Cell Behavior and Metabolism of Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Cells In Vitro

From left: Tatiana Mendez, Shawheen Saffari (first authors contributing equally to the work), Janet M. Cowan, Nora M. Laver, James D. Baleja and Addy Alt-Holland (corresponding author).  

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) are the most common form of malignancy in humans worldwide. Although these carcinomas are classified together as non-melanoma skin cancers, they differ in their clinical appearance, origin of the neoplastic epithelial cells, and underlying molecular mechanisms that drive malignant transformation. The design of this study was based on two objectives: 1) To compare the growth, behavior and metabolism of human BCC and SCC cells in separate monolayer cultures, and 2) To assess the effect of cell-cell interactions between epithelial cancer cells and dermal fibroblast on their growth and metabolic activity in co-cultures. We used human BCC cells, as well as E-cadherin-competent- and E-cadherin- suppressed SCC cells, which exhibit benign and malignant tumor growth in vivo respectively, and grew these cells with or without supportive human dermal fibroblasts. Since cross-talk between epithelial cells and stromal cells contribute to the regulation of tumor cell behavior in vivo, the addition of fibroblasts enriched the culture microenvironment and allowed for interactions and metabolic cooperation between the two cell types. We used bright-field and fluorescent microscopy, immunofluorescence staining and fluorescent in situ hybridization techniques to characterize cell growth and behavior. Additionally, we used nuclear magnetic resonance and metabolomics approaches to define the consumption and secretion signatures of the energy metabolites – glucose, lactate, acetate, glutamine, glutamate, and pyruvate by the cells. BCC and SCC cells grown in optimal growth conditions demonstrated distinct differences in cell morphology, growth patterns, and metabolic needs in the absence or presence of adjacent fibroblasts. Since alterations in energy metabolism have become one of the hallmarks of cancer, the findings of this study suggest that further investigations of the metabolic profiles of BCC and SCC cells may illuminate biochemical pathways that could become new targets for metabolism-based therapies for treatment of these skin cancers.  

Tatiana Mendez, Shawheen Saffari, Janet M. Cowan, Nora M.V. Laver, James D. Baleja, and Addy Alt-Holland.  Delineating cell behavior and metabolism of non-melanoma skin cancer in vitro. In Vitro Cellular & Developmental Biology – Animal, 56:165–180, 2020.