Pier Luigi Luisi Synthetic Biology Lab
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home > people - current lab members > Giovanni Murtas

Dr. Giovanni Murtas

Senior Grant "Centro Fermi"

Dipartimento di Biologia
Università degli Studi di Roma Tre
Viale Marconi 446
00146 Roma

Tel.: +39.06.5517 6433;
Fax: +39.06.5517 6321
e-mail : murtas@uniroma3.it

Giovanni Murtas received his Doctoral degree in Biology at the University “La Sapienza” in Rome in 1992. He then moved to England at the John Innes Centre, where he worked as Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Molecular Genetics (Cambridge Laboratory) carrying out research on flowering time. In 1998 he was appointed Research Fellow at the University of Warwick in UK where he was working on circadian clocks.
In 2002 as Senior Scientist and Lecturer in Molecular Biology at SZN “Anthon Dohrn”, (BioGeM) in Italy.
In 2005 he was awarded a Senior Grant from Centro “E. Fermi” to work on the “minimal life” project.

Minimal Life Project

Within the minimal life project we are reconstructing a semi-synthetic minimal Cell recalling the early simple cell of the origin of life and early evolution. A minimal cell is made of a lipidic bilayer vesicle as cellular compartment, containing the minimal and sufficient number of components to be called “alive”, where alive means to be able to carry out self maintenance, reproduction and mutation.
We are focusing on the protein synthesis activity of a minimal Cell with the aim of reducing the number of components normally controlling this cellular mechanism.
We have replaced the cellular extract from E. Coli, commonly used for in-vitro protein synthesis, with a cell-free protein system named PURESYSTEM, containing a know number of pure components cloned from the E. Coli genome. This protein synthesis machine replaces the black box represented by the E.Coli Extract.
Recently we are testing the PURESYSTEM kit within Lipidic vesicles synthesising the EGFP (Enhanced Green Fluorescent Protein).

Future Objectives

Using a minimal number of components we aim to monitor EGFP fluorescent vesicles chemically induced for replication. A second objective will be to introduce the genes encoding for the enzymes controlling the synthesis of lipids into liposomes to induce self-reproduction of the vesicle membranes and therefore promote vesicle/cell replication.

Selected Publications

How plants tell the time.
Giovanni Murtas and Andrew J Millar.
Current Opinion in Plant Biology 2000, 3:43-46 , Current Biology

Early in short days 4, a mutation in Arabidopsis that causes early flowering and affects the expression of the flowering time gene FLC.
Giovanni Murtas et al.
Development 2002, 129 (23): 5349

The circadian clock that controls gene expression in Arabidopsis is tissue-specific.
Simon Thain, Giovanni Murtas et al.,
Plant Physiology 2002; 130 (1) 102-110

A nuclear protease required for flowering-time regulation in Arabidopsis reduces the abundance of SUMO conjugates.
Giovanni Murtas et al.,
Plant Cell 2003, Oct 1, 15 (10)

Semi-synthetic Minimal Cells: experimental and Theoretical Backgrounds.
Pasquale Stano, Giovanni Murtas, and Pier Luigi Luisi.,
Protocells 2006 eds. S Rasmussen, M. Bedau

Protein synthesis in liposomes with a minimal set of enzymes.
Giovanni Murtas, Yutetsu Kuruma, Paolo Bianchini, Alberto Diaspro and Pier Luigi Luisi,
Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 2007, 363, 12-17.

En route to semi-synthetic minimal cells.
Pier Luigi Luisi, Pasquale Stano, Giovanni Murtas, Yutetsu Kuruma and Takuya Ueda,
in: "Proceedings of the Bordeaux Spring School on Modelling Complex Biological Systems in the Context of Genomics. April 3rd - 7th 2006". P. Amar; F. Képès; V. Norris; M. Beurton-Aimar; J.-P. Mazat (eds.). EDP Sciences, 2007, Les Ulis (Paris), pp. 19-30.

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