Chiara Catalano

PhD Student - XXXV Cycle - Tutor: Alessandra Gentile
Office: Via Valdisavoia, 5, I piano
Phone: 0954783453

  • 2019-2022: PhD in Biotechnology, XXXV cycle. Title of the research project: “Phenotyping and genotyping of Citrus species and hybrids to evaluate resistance to biotic stresses”. Tutor: Prof. Alessandra Gentile. Co-tutor: Prof. Gaetano Distefano.
  • November 2021 - March 2022: traineeship at the School of Plant Science and Food Security (Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel). Tutor: prof. Guido Sessa.
  • 2019: Master’s degree in Agricultural Sciences and Technologies, University of Catania. Thesis title: “The key role of structural and regulatory genes controlling anthocyanin pigmentation in Citrus and related genera and acidity in sweet orange fruits”. Tutor: Prof. Gaetano Distefano. Co-tutor: Dr. Concetta Licciardello (CREA-OFA).
  • From 11/03/2019 to 11/06/2019: Erasmus+ Traineeship at the John Innes Centre in Norwich (United Kingdom). Research activity: The determination of acidity in Citrus; gene identification, metabolite analysis and gene editing.
  • 2017: Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Sciences and Technologies, University of Catania. Thesis title: “Agriculture and Green Building: common paradigms of sustainability”. Tutor: Prof. Giovanni Cascone.
  • 2014: High School Diploma in Scientific Studies at Istituto di Istruzione Secondaria Superiore “Galileo Ferraris” in San Giovanni La Punta, associated section of Aci Bonaccorsi (CT).

Last edit: 05/01/2022

PhD Research activity:

Lemon (C. limon (L.) Burm. f.) is the third most commercially important species among citrus genus and, together with lime, its global sales amounted to US$ 3.6 billion in 2018. The 48% of lemon worldwide production came from the Mediterranean Basin, even though its cultivation is strongly limited by a severe vascular disease named “malsecco” caused by the mitosporic fungus Plenodomus tracheiphilus (Petri) Gruyter, Aveskamp & Verkley, which is included on the A2 list for quarantine pests of the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization (EPPO). Malsecco symptomatology consists in the desiccation of twigs, branches or the whole plant, suggesting the name of the tracheomycosis that means “dry disease”. Among the commercial citrus species, lemon is the most damaged by malsecco disease due to its high susceptibility and researches conducted over the years have not elucidated the genetic basis of host resistance.

The research activity has the aim of evaluation of resistance to malsecco disease through an approach including phenotypical and molecular analysis of 50 genotypes belonging to different citrus species and to more than 450 hybrids (segregant population for resistance to malsecco disease). At first, we would evaluate the macroscopic and microscopic phenotypic responses of the selected germplasm and of three hybrid populations, (1) C. latipes x C. limon ‘Femminello Siracusano 2kr’, (2) Clementine x C. limon ‘F. Siracusano 2kr’ and (3) C. limon ‘Interdonato’ x C. limon ‘F. Siracusano’, to artificial inoculation of P. tracheiphilus. A genotyping by sequencing (GBS) approach will be performed in order to decipher the genetic basis of resistance mechanisms. Also a comparison of susceptible and resistant lemon varieties, on the basis of the forthcoming lemon genome, will be performed to achieve the main goal of the present PhD project.

Salonia F., Catalano C., Russo R., Licciardello C., Russo G., Caruso M. 2018. Poster title: “Application of Marker Assisted Selection (MAS) to improve the efficiency of the CREA Citrus breeding program”. LXII SIGA Annual Congress "Plant development and crop productivity for sustainable agriculture", Verona 25-28 Settember 2018. Session 6, Plant Genetics and Genomics: 6.31.

Catalano C., Salonia F., Ciacciulli A., Russo M.P., Poles L., Caruso P., Distefano G., Caruso M., Russo G., Licciardello C. 2019. Poster title: “A gene-specific approach illustrates the anthocyanins tissue-specificity on citrus species and related genera”. Abstract book of the10th International Workshop on Anthocyanins & Betalains – IWA&B 2019.

Ciacciulli A., Salonia F., Poles L., Pappalardo H. D., Caruso M., Caruso P., Russo M.P., Catalano C., Russo G., Licciardello C., 2019. Poster title: “A cisgenesis and target editing approach to improve health properties of citrus fruits combining anthocyanins and lycopene”. Abstract book of the10th International Workshop on Anthocyanins & Betalains – IWA&B 2019.

Catalano C., Atkins E., Butelli E., Martin C., Licciardello C., (2019). “Anthocyanins and acidity, two interconnected qualitative traits of Citrus genera under the control of shared transcription factors”. Submitted as oral report at the 6th International Horticulture Research Conference (

Catalano C., Ciacciulli A., Salonia F., Russo M.P., Caruso P., Caruso M., Russo G., Distefano G., Licciardello C., (2020). “Target-Genes Reveal Species and Genotypic Specificity of Anthocyanin Pigmentation in Citrus and Related Genera”. Genes, 11, 807,

Catalano C., Di Guardo M., Distefano G., Caruso M., Nicolosi E., Deng Z., Gentile A., La Malfa S.G., (2021). “Biotechnological Approaches for Genetic Improvement of Lemon (Citrus limon (L.) Burm. f.) against Mal Secco Disease”. Plants, 10 1002.

Di Guardo M., Moretto M., Moser M., Catalano C., Troggio M., Deng Z., Cestaro A., Caruso M., Distefano G., La Malfa S., Bianco L., Gentile A., (2021). "The haplotype-resolved reference genome of lemon (Citrus limon L. Burm f.)". Tree Genetics & Genomes 17, 46 (2021).

Catalano C., Licciardello G., Seminara S., Distefano G., Di Guardo M., Tropea Garzia G., Tortorici S., Zappalà L., Biondi A., La Malfa S.G., Gentile. A., (2021). “Caratterizzazione di una popolazione di limone per l’identificazione di fonti di resistenza di origine genetica a stress biotici”. Poster for the XIII Giornate Scientifiche della Società di Ortoflorofrutticoltura Italiana (SOI) 22-23 giugno 2021, Catania, Italia (

Catalano C., Di Guardo M., Distefano G., Gentile A., La Malfa S., (2022). “Genetic Improvement of Citrus Limon (L. Burm f.) for Resistance to Mal Secco Disease”. In: Kole, C. (eds) Genomic Designing for Biotic Stress Resistant Fruit Crops. Springer, Cham.

Catalano C., Seminara S., Licciardello G., Di Guardo M., Tropea Garzia G., Biondi A., Catara V., Distefano G., La Malfa S., Gentile A., (2021). Phenotyping and genotyping of a lemon segregating population to mining genetic resistance to biotic stresses”. Oral presentation for the III International Organic Fruit Symposium ed il I International Organic Vegetable Symposium, 14-17 dicembre 2021, (

Catalano C., Licciardello G., Seminara S., Di Guardo M., Tropea Garzia G., Biondi A., La Malfa S., Genti-le A., Distefano G., (2022). “Phenotyping and genotyping of a lemon segregating population to mining genetic resistance to the two-spotted spider mite attack”. Poster for the International Horticoltural Congress 2022, 14-20 agosto 2022, Angers, Francia, (