Two research lines will be addressed: the first one is focused on the selection of S. tuberosum genotypes selected for the accumulation of carotenoids in the tubers. Studies on agronomical and genetical factors affecting the accumulation of carotenoids potato tubers will be carried out to discriminate potato germplasm on the basis of the relative proportion of the different types of carotenoids accumulated in the tuber. Wild potatoes (diploid, belonging to Phureja group) are less productive than standard tetraploid varieties (tetraploid, Tubersosum group), but often display a variety of shapes and colors, and a high content of carotenoids, including for example zeaxanthin. These sources of variability became particularly important because, besides the need to introduce in potato resistance to pests, viruses and other diseases, there is a growing need to increase the nutritional value of this popular staple food.
The second research line takes into account the potential application in human nutrition expressed by microalgae species present in aquatic ecosystems. Due to the large variety of microalgae species present in marine and freshwater ecosystems whose chemical composition is still unexplored, we will study the qualitative and quantitative profiles of carotenoids (β-carotene, astaxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin, neoxanthin, violaxanthin and cryptoxanthin) in the some of the most known microalgal species, such as Chlorella, Dunaliella and Haematococcus, will be studied in view of their exploitation as new sustainable sources of carotenoids and of their potential application as functional food supplements.