The early work of Botta group was devoted to the structural elucidation and synthesis of biological active molecules derived from plant in vivo. Since 1984, his group have been working in the field of in vitro plant tissue cultures. The general aim of the investigation was directed toward the understanding of biosynthetic pathways of the isolated metabolites and the isolation of the responsible enzymes. During this research, new plant enzymes (e.g. peroxidases) have been isolated, purified, and characterized by chemical and kinetic studies. In particular, the interest of the group focused on the synthetic steps of a central precursor of benzylisoquinoline alkaloids, the norcoclaurine, which was obtained from cloned enzyme derived from plant.
In the last twenty years, Botta group dedicated his attention also on the synthesis of artificial enzyme-mimicking macrocycles, belonging to the family of resorcarenes. These molecules have been used in early steps for host-guest studies with transition metals. Recently the enantiodiscrimination of chiral resorcarenes towards amino acids, neurotransmitters and other biologically active compounds was demonstrated both in solution and in the gas phase. Resorcarenes in different conformations and with different side-chains showed also interactions with NO+ studied with kinetic and spectral UV-visible analysis.
Main research topics:
- Synthesis of artificial receptors endowed with suitable chemical and physical properties which make them applicable in molecular recognition and drug delivery;
- Synthesis of resorcarene-based system as new artificial linkers in site directed immobilization of antibodies for immunosensors and biosensors development.
- Isolation, biotransformation, structure elucidation and synthesis of biologically active compounds from medicinal plants;
- Discovery and development of small organic molecules and/or natural compounds targeting selectively pathways hyperactivated in cancer stem cells (e.g. Hedgehog and Notch signalling pathways);
- Synthesis of fluorescent probes selective on tau protein for early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease;
- Design and synthesis of positively charged linkers for bioconjugate-drug development with potential application in nanomedicine and diagnostic field;
- Industrial hemp (Cannabis Sativa L.) cultivation and product characterization.