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STRESS BIOLOGY

The main aim of the Stress Biology research group is to investigate the responses of microorganisms, cell cultures, plants or animals to environmental stresses; the responses are studied at different levels of biological organization, from molecules to communities.

Future Objectives

The objectives of Stress Biology RG are defined within an action framework that aims for a sustainable environment in a sustainable economy, in a context of global changes. Research objectives are centred in the investigation of the stress responses in microorganisms, plants, and animals, integrating responses at different levels of biological organization, from molecules to communities; by this, the group aims to contribute for clarifying impacts of stress on biodiversity and the functions associated and to unveil impacts on health and environmental sustainability. Four specific objectives are derived from this mail goal:

     i) to examine and compare the consequences of exposure to abiotic and biotic stressors as well as to natural and anthropogenic stressors; differential responses of unicellular and multicellular organisms are taken into account.

     ii) to determine impacts of multiple stressors by identifying and increasing the understanding of different situations: synergistic effects, non-additive effects, hidden effects.

     iii) to survey the impacts of different types of stressors in ecological systems and in what way they drive evolution, in order to advance risks for biodiversity and for ecosystem functions.

Research Labs

Stress Biology group is organised into 4 Laboratories: i) Microbial & Cell Biology; ii) Fungal & Plant Biology; iii) Molecular Biotechnology; and iv) Ecotoxicogenomics.


The Microbial & Cell Biology Lab is focused on responses of microorganisms or cell cultures to pollutants. With skills and competences in characterisation of microbiomes, analysis of genomes and proteomes, the main lines of research include bacterial antibiotic resistance, responses of microbial communities to antibiotics as emerging pollutants in water systems, dynamics of microbial communities in response to stressors and horizontal gene transfer. The Lab includes researchers with expertise in eukaryotic cell biology, particularly interested on assessing the effects of aluminium on cell communication and signalling and development of new in vitro cell models. The Lab of Microbial & Cell Biology is coordinated by Isabel Henriques.


The Fungal & Plant Biology Lab aims to understand plant responses to environmental stress and to unravel diversity of fungal plant pathogens as well as their interaction with hosts and the environment. An integrative approach from (eco)physiology in combination with omics methodologies is followed to allow a broad understanding of these processes and provide a solid basis to help a sustainable environment/economy in a global change context. Emphasis is on ecological/socio-economical relevant species and strong interaction with stakeholders is a key approach. The Lab of Fungal & Plant Biology is coordinated by Artur Alves.


The Molecular Biotechnology Lab investigates, at the molecular level, different biological processes. The team is focused on: i) searching for new antibacterials and understanding their biosynthesis to generate novel compounds through directed evolution approaches; ii) understanding the genotoxic effects of environmental contaminants in bioindicator species and iii) investigate bacterial resistance to xenobiotics using transcriptomics approaches. The Molecular Biotechnology Lab is coordinated by Sónia Mendo.


The Ecotoxicogenomics Lab aims to understand the underlying molecular mechanisms to stressors in environmental organisms. The approach includes an integration of the different levels of organization, linking molecular and whole organism, building onto Adverse Outcome Pathways (AOP), envisaging a systems biology/toxicology. Main research tools foccus on differential gene expression (via next generation sequencing, microarray, qPCR) and the related bioinformatics. As an example, a de novo transcriptome was assembled for a standard soil species (E. crypticus) and implemented in a high-throughput microarray tool. The genomics is integrated with a suite of additional endpoints for effect assessment at the cellular and organism level, e.g. using the standard OECD/ISO ecotoxicity tests. The research is supported by extensive international collaboration. Please visit the Enchytraeid library database at: http://bioinformatics.ua.pt/enchybase/. The Ecotoxicogenomics Lab is coordinated by Mónica Amorim.

Research Team

Coordinator:

Artur Jorge da Costa Peixoto Alves (Fungal & Plant Biology)

Integrated PhD Researchers:

Ana Cristina de Fraga Esteves (Fungal & Plant Biology)
Ana Sofia Duarte (Fungal & Plant Biology)
Ana Teresa Luis (Microbial & Cell Biology)
Cláudia Oliveira (Microbial & Cell Biology)
Diogo Proença (Microbial & Cell Biology)
Glória Catarina Cintra da Costa Pinto (Fungal & Plant Biology)
Isabel Henriques (Microbial & Cell Biology)
Joana Isabel do Vale Lourenço (Molecular Biotechnology
Liliana Tavares dos Santos (Fungal & Plant Biology)
Maria Paula Polónia Gonçalves (Microbial & Cell Biology)
Mónica João de Barros Amorim (Ecotoxicogenomics)
Paula Cristina Alvito (Fungal & Plant Biology)
Sónia Alexandra Leite Velho Mendo Barroso (Molecular Biotechnology)
Sónia Marina Silva (Molecular Biotechnology)
Susana Gomes (Ecotoxicogenomics)
Tânia Sousa Caetano (Molecular Biotechnology)
Vera Lúcia de Almeida Maria (Ecotoxicogenomics)