You are here: HomeStaffList of PersonnelTosti Elisabetta

tosti elisabettaSenior Scientists
Biology and Evolution of Marine Organisms Department

Tel. +39 081 5833288 - +39 081 5833233
Fax: +39 081 7641355
e-mail elisabetta.tosti(at)szn.it
Skype: eli.tosti54

Curriculum Vitae

Research interests

Impact of environmental stress on reproductive processes of marine invertebrates
Reproduction and development of organisms are processes very sensitive to interference with the surrounding environment. The quality of gamete is defined as the ability to fertilize and be fertilized, giving rise to the development of a normal embryo. Marine organisms with external fertilization release the gametes in sea water where both fertilization and larval development take place. It is therefore known that reproduction of marine organisms can be influenced by environmental contaminants released into the sea by industrial activities and agriculture. Moreover also the climate changes in progress such as the rise of temperature (global warming) and the acidification of the sea waters can interfere with the physiological functions of the organisms inducing reproductive and developmental disorders.
Our studies have evaluated the effects of different xenobiotics, nanoparticles and climate changes on the quality of gametes and other reproductive mechanisms of some marine invertebrates such as the ascidian Ciona intestinalis, the sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus and the bivalve mollusc Mytilus galloprovincialis.
We have shown that environmental stress interferes with the physiological mechanisms of both gametes. In the oocyte we found an alteration of the electrical properties of the plasma membrane of fertilization rate and of the normal morphology of the larva. In spermatozoa we examined the effect of stress on a series of parameters that underlie the reproductive competence of the animal such as sperm concentration, vitality, motility, morphology, mitochondrial potential, lipid peroxidation, genomic and plasma membrane integrity. We have shown that exposure to different types of stressors is a significant risk factor for the physiology of reproduction of marine species and have identified in the Ciona intestinalis a new organism bioindicator in eco-toxicological studies fundamental for the protection of the marine environment. Our new aims are to characterize the mechanism of action that mediates environmental impact and reprotoxicity by identifying new marine organism bioindicators and new biomarkers of environmental stress to be included in environmental biomonitoring programs.

Selected Publications

Gallo A, Manfra L. Boni R. Rotini A. Migliore L. Tosti E. (2018) Cytotoxicity and genotoxicity of CuO nanoparticles in sea urchin spermatozoa through oxidative stress. Environ Intern 118: 325–333

Gallo A, Menezo Y, Dale B, Coppola G, Dattilo M, Tosti E, Boni R. (2018) Metabolic enhancers supporting 1-carbon cycle affect sperm functionality: an in vitro comparative study. Scientific Reports 6;8(1):11769. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-30066-9.

Tosti E, Boni R, Gallo A. (2017) μ-Conotoxins Modulating Sodium Currents in Pain Perception and Transmission: A Therapeutic Potential. Mar Drugs. 15, 295.

Gallo A. Boni R. Buttino I. Tosti E. (2016) Spermiotoxicity of nickel nanoparticles in the marine invertebrate Ciona intestinalis (ascidians). Nanotoxicology. 10(8):1096-104

Tosti E, Ménézo Y. (2016) Gamete activation: basic knowledge and clinical applications. Hum Reprod Update. 22(4):420-439.

Gallo A, Tosti E. (2015) Reprotoxicity of the Antifoulant Chlorothalonil in Ascidians: An Ecological Risk Assessment. Plos One. 2015; 10(4): e0123074

Gallo A, Russo GL, Tosti E. (2013) T-type Ca2+ current activity during oocyte growth and maturation in the ascidian Styela plicata. Plos One.; 8(1):54e604.

Gallo A, Tosti E. (2013) Adverse effect of antifouling compounds on the reproductive mechanisms of the ascidian Ciona intestinalis. Marine Drugs 11: 3554-3568.

Gallo A, Silvestre F, Cuomo A, Papoff F, Tosti E. (2011) Impact of metals on the reproductive mechanism of Ciona intestinalis. Mar Ecol. 2011; 32: 222-231.

Tosti E. (2010) Dynamics functions of ion currents in early development. Mol Repr Dev. 77: 856-867.


Fig. 1Tosti E, Boni R, Gallo A. (2017) μ-Conotoxins Modulating Sodium Currents in Pain Perception and Transmission: A Therapeutic Potential. Mar Drugs. 15, 295.










Fig. 2Fig. 2aThe reciprocal activation of the gametes: On the left, oocyte induces sperm motility, chemotaxis and first binding. The latter in turn induces the acrosome reaction, penetration and fusion. After fusion the spermatozoon releases the sperm factor in the oocyte cytoplasm. On the right, the sperm factor generates electrical, morphological and metabolic modifications of the oocyte resulting in meiosis resumption and the trigger for zygote formation. (Tosti and Menezo, 2016, Hum. Repr. Update, OA)


Fig. 3Mechanism of action of CuO nanoparticles impact on sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus spermatozoa.
CuO NPs induce a spontaneous generation of ROS and/or mitochondrial damage, which in turn lead to increased ROS production. Intracellular ROS induce: 1) plasma membrane lipid peroxidation, 2) mitochondrial dysfunction and 3) DNA fragmentation

Fig. 4SEM images of CuO NPs effects on sperm morphology of Paracentrotus lividus.
(A) control spermatozoon shows typical wrinkling of the head plasma membrane and thigh contact between head and mitochondrial ring. Sperm exposed CuO NPs show the distortion of the mitochondrial ring (B) and focal disintegration of the head plasma membrane (C); (D and E) sperm exposed to CuO NPs show the initial detachment of the mitochondrial ring causing the shift of the tail towards angled position; (F-I) sperm exposed to CuO NPs show the detachment and agglomeration of mitochondrial ring; (L-N) sperm exposed to CuO NPs show total detachment of mitochondrial ring, alteration of head morphology and loss of the tail.


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