The topic of my research has always been the signaling role of calcium and its control. During the early years of my research activity my interest was the transport of calcium by mitochondria: when I initiated my work on the topic at the Johns Hopkins University in the USA the process had just been discovered, and we contributed most of the information on its characteristics . After my return to Italy from Johns Hopkins for a while I kept working on the transport of calcium by mitochondria and I contributed some significant findings to it . One was actually essential to the work that led to the identification of the mitochondrial calcium uptake carrier, and was the discovery that yeast mitochondria did not possess the calcium carrier. Another was the demonstration that the transport of calcium by mitochondria did occur in vivo, in spite of the low affinity of mitochondria for calcium : a paradox that was only solved more than 20 years later. But the most significant contribution to the transport of calcium by mitochondria was the discovery of the path for its release from them, which was a sodium/calcium exchanger. A short while after my relocation to the ETH in Zurich I left mitochondria and started working on the calcium transporting ATPase of the plasma membrane. My Laboratory has contributed most of the information now available in the literature on this difficult enzyme: from its purification using a calmodulin column, to its reconstitution, to its cloning, and to the identification of its numerous spicing isoforms: especially, to the discovery and characterization of its diverse regulatory mechanisms, that by acidic phospholipids being perhaps, according to recent developments in the literature, of particular significance. After my second return to Italy at the beginning of the 21st century, the work of my Laboratory has moved in the direction of the genetic dysfunctions of the calcium ATPase of the plasma membrane : calcium is an ambivalent messenger, which is essential to the functioning of cells , but which becomes a conveyor of doom when its precise temporal and spatial control within the cell fails. The genetic dysfunctions of the calcium ATPase of the plasma membrane that our group has discovered and characterized mechanistically are indeed associated to various forms of pathology, most of them affecting the nervous system. During my yearsat the VIMM our group has characterized a series of genetic pathologies of the inner year and the cerebellum that are associated to the malfunction of isoforms 2 and 3 of the ATPase . The concept has emerged, mostry from these recent studies, that the calcium ATPase of the plasma membrane is not a global regulator of the cytoplasmic calcium, but is a selective modulator of calcium homeostasis in specific sub-plasma membrane microdomains in which enzyme activities of great general importance to the function of tge cell co-reside. During my long research career I have also worked on other topics, some of them related to other aspects of calcium signaling or not even related to calcium.. They have produced very significant results, e.g., the total synthesis of phospholamban and the solution of its 3D structure, or the clarification of some aspects of the proton pumping function of cytochrome oxidase. I have not mentioned them as the overwhelming focus of my activity has been on the mainstream area of calcium signaling.


  • 2001–2005 VIMM Scientific Director
  • 1998–2005 Professor of Biochemistry, University of Padua
  • 1973–1998 Professor of Biochemistry, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
  • 1965–1973 Associate Professor, Inst. of General Pathology, University of Modena, Italy
  • 1963–1965 Postdoctoral Fellow, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA
  • 1957 MD, University of Modena, Italy

Selected Awards

  • 1984 – Award and Medal, International Society for Heart Research
  • 1985-1989 – Fogarty Scholar in Residence, NIH, Bethesda, USA
  • 1985 – Member, European Molecular Organization (EMBO)
  • 1986 – Member, Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars, Baltimore, USA
  • 1990 – Honorary Member, American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • 1991 – Member, Academia Europaea
  • 1993 – Doctor H. C. in Natural and Mathematical Sciences, University of Abo, Finland
  • 1995 – Honorary Member, Medical Academy of Rumania
  • 1995 – Doctor H.C. in Medicine, Carol Davila University, Bucharest, Rumania
  • 1996 – Member, Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei,
  • 1996 – Doctor H.C. in Medicine, University of Cluj, Rumania
  • 2002 – Fellow, Faculty of 1000
  • 2004 – Member, European Academy of Sciences
  • 2005 – Professor H.C., Institute Clemente Estable, Montevideo, Uruguay
  • 2006 – Grande Ufficiale of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy
  • 2010 – Marcel Nencki Prize, Polish Academy of Science
  • 2010 – Medal of Merit, International Academy of Cardiovascular Science
  • 2012 – Doctor H.C. University of Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • 2015 – Senior Scholar of Studium Patavinum
  • 2015 – Doctor H.C., Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil