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Researcher - CR CNRS

Scientific profile

Throughout my whole scientific career, I have worked on the insect model Drosophila melanogaster. In 1987, after graduating in Biology at the University of Bologna (Italy) with a thesis on population genetics, I joined the laboratory of Vincenzo Pirrotta at the Dept. of Cell Biology of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston (Texas, USA), where I became interested in developmental biology. I developed projects on the regulation the Hox gene Ultrabithorax (Qian et al., 1991 and 1993) and on the molecular functions of the gap gene giant (Capovilla et al., 1992). In 1992, I moved to the laboratory of Juan Botas at the Dept. of Molecular and Human Genetics of Baylor College of Medicine. Here I showed that decapentaplegic is a direct target of the Hox genes Ultrabithorax (Capovilla et al., 1994) and abdominal-A (Capovilla and Botas, 1998) and in collaboration with Richard Mann’s group that extradenticle is a co-factor of Hox proteins (Chan et al., 1994). In 1995, I obtained my Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of Ferrara (Italy). At the end of my postdoc in Juan Botas’ lab I initiated a project to use Drosophila to study human ataxin-1-induced neurodegeneration that led to a very successful genetic screen (Fernandez-Funez et al., 2000). In 1997, I obtained my Chargé de Recherche de 1ère Classe position from CNRS and in January 1998 I moved to the UPR9022 directed by Jules Hoffmann at the Institut de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire in Strasbourg (France). After concluding a project showing that an apterous enhancer is a direct target of the Hox gene Antennapedia (Capovilla et al., 2001), I started collaborating with different local groups on Drosophila innate immunity (Lagueux et al., 2000; Tzou et al., 2000; Tauszig-Delamasure, 2002; Munier et al., 2004). With the Ph.D. student Zakaria Kambris, I described the expression profiles of the Toll receptors in Drosophila embryos (Kambris et al., 2002) and demonstrated that DmMyD88 controls dorsal-ventral polarity in Drosophila embryos (Kambris et al., 2003).

In 2003, I obtained an Assistant Telethon Scientist position from the Italian Fondazione Telethon and in August 2004 I went on leave of absence from CNRS and set up my group at the Dept. of Internal Medicine, Cardioangiology and Hepatology of the S. Orsola Malpighi Hospital in Bologna (Italy). Here I started working on the search for the direct targets of abdominal-A in the Drosophila heart in collaboration with the group of Michel Sémeriva (IBDML, Marseille, France) (Monier et al., 2007). In 2006, I moved to the Dept. of Biology and Evolution of the University of Ferrara (Ferrara, Italy) where I also worked on using Drosophila to study the transcriptional properties of human transcription factors responsible of Congenital Heart Diseases (Amodio et al., 2012).

Since August 2011, I rejoined CNRS at the UMR7254 of the Institut Sophia Agrobiotech in Sophia Antipolis in Alain Robichon’s group. We showed that alleles of for encoding different cGMP-dependent kinase isoforms influence the oxidation of aldehyde groups of aromatic molecules emitted by plants via Aldh-III and a phosphorylatable adaptor (Arthaud et al., 2011). We also reported the capture of light energy and an archaic photosynthesis by carotene in aphids (Valmalette et al., submitted) and the complete methylome and transcriptome of two environmentally selected clonal aphid variants originated from the same founder mother (Dombrovsky et al., submitted). Currently, we are setting up our project aiming to unravel adaptive evolutionarily conserved non-mendelian genetic mechanisms using two models, one endowed with powerful genetics (Drosophila) and the other with polyphenism and a repertoire of variants obtained by clonality (aphids).


  • Amodio, V., Tevy, M. F., Traina, C., Kanti Ghosh, T., and Capovilla, M. (2012) Transactivation in Drosophila of human enhancers by human transcription factors involved in congenital heart diseases. Developmental Dynamics 241, 205-213.
  • Arthaud, L., Ben Rokia-Mille, S., Raad, H., Dombrovsky, A., Prevost, N., Capovilla, M., and Robichon, A. (2011) Trade-Off between Toxicity and Signal Detection Orchestrated by Frequency- and Density-Dependent Genes. PLoS ONE 6 (5) pp. e19805.
  • Capovilla, M., Eldon, E. D., and Pirrotta., V. (1992)  The giant gene of Drosophila encodes a b-ZIP DNA-binding protein that regulates the expression of other segmentation gap genes. Development 114: 99-112.
  • Capovilla, M, Brandt, M., and Botas, J. (1994)  Direct regulation of decapentaplegic by Ultrabithorax and its role in Drosophila midgut morphogenesis.  Cell 76: 461-475.
  • Capovilla, M., and Botas, J. (1998) Functional dominance among Hox genes: repression dominates activation in the regulation of dpp. Development 125:4949-4957.
  • Capovilla*, M., Kambris, Z., and Botas, J. Direct regulation of the muscle identity gene apterous by a Hox protein in the somatic mesoderm. (2001) Development 28, 1221-1230.
  •      *corresponding author
  • Chan, S., Jaffe, L., Capovilla, M., Botas, J., and Mann, R.S. (1994)  The DNA-binding specificity of Ultrabithorax is modulated by cooperative interactions with extradenticle, another homeoprotein.  Cell 78: 603-615.
  • Fernandez-Funez, P., Nino-Rosales, M. L., de Gouyon, B., She, W. C., Luchak, J. M., Martinez, P., Turieganos, E., Benito, J., Capovilla, M., Skinner, P. J., McCall, A., Canal, I., Orr, H. T., Zoghbi, H. Y., and Botas, J. (2000) Identification of genes that modify ataxin-1-induced neurodegeneration. Nature 408, 101-106.
  • Kambris, Z., Imler, J. L., Hoffmann, J. A., and Capovilla, M.  (2002) Tissue and stage-specific expression of the Tolls in Drosophila embryos. Gene Expression Patterns 2, 311-317.
  • Kambris, Z., Bilak, H., D’Alessandro, R., Hoffmann, J. A., Imler, J.-L., Capovilla, M.  (2003)  DmMyD88 controls dorsoventral polarity in Drosophila embryos. EMBO Reports 4, 64-69.
  • Lagueux, M., Perrodou, E., Levashina, E., Capovilla, M., and Hoffmann, J.A.  Constitutive expression of a novel complement-like protein in Toll and Jak gain-of-function mutants of Drosophila. (2000) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 97: 11427-11432.
  • Monier, B., Tevy, M.F., Perrin, L., Capovilla, M., and Sémériva, M. (2007) Downstream of Homeotic genes: in the heart of Hox function. Fly 1, 59-67.
  • Munier, A. I., Medzhitov, R., Janeway Jr., C. A., Doucet, D., Capovilla, M., Lagueux, M. (2004) graal: a Drosophila gene coding for several serine proteases. Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 34, 1025-1035.
  • Qian, S., Capovilla, M., and Pirrotta, V. (1991)  The bx region enhancer, a distant cis-control element of the Drosophila Ubx gene and its regulation by hunchback and other segmentation genes. EMBO J. 10: 1415-1525.
  • Qian, S., Capovilla, M., and Pirrotta, V. (1993)  Molecular mechanisms of pattern formation by the BRE enhancer of the Ubx gene. EMBO J. 12: 3865-3877.
  • Tauszig-Delamasure, S., Bilak, H., Capovilla, M., Hoffmann, J. A., and Imler, J. L. Drosophila. (2002) MyD88 is required for the response to fungal and gram-positive, but not gram‑negative, bacterial infections. Nature Immunology 3, 91-97.
  • Tzou, P., Ohresser, S., Ferrandon, D., Capovilla, M., Reichhart, J. M., Lemaitre, B., Hoffmann, J. A., and Imler, J. L. (2000) Tissue-specific expression of antimicrobial peptide genes in Drosophila surface epithelia. Immunity 13, 737-748.

Creation date: 27 February 2012
Update: 15 February 2013