Dell'Orco / Mortarino

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Dell'OrcoFrancesca Dell’Orco graduated in Veterinary Biotechnology Science. Master’s Degree at the University of Milano in October 2014 with the highest honors. She is author of the thesis “Proteomic identification of pig welfare biomarkers using blood mononuclear cells”. During her graduation course she attended an ERASMUS program spending 6 months at Autònoma University of Barcelona, Spain. During her thesis internship she worked in the laboratory of Biochemical at Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Barcelona, where she has been trained on the identification of proteins that could be used as biomarkers of welfare status in pigs, using DIGE technique.

MortarinoMichele Mortarino is a researcher in Parasitology and Parasitic Diseases of Animals at UNIMI-DIVET. He published 44 papers on peer reviewed, international scientific journals with impact factor. He has an h-index of 18. He has been unit leader of 2 funded National projects (PRIN-MIUR 2005 and CCM-MINSAN 2012) and of one funded Regional project (Regione Lombardia, DG Agricoltura, Programma regionale di ricerca in campo agricolo 2007-2009: progetto STRANOVA). His main research fields are the epidemiology and molecular diagnostics of honeybee nosemosis, canine leishmaniosis and dirofilariosis, the safety and efficacy of acaricide treatments for honeybees, and microRNA expression profiles in immuno-mediated parasitic diseases and lymphoid neoplasia of the dog.

Research project:

Genetics, genomics and molecular assays applied to honey bee selection and health

Pollination by honey bees (Apis mellifera) is an important part of modern agriculture, and honey bee health and selection for production traits and resistance to major pathogens has been receiving increased attention recently from the public, beekeepers, and researchers. Current selection of the Italian bee populations is still based on mass selection done at individual bee breeder level with few or no records on production, heath or inbreeding levels. There is a urgent need to support the system the with the establishment of the appropriate breeding schemes supported by genomic information. The Genome of the Honey Bee, Apis mellifera, has been published in 2006 and is about one-tenth the size of the human genome, containing about 300 million DNA base pairs.

Objectives of the project


The aim of the PHD project is to use newly generated and already published classical sequencing and Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) data to understand the diversity of Italian honey bee populations and that of their genome structure. The project will be developed as joint collaboration with other researchers of UNIMI-DIVET (Prof. Giulio Pagnacco, prof. Paola Crepaldi, Dr. Giulietta Minozzi) and with external research groups involved in animal genomic studies and professional bee breeders.
DNA samples of queen and drone bees will be gathered in the first year together with the establishment of phenotype definition and acquisition. The PhD student will actively participate in the definition of the sampling strategy and characterization of short and long term selection goals, including field work on the apiaries.


Genome sequence information of the sampled bees will obtained and bioinformatic analysis of NGS data will be done to identify SNPs of interest.

The combined genomic and genetic information will be applied in selection schemes designed for production, health, and behavioral traits favouring, for instance, the control of Varroa destructor infection like grooming and hygienic behaviour.


The information gathered from the project will also be used for the setup of single and multiplex real time PCR-HRMA based assays for the detection of specific DNA polymorphisms (e.g. SNPs) involved in the resistance to major pathogens including the varroa mite, as assessed through in-field evaluation of honey bee apiaries.


The PhD student will actively participate in the design and assessment of the above assays with regard to the qualitative and quantitative performances. Once properly validated, these assays will assist professional bee breeders in the in-field routine evaluation of the above characters to promote bee health.


Overall, this project will represent the ideal continuation of the Stranova project focused on the genetic and pharmacological strategies for the control of Varroa destructor in honey bees.