Maria Luisa Balestrieri

Professor of Biochemistry

Name Maria Luisa
Surname Balestrieri
Institution Università degli Studi della Campania Luigi Vanvitelli
Address Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics and General Pathology, University of Campania "L. Vanvitelli", Via L. De Crecchio 7, 80138 Naples, Italy
Resume Download
Maria Luisa Balestrieri


  • Ergothioneine Antioxidant Function: From Chemistry to Cardiovascular Therapeutic Potential.

    Publication Date: 01/04/2017 on Journal of cardiovascular pharmacology
    by Servillo L, DʼOnofrio N, Balestrieri ML
    DOI: 10.1097/FJC.0000000000000464

    Ergothioneine (ESH), the betaine of 2-mercapto-L-histidine, is a water-soluble naturally occurring amino acid with antioxidant properties. ESH accumulates in several human and animal tissues up to millimolar concentration through its high affinity transporter, namely the organic cation transporter 1 (OCTN1). ESH, first isolated from the ergot fungus (Claviceps purpurea), is synthesized only by Actinomycetales and non-yeast-like fungi. Plants absorb ESH via symbiotic associations between their roots and soil fungi, whereas mammals acquire it solely from dietary sources. Numerous evidence demonstrated the antioxidant and cytoprotective effects of ESH, including protection against cardiovascular diseases, chronic inflammatory conditions, ultraviolet radiation damages, and neuronal injuries. Although more than a century after its discovery has gone by, our understanding on the in vivo ESH mechanism is limited and this compound still intrigues researchers. However, recent evidence about differences in chemical redox behavior between ESH and alkylthiols, such as cysteine and glutathione, has opened new perspectives on the role of ESH during oxidative damage. In this short review, we discuss the role of ESH in the complex machinery of the cellular antioxidant defense focusing on the current knowledge on its chemical mechanism of action in the protection against cardiovascular disease.

  • Tyramine Pathways in Citrus Plant Defense: Glycoconjugates of Tyramine and Its N-Methylated Derivatives.

    Publication Date: 01/02/2017 on Journal of agricultural and food chemistry
    by Servillo L, Castaldo D, Giovane A, Casale R, D'Onofrio N, Cautela D, Balestrieri ML
    DOI: 10.1021/acs.jafc.6b04423

    Glucosylated forms of tyramine and some of its N-methylated derivatives are here reported for the first time to occur in Citrus genus plants. The compounds tyramine-O-β-d-glucoside, N-methyltyramine-O-β-d-glucoside, and N,N-dimethyltyramine-O-β-d-glucoside were detected in juice and leaves of sweet orange, bitter orange, bergamot, citron, lemon, mandarin, and pomelo. The compounds were identified by mass spectrometric analysis, enzymatic synthesis, and comparison with extracts of Stapelia hirsuta L., a plant belonging to the Apocynaceae family in which N,N-dimethyltyramine-O-β-d-glucoside was identified by others. Interestingly, in Stapelia hirsuta we discovered also tyramine-O-β-d-glucoside, N-methyltyramine-O-β-d-glucoside, and the tyramine metabolite, N,N,N-trimethyltyramine-O-β-glucoside. However, the latter tyramine metabolite, never described before, was not detected in any of the Citrus plants included in this study. The presence of N-methylated tyramine derivatives and their glucosylated forms in Citrus plants, together with octopamine and synephrine, also deriving from tyramine, supports the hypothesis of specific biosynthetic pathways of adrenergic compounds aimed to defend against biotic stress.

  • Incretin treatment and atherosclerotic plaque stability: Role of adiponectin/APPL1 signaling pathway.

    Publication Date: 01/02/2017 on Journal of diabetes and its complications
    by Barbieri M, Marfella R, Esposito A, Rizzo MR, Angellotti E, Mauro C, Siniscalchi M, Chirico F, Caiazzo P, Furbatto F, Bellis A, D'Onofrio N, Vitiello M, Ferraraccio F, Paolisso G, Balestrieri ML
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jdiacomp.2016.10.001

    Glucagon like peptide 1 (GLP-1) analogues and dipeptidyl peptidase IV (DPP-4) inhibitors reduce atherosclerosis progression in type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) patients and are associated with morphological and compositional characteristics of stable plaque phenotype. GLP-1 promotes the secretion of adiponectin which exerts anti-inflammatory effects through the adaptor protein PH domain and leucine zipper containing 1 (APPL1). The potential role of APPL1 expression in the evolution of atherosclerotic plaque in TDM2 patients has not previously evaluated.

  • Homostachydrine (pipecolic acid betaine) as authentication marker of roasted blends of Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora (Robusta) beans.

    Publication Date: 15/08/2016 on Food chemistry
    by Servillo L, Giovane A, Casale R, Cautela D, D'Onofrio N, Balestrieri ML, Castaldo D
    DOI: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2016.02.154

    The occurrence of pipecolic acid betaine (homostachydrine) and its biosynthetic precursor N-methylpipecolic acid was detected for the first time in green coffee beans of Robusta and Arabica species. The analyses were conducted by HPLC-ESI tandem mass spectrometry and the metabolites identified by product ion spectra and comparison with authentic standards. N-methylpipecolic acid was found at similar levels in green coffee beans of Robusta and Arabica, whereas a noticeable difference of homostachydrine content was observed between the two green coffee bean species. Interestingly, homostachydrine content was found to be unaffected by coffee bean roasting treatment because of a noticeable heat stability, a feature that makes this compound a candidate marker to determine the content of Robusta and Arabica species in roasted coffee blends. To this end, a number of certified pure Arabica and Robusta green beans were analyzed for their homostachydrine content. Results showed that homostachydrine content was 1.5±0.5mg/kg in Arabica beans and 31.0±10.0mg/kg in Robusta beans. Finally, to further support the suitability of homostachydrine as quality marker of roasted blends of Arabica and Robusta coffee beans, commercial samples of roasted ground coffee blends were analyzed and the correspondence between the derived percentages of Arabica and Robusta beans with those declared on packages by manufacturers was verified.

  • Ergothioneine oxidation in the protection against high-glucose induced endothelial senescence: Involvement of SIRT1 and SIRT6.

    Publication Date: 01/07/2016 on Free radical biology & medicine
    by D'Onofrio N, Servillo L, Giovane A, Casale R, Vitiello M, Marfella R, Paolisso G, Balestrieri ML
    DOI: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2016.04.013

    Ergothioneine (Egt), the betaine of 2-mercapto-L-histidine, is a dietary antioxidant protecting against many diseases, including cardiovascular disease (CVD), through a redox mechanism different from alkylthiols. Here, experiments were designed to evaluate the mechanisms underlying the beneficial effect of Egt against hyperglycaemia-induced senescence in endothelial cells. To this end, cells were incubated with increasing concentrations of Egt (0.01-1.00mM) for 12h followed by incubation for 48h with high-glucose (25mM). Cell evaluation indicated that viability was not affected by mM concentrations of Egt and that the high-glucose cytotoxicity was prevented with the highest efficacy at 0.5mM Egt. The cytoprotective effect of Egt was paralleled by reduced ROS production, cell senescence, and, interestingly, the formation of hercynine (EH), a betaine we recently found to be produced during the Egt oxidation pathway. Notably, the Egt beneficial effect was exerted through the upregulation of sirtuin 1 (SIRT1) and sirtuin 6 (SIRT6) expression and the downregulation of p66Shc and NF-κB. SIRT1 activity inhibition and SIRT6 gene silencing by small interfering RNA abolished the protective effect of Egt against the high-glucose-induced endothelial senescence. These data provide the first evidence of the Egt ability to interfere with endothelial senescence linked to hyperglycaemia through the regulation of SIRT1 and SIRT6 signaling, thus further strengthening the already assessed role of these two histone deacetylases in type 2 diabetes.

  • Transferrin-Targeted Nanoparticles Containing Zoledronic Acid as a Potential Tool to Inhibit Glioblastoma Growth.

    Publication Date: 01/04/2016 on Journal of biomedical nanotechnology
    by Salzano G, Zappavigna S, Luce A, D'Onofrio N, Balestrieri ML, Grimaldi A, Lusa S, Ingrosso D, Artuso S, Porru M, Leonetti C, Caraglia M, De Rosa G

    The treatment of glioblastoma (GBM) is a challenge for the biomedical research since cures remain elusive. Its current therapy, consisted on surgery, radiotherapy, and concomitant chemotherapy with temozolomide (TMZ), is often uneffective. Here, we proposed the use of zoledronic acid (ZOL) as a potential agent for the treatment of GBM. Our group previously developed self-assembling nanoparticles, also named PLCaPZ NPs, to use ZOL in the treatment of prostate cancer. Here, we updated the previously developed nanoparticles (NPs) by designing transferrin (Tf)-targeted self-assembling NPs, also named Tf-PLCaPZ NPs, to use ZOL in the treatment of brain tumors, e.g., GBM. The efficacy of Tf-PLCaPZ NPs was evaluated in different GBM cell lines and in an animal model of GBM, in comparison with PLCaPZ NPs and free ZOL. Tf-PLCaPZ NPs were characterized by a narrow size distribution and a high incorporation efficiency of ZOL. Moreover, the presence of Tf significantly reduced the hemolytic activity of the formulation. In vitro, in LN229 cells, a significant uptake and cell growth inhibition after treatment with Tf-PLCaPZ NPs was achieved. Moreover, the sequential therapy of TMZ and Tf-PLCaPZ NPs lead to a superior therapeutic activity compared to their single administration. The results obtained in mice xenografted with U373MG, revealed a significant anticancer activity of Tf-PLCaPZ NPs, while the tumors remained unaffected with free TMZ. These promising results introduce a novel type of easy-to-obtain NPs for the delivery of ZOL in the treatment of GBM tumors.

  • Betaines and related ammonium compounds in chestnut (Castanea sativa Mill.).

    Publication Date: 01/04/2016 on Food chemistry
    by Servillo L, Giovane A, Casale R, Balestrieri ML, Cautela D, Paolucci M, Siano F, Volpe MG, Castaldo D
    DOI: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2015.10.070

    Chestnut fruits, being poor of simple sugars and consisting mainly of fibers and starch, are among the constituents of Mediterranean diet. While numerous studies report on content of proteins and amino acids in chestnut, no one has appeared so far on betaines, an important class of nitrogen compounds ubiquitous in plants for their protective action in response to abiotic stress. In this study, we analyzed by HPLC-ESI-tandem mass spectrometry, in fruits and flours of varieties of chestnut cultivated in Italy, the composition of betaines and ammonium compounds intermediates of their biosynthesis. Besides the parent amino acids, the compounds quantified were choline, glycerophosphocholine, phosphocholine, glycine betaine, N-methylproline, proline betaine (stachydrine), β-alanine betaine, 4-guanidinobutyric acid, trigonelline, N,N,N-trimethyllysine. Interestingly, some uncommon derivatives of pipecolic acid, such as N-methylpipecolic acid, 4-hydroxypipecolic acid and 4-hydroxy-N-methylpipecolic acid were identified for the first time in chestnut samples and characterized by MS(n) tandem mass spectrometry.

  • D-ribose-glycation of insulin prevents amyloid aggregation and produces cytotoxic adducts.

    Publication Date: 01/01/2016 on Biochimica et biophysica acta
    by Iannuzzi C, Borriello M, Carafa V, Altucci L, Vitiello M, Balestrieri ML, Ricci G, Irace G, Sirangelo I
    DOI: 10.1016/j.bbadis.2015.10.021
  • Sirtuins in vascular diseases: Emerging roles and therapeutic potential.

    Publication Date: 01/07/2015 on Biochimica et biophysica acta
    by D'Onofrio N, Vitiello M, Casale R, Servillo L, Giovane A, Balestrieri ML
    DOI: 10.1016/j.bbadis.2015.03.001

    Silent information regulator-2 (Sir-2) proteins, or sirtuins, are a highly conserved protein family of histone deacetylases that promote longevity by mediating many of the beneficial effects of calorie restriction which extends life span and reduces the incidence of cancer, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and diabetes. Here, we review the role of sirtuins (SIRT1-7) in vascular homeostasis and diseases by providing an update on the latest knowledge about their roles in endothelial damage and vascular repair mechanisms. Among all sirtuins, in the light of the numerous functions reported on SIRT1 in the vascular system, herein we discuss its roles not only in the control of endothelial cells (EC) functionality but also in other cell types beyond EC, including endothelial progenitor cells (EPC), smooth muscle cells (SMC), and immune cells. Furthermore, we also provide an update on the growing field of compounds under clinical evaluation for the modulation of SIRT1 which, at the state of the art, represents the most promising target for the development of novel drugs against CVD, especially when concomitant with type 2 diabetes.

  • Response to comment on Balestrieri et al. Sirtuin 6 expression and inflammatory activity in diabetic atherosclerotic plaques: effects of incretin treatment. Diabetes 2015;64:1395-1406.

    Publication Date: 01/05/2015 on Diabetes
    by Balestrieri ML, Rizzo MR, Barbieri M, Paolisso P, D'Onofrio N, Giovane A, Servillo L, Paolisso G, Marfella R
    DOI: 10.2337/db14-1676