Gian Luigi Russo


Dr. Gian Luigi Russo

Research Director

Floor 4 – Room 3
(Piano 4 – Stanza n. 3 )

Office: +39 0825 299 331
Laboratory: +39 0825 299 261

Mobile: +39 329 9064414
Fax +39 0825 781585

Skype name: russogl

ORCID # :0000-0001-9321-1613
Google Scholar Citations

Short CV_Gian Luigi Russo

Last Update: Dec 2019

Research Interests

Title: Broad spectrum effects of natural phytochemicals on disease prevention and wellbeing.


Phytochemicals trigger cellular pathways leading to the prevention of pathological conditions associated with cancers, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. Although this positive association evidenced by interventional and observational studies is debated and subjected to criticism, biochemical and genetic studies on cellular and animal models on the mechanism(s) of action of phytochemicals provide a functional explanation of how and why a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can protect against degenerative diseases. The apparent contradiction existing between epidemiological observations and molecular studies on pre-clinical models generated, in our opinion, a shadow zone in the field cleverly exploited commercially by companies producing and distributing dietary supplements, nutraceuticals and functional foods. In fact, the market of food supplements is invaded by products enriched with bioactive compounds (largely polyphenols) claiming miraculous healthy effects against cancer and other degenerative diseases.


In the attempt to discriminate between facts and fancies regarding the capacity of phytochemicals to ameliorate pathological conditions, it is necessary to critically consider some key issues, such as low bioavailability and metabolism. As a consequence of these processes, circulating concentrations of phytochemicals and their metabolites are extremely low, suggesting that a regular diet, or a diet supplemented with phytochemical-enriched foods cannot provide adequate amounts (micromolar concentrations) of compounds compatible with any described chemopreventive effect. Therefore, when considering potential clinical applications of phytochemicals, it is important to differentiate between pharmacological (hundreds of milligrams in concentrated doses) and nutritional doses (a few milligrams diluted in the diet). In the latter case, low concentrations do not saturate metabolic pathways that rely on the supply of cofactors, such as UDP-glucuronic acid and circulating, and unconjugated molecules are not found in the blood. Only after the intake of large doses, which saturate conjugation enzymes, free aglycones can be detected in the plasma, usually for a short window of time. The drawback of the administration of pharmacological doses of phytochemical is, of course, the presence of cytotoxic effects. The experimental hypothesis on which we are intensively working regards the demonstration that the low bioavailability of phytochemicals favors (perhaps) the well-being, but represents an obstacle to their pharmacological application. In contrast, the pleiotropic functions of such compounds results in advantages when administered as drugs, since they can trigger multiple cellular targets.

This project will provide new career perspectives to the members of the research group developing expertise in managing independent research, gaining complementary skills (supervision, leadership, working in a team, exchange of knowledge) and therefore meet the requirements to qualify for academic position within CNR and Universities, or in the private sector. This innovative project meets the objectives of Horizon 2020 first societal challenge “Health, demographic change and wellbeing”, aimed to ameliorate treatments of large-scale social diseases and improve healthcare. Moreover, these activities respond to the increasing demands of industrial sector.

Finally, efforts will be made to propose measures for an adequate results dissemination to the large public (e.g., press release, web site, open-day to target teachers and high school students) and to the academic sector (e.g., seminars, peer-reviewed open access publications, conferences presentations).

-Keywords: phytochemicals; disease prevention; health


(see short cv for an updated list)

  • G.L. Russo, C. Spagnuolo, M. Russo, I. Tedesco, S. Moccia, C. Cervellera. Mechanisms of aging and potential role of selected polyphenols in extending healthspan. Biochem Pharmacol. 2019. [Epub ahead of print] Review. PMID: 31759977
  • Russo, G.L. Russo. Autophagy inducers in cancer. Biochem Pharmacol. 153:51-61 (2018) PMID: 29438677
  • Frank, S. Naseem, G.L. Russo, C. Li, K. Parashar, J.B. Konopka, N. Carpino. Phagocytes from Mice Lacking the Sts Phosphatases Have an Enhanced Antifungal Response to Candida albicans. MBio. (2018) pii: e00782-18. PMID: 30018105
  • Russo, S. Moccia, S. Bilotto, C. Spagnuolo, M. Durante, M.S. Lenucci, G. Mita, M.G. Volpe, R.P. Aquino and G.L. Russo. A carotenoid extract from a southern italian cultivar of pumpkin triggers nonprotective autophagy in malignant cells. Oxid Med Cell Longev. (2017). 7468538 PMID: 29430284
  • G.L. Russo, I Tedesco, C Spagnuolo, M Russo. Antioxidant polyphenols in cancer treatment: friend, foe or foil? Seminars in Cancer Biology, 46:1-13 (2017) PMID: 28511887
  • Spagnuolo, S. Moccia, G.L. Russo. Anti-inflammatory effects of flavonoids in neurodegenerative disorders. Eur J Med Chem. 153:105-115 (2018) PMID: 28923363
  • M Russo, A Milito, C Spagnuolo, V. Carbone, A Rosén, P Minasi, F Lauria, G.L. Russo. CK2 and PI3K are direct molecular targets of quercetin in chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. Oncotarget, 8:42571-42587 (2017) PMID: 28489572
  • Klionsky DJ, Abdelmohsen K, Abe A, Abedin MJ, Abeliovich H, Acevedo Arozena A, Adachi H,…. Russo GL…. Zhuang SM, Zhuang X, Ziparo E, Zois CE, Zoladek T, Zong WX, Zorzano A, Zughaier SM. Guidelines for the use and interpretation of assays for monitoring autophagy (3rd edition). Autophagy. 12:1-222 (2016) PMID: 26799652
  • Tedesco I, Moccia S, Volpe S, Alfieri G, Strollo D, Bilotto S, Spagnuolo C, Di Renzo M, Aquino RP, Russo GL. Red Wine Activates Plasma Membrane Redox System in Human Erythrocytes. Free Radic Res. 50: 557-569 (2016) PMID: 26866566
  • R.M. Mohammad, L. Lowe, C. Yedjou, H.-Y. Hsu, L.-T. Lin, M.D. Siegelin, C. Fimognari, N. B. Kumar, Q. Ping Dou, H. Yang, A.K. Samadi, G.L. Russo, C. Spagnuolo, S.K. Ray, M. Chakrabarty, J.D. Morre, H.M. Coley, K. Honoki, H. Fujii, A.G. Georgakilas, A. Amedei, E. Niccolai, A. Amin, S.S. Ashraf, W.G. Helferich, X. Yang, C.S. Boosani, G. Guha, D. Bhakta, M.R. Ciriolo, K. Aquilano, S. Chen, S.I. Mohammed, W.N. Keith, A. Bilsland, D. Halicka, S. Nowsheen and A.S. Azmi. Overcoming Resistance to Apoptosis. Seminars in Cancer Biology, 35, S78–S103 (2015) PMID: 25936818
  • Block, C. Gyllenhaal1, L. Lowe, …. G.L. Russo, …. (187 authors). A Broad-Spectrum Integrative Design for Cancer Prevention and Therapy. Seminars in Cancer Biology, 35, S276–S304 (2015) PMID: 26590477
  • Tedesco, V. Carbone, C. Spagnuolo, P. Minasi, G.L. Russo. Identification and quantification of flavonoids from two Southern Italy cultivars of Allium cepa L. Var. Tropea (red onion) and Montoro (copper onion) and their capacity to protect human erythrocytes from oxidative stress. J. Agricul. Food Chem. 63:5229-38 (2015) PMID: 25965971
  • G.L. Russo, M. Russo, C. Spagnuolo. The pleiotropic flavonoid quercetin: from its metabolism to the inhibition of protein kinases in chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Food & Funct. 5:2393-401 (2014) PMID: 25096193
  • Russo; C. Spagnuolo; S. Volpe, I. Tedesco; S. Bilotto, G.L. Russo. ABT-737 Resistance in B-Cells Isolated from Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Patients and Leukemia Cell Lines is Overcome by the Pleiotropic Kinase Inhibitor Quercetin Through Mcl-1 Down-regulation. Biochem Pharmacol. 85:927-36 (2013) PMID: 23353698
  • G.L. Russo. Ins and outs of dietary phytochemicals in cancer chemoprevention. Biochem Pharmacol. 74: 533-44. (2007) PMID: 17382300
  • Advances in Nutrition and Cancer 3 (V. Zappia, G.L. Russo, S. Panico, A. Budillon and F. Della Ragione, eds). Springer-Verlag GmbH, Heidelberg, Germany (2014) ISBN 978-3-642-38006-8 ISBN 978-3-642-38007-5 (eBook)

Research Group



-Stefania Moccia, Research Scientist. Doctorate in Drug Discovery & Development (laurea in Farmacia, dottore di ricerca in Scienze del Farmaco)

-Carmela Spagnuolo, Research Scientist-non permanent position. Doctorate in Medical Oncology, Surgery and Clinical Immunology (laurea in Scienze Biologiche, dottore di ricerca in Oncologia medica e chirurgica ed immunologia clinica; ricercatore TD)

-Idolo Tedesco, CNR Technician, M.Sc. in Science (Collaboratore tecnico; laurea Scienze Biologiche)

-Maria Russo, CNR Technician, M.Sc. in Science (Collaboratore tecnico; laurea Scienze Biologiche, Specializzazione in Biotecnologie)

-Carmen Cervellera, CNR Trainee, M.Sc. in Science (Laurea Scienze Biologiche)