National Research Council of Italy

Institute of Biosciences and BioResources

DISBA logo CNR logo

Roberto Defez

Role: Senior Researcher
Section: Researchers and Technologists
Division: Naples
Tel: (39) 081-6132440-081-6132610

Personal Info

Name and surname: Roberto Defez
Born in: Rome
On: October 26, 1956
Nationality: Italian
Marital status: Widower, two children.
phone +39 081 6132 440 - cell. +39 347 4087 227

Scientific Activity

  • 1980: Degree in Biology, University Naples, with a thesis on E. coli genetics;
  • December 1979 to March 1980: EEC grant fellowship to work at the INRA Versailles, France working on rhizobia-legume symbiotic nitrogen fixation;
  • 1981 to 1984: fellowships to work in Dr. Philippe Brachet’s laboratory, at the Institute Pasteur in Paris, France on the NGF at the neuro-muscular junction;
  • June 1987: permanent research position at the Italian National Research Council working on nitrogen fixation, bacterial auxin delivery, abiotic stress tolerance and the use of endophytic bacteria to support cereals growth, nitrogen fixation and phytohormone feeding of different rice cultivars.


  1. Daniela Torres, Elías Mongiardini, Florencia Donadío, Raúl Donoso, Gonzalo Recabarren-Gajardo, José Gualpa, Stijn Spaepen, Roberto Defez, Gastón Lopez, Carmen Bianco, Fabricio Cassán (2021). Molecular and physiological analysis of indole-3-acetic acid degradation in Bradyrhizobium japonicum E109. Research in Microbiol. - doi: 10.1016/j.resmic.2021.103814
  2. Defez R., A. Andreozzi, S. Romano, G. Pocsfalvi, I. Fiume, R. Esposito, C. Angelini, C. Bianco (2019). Bacterial IAA-delivery into Medicago root nodules triggers a balanced stimulation of C and N metabolism leading to biomass increase. Microorganisms, 7(10) 403. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms7100403.
  3. Defez R., A. Valenti, A. Andreozzi, S. Romano, M. Ciaramella, P. Pesaresi, S. Forlani, C. Bianco (2019). New insights into structural and functional roles of Indole-3-acetic acid (IAA): changes in DNA topology and gene expression in bacteria. Biomolecules 9 (10): 522. doi:10.3390/biom9100522.
  4. Anna Andreozzi, Pilar Prieto,Jesús Mercado-Blanco, Stefano Monaco,Elisa Zampieri,Silvia Romano, Gianpiero Valè, Roberto Defez, Carmen Bianco. 2019Efficient colonization of the endophytes Herbaspirillum huttiense RCA24 and Enterobacter cloacae RCA25 influences the physiological parameters of Oryza sativa L. cv. Baldo rice. Environmental Microbiology, 21(9): 3489-3504. doi: 10.1111/1462-2920.14688
  5. Dennis Eriksson, Eugénia de Andrade, Borut Bohanec, Sevasti Chatzopolou, Roberto Defez, Nélida Leiva Eriksson, Piet van der Meer, Bernd van der Meulen, Anneli Ritala, László Sági, Joachim Schiemann, Tomasz Twardowski & Tomáš Vaněk. Implementing an EU opt-in mechanism for GM crop cultivation. EMBO reports (2019). EMBO Reports 20(5). doi: 10.15252/embr.201948036
  6. Dennis Eriksson, Eugénia de Andrade, Borut Bohanec, Sevasti Chatzopolou, Roberto Defez, Nélida Leiva Eriksson, Piet van der Meer, Bernd van der Meulen, Anneli Ritala, László Sági, Joachim Schiemann, Tomasz Twardowski & Tomáš Vaněk. Why the European Union needs a national GMO opt-in mechanism. 2018 NATURE BIOTECHNOLOGY 36 (1): 18-19. -doi: 10.1038/nbt.4051
  7. Defez R, Andreozzi A, Dickinson M, Charlton A, Tadini L, Pesaresi P and Bianco C (2017) Improved Drought Stress Response in Alfalfa Plants Nodulated by An IAA Over-Producing Rhizobium Strain. Front. Microbiol. 8:2466. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2017.02466
  8. Defez R., Andreozzi A. and Bianco C. The Overproduction of Indole-3-Acetic Acid (IAA) in Endophytes Upregulates Nitrogen Fixation in Both Bacterial Cultures and Inoculated Rice Plants. Microbial Ecology (2017). 74(2): 441-452. doi: 10.1007/s00248-017-0948-4.
  9. Defez R., Anna Andreozzi and Carmen Bianco (2017). Quantification of Triphenyl-2H-tetrazoliumchloride Reduction Activity in Bacterial Cells. Bio-protocol Vol 7, Iss 02, Jan 20, 2017 - doi: 10.21769/BioProtoc.2115
  10. Defez R, Esposito R, Angelini C, Bianco C. Overproduction of indole-3-acetic acid in free-living rhizobia induces transcriptional changes resembling those occurring in nodule bacteroids. Mol Plant Microbe Interac. 2016 Mar 22, 29: 484-495. PMID: 27003799. - doi: 10.1094/MPMI-01-16-0010-R
  11. Roberto Defez (2016). Deforming mirrors converting GMOs into sMOG. Emerald Insight, Food and Nutrition, Vol. 46 Iss 5 pp. 620 - 627. - doi: 10.1108/NFS-04-2016-0049
  12. Maria A. Germanà, Maurizio Micheli, Benedetta Chiancone, Carmen Bianco, Fabrizio G. Casales and Roberto Defez (2015). Biotization of encapsulated vitro-derived propagules of Carrizo citrange. Article in Acta horticulturae ·1065: 663-669. January 2015. -doi: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2015.1065.83
  13. Mita L., Grumiro L., Rossi S., Bianco C., Defez R, Gallo P., Mita GD., Diano N. (2015). Bisphenol A removal by a Pseudomonas aeruginosa immobilized on granular activated carbon and operating in a fluidized bed reactor Journal Hazardous Materials, 291: 129-135. 2015. doi 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2015.02.072
  14. Bianco C., Senatore B., Arbucci S., Pieraccini G., Defez R. (2014). Modulation of Endogenous Indol-3-Acetic Acid Biosynthesis in Bacteroids within Medicago sativa Nodules. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 2014, Vol. 80, No. 14, p. 4286-4293, doi: 10.1128/AEM.00597-14
  15. Bianco Carmen and Defez Roberto (2011). Soil Bacteria Support and Protect Plants Against Abiotic Stresses, Abiotic Stress in Plants - Mechanisms and Adaptations, Arun Shanker and B. Venkateswarlu (Ed.), ISBN: 978-953-307-394-1, InTech, Available from:
  16. Bianco C. & R. Defez (2010). Auxins upregulate nif and fix genes. Plant Signaling & Behavior (PSB) 5 (10): 1290-1294. DOI 10.4161/psb.5.10.13068
  17. Bianco C. & R. Defez (2010). Improvement of Phosphate Solubilization and Medicago Plant Yield by an Indole-3-Acetic Acid-Overproducing Strain of Sinorhizobium meliloti. APPLIED AND ENVIRONMENTAL MICROBIOLOGY, July 2010, Vol. 76, No. 14, p. 4626-4632. - doi:10.1128/AEM.02756-09
  18. Bianco C., G.L. Rotino, B. Campion, I. Anas, R. Defez (2010). How to improve legume production under severe environmental stresses. Journal of Biotechnology. 150(1): S119. - doi: 10.1016/j.jbiotec.2010.08.309.
  19. Bianco, Carmen; Speranza, Luisa; Defez, Roberto (2010). Isolation and characterization of PAH degrading bacteria from polluted Venice lagoon‎. Conference: 14th International Biotechnology Symposium and Exhibition (IBS-2008) Location: ‏ Rimini, ITALY Date: ‏ SEP 14-18, 2010. JOURNAL OF BIOTECHNOLOGY Volume: ‏ 150(1): S212
  20. Bianco C. & R. Defez (2009). Medicago truncatula improves salt tolerance when nodulated by an indole-3-acetic acid over-producing Sinorhizobium meliloti strain. J. Exp. Botany 60(11),3097-3107 doi: 10.1093/jxb/erp140
  21. Bianco C., Imperlini E. and R. Defez. Legumes like more IAA. Plant Signaling and Behavior. (2009) Aug;4(8):763-5. doi: 10.4161/psb.4.8.9166
  22. Imperlini E., Bianco C., Lonardo E, Camerini S., Cermola M., Moschetti G. and R.Defez. Effects of indole-3-acetic acid on Sinorhizobium meliloti survival and on symbiotic nitrogen fixation and stem dry weight production. Appl. Microb. And Biotech. (2009), 83: 727-738. doi: 10.1007/s00253-009-1974-z
  23. Lantin C., B. Bulawa, A. Haselier, R. Defez and U. B. Priefer. Effect of a Genetically Modified Rhizobium leguminosarum Strain on Bacterial and Fungal Diversity in the Rhizosphere of Pisum sativum. Current Plant Science and Biotechnology in Agriculture. 2008, 42: 65-66
  24. Camerini S., Senatore B., Lonardo E., ImperliniE., Bianco B., Moschetti G., Rotino GL., Campion B. and Defez R. Introduction of a novel pathway for IAA biosynthesis to rhizobia alters vetch root nodule development. Archives of Microbiology 2008, 190(1):67-77
  25. Bianco C., E. Imperlini, R. Calogero, B. Senatore, A. Amoresano, A. Carpentieri, P. Pucci and R. Defez. Indole-3-acetic acid improves Escherichia coli’s defences to stress. Archives of Microbiology 2006, 185: 373 - 382. DOI: 10.1007/s00203-006-0103-y
  26. Bianco C., E. Imperlini, R. Calogero, B. Senatore, P. Pucci, and R. Defez. Indole-3-acetic acid regulates the central metabolic pathways in Escherichia coli. Microbiology, (2006), 152: 2421-2431
  27. Moschetti G., A.l. Peluso, A. Protopapa, M. Anastasio, O. Pepe, and R. Defez (2005) Use of nodulation pattern, stress tolerance, nodC gene amplification, RAPD-PCR and RLFP-16S rDNA analysis to discriminate genotypes of Rhizobium leguminosarum biovar viciae. Systematic and Applied Microbiology, 28: 619-631
  28. Pandolfini T, Rotino GL., Camerini S, Defez R, Spena A. BMC Biotechnology (2002) Optimisation of transgene action at the post-transcriptional level: high quality parthenocarpic fruits in industrial tomatoes 2:1 (11 Jan 2002) online at
  29. Priefer, U.B., Aurag, J., Boesten, B., Bouhmouch, I., Defez, R., Filali-maltouf, Miklis, M., Maowad, H., Mouhsine, B., Prell, J., Schlüter, A. and Senatore, B.. 2001. Characterisation of Phaseolus symbionts isolated from mediteranean soils and analysis of genetic factors related to pH tolerance. J. Biotechnology 91 :223-236.
  30. Pandolfini, T., Storlazzi , A., Calabria, E., Defez R. , Spena A. (2000). “The spliceosomal intron of the rolA gene of Agrobacterium rhizogenes is a prokaryotic promoter”. Molecular Microbiology, 35: 1326-1334.
  31. Schluster A., Noshlen M., Krasmer M., Defez R. and Priefer U. B. “The Rhizobium leguminosarum bv. viciae glnD gene, encoding a uridylyltransferase/ uridylyl-removing enzyme, is expressed in the root nodule but is not essential for nitrogen fixation”. Microbiology (2000), 146, 2987-2996
  32. Fedorova, E. , Tatè R., Favre R., Iaccarino M. and Defez R. “Ultrastructural immunolocalization of ubiquitin conjugated proteins in legume root nodules”. J.Submicrosc. Cytol. Pathol., 30(1): 85-94. (1998)
  33. Luka, S., Patriarca, J.E., Riccio, A., Iaccarino, M. and Defez, R. (1996). "Cloning of the rpoD analog from Rhizobium etli: sigA of R. etli is growth phase regulated". J. Bacteriol. 178: 7138-7143.
  34. Patriarca, E.J., Taté, R., Fedorova, E., Riccio, A., Defez, R. and Iaccarino, M. "Down-regulation of the Rhizobium ntr system in the determinate nodule of Phaseolus vulgaris identifies a specific developmental zone". Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions, 9(4): 243-251 (1996).
  35. Martino, M., Riccio, A., Defez, R., Iaccarino, M. and Patriarca, E.J. "In vitro characterization of the ORF1-ntrBC promoter of Rhizobium etli." FEBS Letters 388: 53-58 (1996).
  36. Patriarca, E.J., Riccio, A., Colonna Romano, S., Defez, R., Iaccarino, M. "DNA binding activity of NtrC from Rhizobium grown on different nitrogen sources". FEBS Letters 354: 89-92 (1994).
  37. Amar, M., Patriarca, E. J., Manco, G., Bernard, P., Riccio, A., Lamberti, A., Defez, R., and Iaccarino, M."Regulation of nitrogen metabolism is altered in a glnB mutant strainof Rhizobium leguminosarum"Molecular Microbiology, 11(4): 685-693, 1994.
  38. Taté, R., Patriarca, E. J., Riccio, A., Defez, R., and Iaccarino, M. "Development of Phaseolus vulgaris root nodules". Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions 7(5): 582-589 (1994).
  39. Patriarca, E.J., Riccio, A., Tatè, R., Colonna-Romano, S., Iaccarino, M., Defez, R. " The ntrBC genes of Rhizobium leguminosarum are part of a complex operon subject to negative regulation", Molecular Microbiology, 9, 569-577 (1993).
  40. Colonna-Romano, S., Patriarca, E.J., Amar, M., Bernard, P., Manco, G., Lamberti, A., Iaccarino, M.I. and Defez, R. "Uridylylation of the PII protein in Rhizobium leguminosarum" FEBS Letters S, 330, 1, 95-98 (1993).
  41. Moreno, S., Patricarca, E., Chiurazzi, M., Meza, R., Defez, R., Iaccarino, M., and Espin, G. 1992 Phenotype of a Rhizobium leguminosarum ntrC mutant, Research in Microbiology 143: 161-171
  42. Manco, G., Rossi, M., Defez, R., Lamberti, A., Percuoco, G. and Iaccarino, M. 1992. Dissociation by NH4Cl treatment of the enzymic activities of glutamine synthetase II from Rhizobium leguminosarum biovar viciae, J. Gen Microbiol., 138: 1453-146.
  43. Patriarca, E.J., Chiurazzi, M., Manco, G., Riccio, A., Lamberti, A., De Paolis, A., Rossi, M., Defez, R.and Iaccarino, M. 1992. Activation of the Rhizobium leguminosarum glnII gene by NtrC is dependent on upstream DNA sequences". Molecular and General Genetics 234: 337-345.
  44. Chiurazzi, M., Meza, R., Lara, M., Lahm, A., Defez, R., Iaccarino, M., Espin, G. 1992. The Rhizobium leguminosarum biovar phaseoli glnT gene" Gene 119: 1-8 (1992).
  45. Baev, N., Amar, M., Defez, R., Iaccarino, M. 1992. The expression of the nodD and nodABC genes of Rhizobium leguminosarum is not regulated in response to combined nitrogen, FEMS Microbiology Letters 97: 205-208.
  46. Rossi, M., Defez, R., Chiurazzi, M., Lamberti, A., Fuggi, A. and Iaccarino, M. 1989. Regulation of glutamine synthetase isozymes in Rhizobium leguminosarum biovar viceae. J. Gen. Microbiol. 135: 629-637.
  47. Colonna-Romano, S., Riccio, A., Guida, M., Defez, R., Lamberti, A., Iaccarino, M., Arnold, W., Priefer, U. and Pühler, A. 1987. Tight linkage of glnA and a putative regulatory gene in Rhizobium leguminosarum. Nucleic Acids Research 15: 1951-1964.
  48. Colonna-Romano, S; Guida, M; Riccio, A; Defez, R; Lamberti, A; Rossi, M; Iaccarino, M 1987. A rhizobium leguminosarum gene which appears to influence glutamine synthetase activity. Italian J. Biochem. 36(6): A370-A372.
  49. Defez, R. and Brachet, P. 1986. Pheochromocytoma PC12 cells influence the differentiation of cocultured skeletal myotubes. Int. J. Devl. Neuroscience 4: 161-168.
  50. Defez, R and Brachet, P 1983. Maturation of contacts between the PC12 cell-line and the myotubes of rats Biology of the cell. Vol. ‏ 49(1) Pages: ‏ A22
  51. Defez R, De Felice M 1982. The metabolism of b-glucoside in Escherichia coli K12. Ann Microbiol (Paris) 133:347-50
  52. Defez, R. and De Felice, M. 1981. Cryptic operon for b-glucoside metabolism in E.coli K12: genetic evidence for a regulatory protein. Genetics. 1981 Jan; 97(1): 11-25. PMCID: PMC1214377 PMID: 6266910
  53. Defez, R. and De Felice, M. 1980 Regulation of the utilization of beta-glucosides in E. coli K-12-mutants. Atti Associazione Genetica Italiana Volum: 25 Pages: 93-94

Patents & Trademarks

  • Defez R., Spena A.
    Patent Holders C.N.R. & G.IN.E.ST.R.A.
    Deposited the 09/11/1998 at the European Patent Office, Munich, Germany, EPO application No. EP98/830674.2. PCT extension n° PCT24190 deposited on November the 9th 1999.
    Method to control gene expression in bacteria, namely Rhizobiaceae, to improve root nodule development, nitrogen fixation and plant biomass production
  • Spena A., Rotino G., Ficcadenti N., Defez R.,
    Patent Holders C.N.R. e G.IN.E.ST.R.A. e M.I.P.A.
    Deposited: 16/07/1999 Italian Patent Office: RM99A000451.
    PCT extension 13/07/2000 n° 24453
    Method to modulate the expression of genes inducing the parthenocarpic trait in plants
  • Defez, S. Camerini & A. Pascucci,
    GREEN MAGIC KIT per condurre un esperimento di biotecnologia in classe
    N° RM 2001/C/004695
  • Crimi, A. La Volpe & R. Defez
    BROWN MAGIC KIT per il piccolo Biotecnologo
    N° RM 2004/C/003326
  • Defez R.,
    Patent Holder: CNR
    Deposited: 14/06/2005, Italian Patent Office: n. RM2005A000308
    Metodo per incrementare la sopravvivenza di ceppi batterici del genere Rhizobio.
    PCT extension n. PCT/IT2006/000449 deposited on June 13th 2006.
  • Defez R.
    Patent Holder: CNR
    Deposited: 23 marzo 2009, Italian Patent Office, n. RM2009A000128.
    Metodo per aumentare la solubilizzazione del fosfato assimilabile dalle piante
  • Defez R.
    Patent Holder: CNR
    Deposited on March 16, 2010 PCT extension n. PCT/IB2010/051249
    Method to increase phosphate solubilization in plant
  • Defez R.
    Patent holder: CNR
    December 7, 2010. United States patent No. 7.846.708 B2.
    Method for increasing the survival of bacterial strains of the Rhizobium genus
  • Bianco C. and Defez R.
    Patent Holder CNR.
    Deposited 3 march 2015 n. RM2015A00096
    “Microrganismi e loro uso per il disinquinamento ambientale”
  • Defez R., inventore
    CNR patent holder
    October 2015, US patent n. US 9.157.104 B2
    Method to increase phosphate solubilization in plant

Organization of Congress & Workshops

  • Co-organizer I.P.R.A.-C.N.R. workshop: Molecular Biology of the Rhizobium-legume interaction. Amalfi (SA), 7-11 April1987
  • Co-organizer IIGB Jubilee Symposium 25th Anniversary, Castel dell’Ovo, Napoli, September 1988.
  • Co-organizer del EMBO RAISA workshop, The Molecular Biology of Rhizobium-legume Symbiosis, Capri, 23-28 October 1991.
  • Co-organizer del XIV IIGB Workshop: Capri, 20-23 October 2000 Plant Development: From Cell Fate to Organ Development.
  • Organizer Fabamed meeting, Napoli 29 November-1° December 2001Local Organizer XIV European Nitrogen Fixation meeting, Naples August 2020 ( )
  • Local Organizer II PlantEd Cost action congress, Lecce (Italy) September 20-22, 2021

Competitive Grants

  • Italian Ministry of Agriculture area 6 n° 257 National project for Vegetal Biotechnologies,1996-2000, coordinator.
  • Naples Scientific and Technological Park, Medical and Agri-food Biotechnology. 1997-2000, coordinator.
  • Italian Ministry or University and Research, law 95/95. 1998-2001, contractor.
    National Research Council, Target Project Biotechnology II. 1998-2001, coordinator.
  • Italian Ministry or University and Research, Law 6/2000 Diffusion of the Scientific Culture. 2004-2006, contractor.
  • Italian Ministry or University and Research, FIRB project: Forage Legume postgenomics, RBNE018BHE_008. 2002-2006, contractor.
  • European Union Project Biotech IV FW BI04-CT97-2319, 1997-2000, contractor
  • European Union Project INCO-Developping Countries n° IC18 CT980313, IV FW, 1997-2002, contractor
  • European Union project INCO-Developping Countries n° ICA4-2000-10355, V FW. 2002-2007, coordinator.
  • Region Campania, Vegetal Biodiversity(SALVE) PSR Campania 2007-2013, Misura 214 - azione f2, 2010-2014 Made in Italy Agroalimentare, project CISIA, CNR, coordinator 2011-2014
  • European Union Project n° 289562-ABSTRESS, subcontractor. 2012-2016
  • Project POR Quarc, 2012-2015. Contractor.
  • Project POR BIP, 2013-2016. Contractor.
  • Project POR Fish, 2019-2020. Contractor.
  • Italian Representative in the Management Committee and Contractor of the Cost Action CA18111: PlantEd. 2019-2023

Public understanding of Science and Audits at the Parliament


  • “La Ricerca Scientifica in Italia”, Istituto Italiano per gli Studi Filosofici e Accademia delle Scienze, Curators: M.Iaccarino e R.Defez, november 2004
  • voice “OGM” in Enciclopedia Medica Treccani. 2010.
  • voice “Fumonisina” in Enciclopedia Medica Treccani. 2010.
  • “Perché gli OGM”, by Elio Cadelo, 2011. Palombi editor. ISBN 978-88-6060-337-1
  • Roberto Defez. 2014. “L’Italia e il mais OGM”. Editor: Ipa Servizi. - Milano Ipsoa Gruppo Wolters Kluwer, Milanofiori Assago (Italia) ISSN: 1590-1254
  • “Il Caso OGM, il dibattito sugli Organismi Geneticamente Modificati” by Roberto Defez, 2014 Carocci Editor, 148 pag, ISBN: 9788843072897. Second classed at Galileo Price 2015
  • “OGM: Informarsi giova fortemente alla salute”. 2015, Defez R. Medico e bambino
    Editor: Edifarm - Milano, Italia. ISSN: 1591-3090
  • “L’uomo e il suo ambiente: un rapporto difficile”. Quaderni del Lionismo. Aprile 2015. Il Caso Ogm, p. 106-110.
  • “Il cibo e/è l’uomo. Viaggio in un mondo di paradossi”. In: Ogm, biodiversità e decisioni consapevoli, p. 51-61. Università Commerciale Bocconi, Edizioni Egea. ISBN 978-88-238-4485-8. Settembre 2015.
  • “Biotecnologie sostenibili. Scienza ed innovazione in agricoltura”. Edagricole editor 2017 by Galbiati, Gentile, La Malfa, Tonelli. ISBN 978-88-506-5534-2
  • “Proibisco Ergo Sum. Dall’embrione al digitale, divieti e proibizioni made in Italy”, by Filomena Gallo and Marco Perduca. 2017 Fandango Editor, ISBN 978-88-6044-530-8. Chapter on Ogm pages 117-124.
  • “Scoperta”. Codice Editor 2018, by Roberto Defez. Come la ricerca scientifica può aiutare a cambiare l’Italia. ISBN: 978-887578726-4. First classed Price Divulgazione scientifica nazionale Giancarlo Dosi 2018 section Social, Economic and Legal sciences. Third among all sections. Selected among the final 5 books at the Galileo Price 2019.

Memberships & Prizes

  • Member of the Italian National Academy of Agriculture
  • Member of the Ethical Panel of the Foundation Umberto Veronesi
  • Prize Guido Dorso 2020 for Science

Selected Publications

(full list available at CNR People)

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