Unit info

The zebrafish (Danio rerio) is one of the most popular vertebrate systems for studying developmental genetics, primarily due to a number of advantageous features, including high fecundity, generation of many transparent embryos that develop outside the mother (in the water), and the conservation of the vertebrate organs, which allows comparison with that of humans. Danio rerio start to be a model organism for in vivo research in the late '60s, thanks to George Streisinger, a researcher of Oregon University, who used it for his developmental biology studies. From that moment, in few years, zebrafish became the most popular organism for genetics and developmental bioloy, replacing frogs and chickens.

The fact that fish develop tumors spontaneously was known from long time (about a century) but that zebrafish would be a good model to study cancer was suggested, as a result of studies of carcinogenesis induced by chemical agents conducted on these animals, in the early '80s. However, it was mainly thanks to the development of methods for transgenesis, in the end of the '90s, that zebrafish has "exploded" as an experimental model for in vivo cancer studies. The most important aspect emerged since the first studies is that the zebrafish tumors frequently resemble human cancers at histological, gene expression and genomic levels.

Gianluca Deflorian

Gianluca Deflorian

Born in Trento, Gianluca Deflorian studied at University of Padova, where he graduated in 2000 in Molecular Biology, contributing to the development of new methods to detect in vivo the expression of genes in the brain of Drosophila melanogaster, and few years later he holds a PhD in Genetics and Molecular Biology of Development.

It was during his PhD project that he started to work on the zebrafish as model organism and very soon he became enamored of this model, attracted by the huge potential that this vertebrate organism offered, and still offers, for researchers engaged especially in the study of developmental biology and human genetic diseases.

He works at IFOM since 2006 and, since 2009, he is responsible for the Zebrafish Unit. He participated to numerous international conferences and, thanks to his work, his publications and many scientific collaborations undertaken, it is one of the leading experts in Italy of this model organism.

Selected Publications

  1. Stefano Marchesi, Francesca Montani, Gianluca Deflorian, Rocco D'Antuono, Serena Bologna, Alessandro Cuomo, Carmenla Mazzoccoli, Tiziana Bonaldi, Pier Paolo Di Fore and Francesco Nicassio. "DEPDC1B coordinates de-adhesion events and cell cycle progression at mitosis". Developmental Cell, accepted (2014).
  2. Elena Longobardi, Dimitry Penkov, David Mateos, Gianluca Deflorian, Migurl Torres and Francesco Blasi. "Biochemistry of the tale transcription factors PREP, MEIS, and PBX in vertebrates". Developmental Dynamics, 243(1):59-75 (2014).
  3. Francis Kobia, Serena Duchi, Gianluca Deflorian and Thomas Vaccari. "Pharmacologic inhibition of vacuolar H+ ATPase reduces physiologic and oncogenic Notch signaling". Mol Oncol., 8(2):207-20 (2014).
  4. Virginia Guarani, Gianluca Deflorian, Claudio Franco, Marcus Krüger, Li-Kun Phng, Katie Bentley, Louise Toussaint, Franck Dequiedt, Raul Mostoslavsky, Mirko H.H. Schmidt, Barbara Zimmermann, Ralf P. Brandes, Marina Mione, Christoph H. Westphal, Andreas M. Zeiher, Holger Gerhardt, Stefanie Dimmeler, Michael Potente. "Acetylation-dependent regulation of endothelial Notch signalling by the SIRT1 deacetylase". Nature, 12;473(7346):234-8 (2011).
  5. Elisa Bernardi, Gianluca Deflorian, Federica Pezzinenti, Victor M. Diaz, Marina Mione and Francesco Blasi. "Characterization of the zebrafish Prep1.1 regulatory region: analogies to the promoter of human PREP1". PloS ONE, 22;5(12):e15047 (2010).
  6. Gianluca Deflorian, Mario Cinquanta, Carlo Beretta, Annunziata Venuto, Cristina Santoriello, Danila Baldessari, Federica Pezzimenti, Marisa Aliprandi, Marina Mione and Ario de Marco. "Monoclonal antibodies isolated by large-scale screening are suitable for labeling adult zebrafish (Danio rerio) tissues and cell structures". Journal of Immunological Methods, 346(1-2): 9-17 (2009).
  7. Natalia Meani, Gianluca Deflorian, Federica Pezzimenti, Marina Mione and Myriam Alcalay. "The Tumor Suppressor PRDM5 Regulates Wnt Signaling at Early Stages of Zebrafish Development". PloS ONE 4(1): e4273 (2009).
  8. Cristina Santoriello, Gianluca Deflorian, Federica Pezzimenti, Koichi Kawakami, Luisa Lanfrancone, Fabrizio D'Adda Di Fagagna and Marina Mione. "Expression of H-RASV12 in a zebrafish model of Costello Syndrome causes cellular senescence in adult proliferating cells". Disease Models and Mechanisms, 2: 56-67 (2009).
  9. Marina Mione, Danila Baldessari, Gianluca Deflorian, Gilda Nappo and Cristina Santoriello. "How neuronal migration contributes to the morphogenesis of the CNS: insights from the zebrafish". Developmental Neuroscience, 30: 65-81 (2008).



Analysis of fgfbp1 function during Blood Brain Barrier (BBB) formation. Scientists: Elisabetta Dejana, Azzurra Cottarelli, Gianluca Deflorian, Maria Grazia Lampugnani

Generation of zebrafish transgenic lines to study in vivo AID-mediated tp53 mutagenesis. Scientists: Svend Petersen-Mahrt, Kerstin Shmitz, Lara Sicouri, Gianluca Deflorian.

In vivo adenovirus transduction in zebrafish embryos. Scientists: Silke Kroll, Maria Pelliccia, Gianluca Deflorian.

Generation and characterization of CRISPr/Cas9 mutant of nova2. Scientists: Elisabetta Dejana, Gianluca Deflorian, Costanza Giampietro, Claudia Ghigna (CNR of Pavia).

Characterization of zebrafish mutant for gpr126. Scientists: Elisabetta Dejana, Monica Giannotta, Gianluca Deflorian.

Characterization of zebrafish mutant for snap29. Scientists: Thomas Vaccari, Ilaria Busi, Valeria Mastrodonato, Gianluca Deflorian.

Role of eps8 and IRSp53 (baiap2) in vascular development. Scientists: Giorgio Scita, Salvatore Cortellino, Gianluca Deflorian.

zebrafish movie

3D movie, obtained by confocal microscopy, which shows the brain of a 30 hours zebrafish embryo expressing the green fluorescent protein GFP under the control of the Wnt signaling pathway: in many cancer types this signaling pathway does not function properly.