Francesca Di CaraPhD

Associate Professor

Phone: 902-470-8131
Mailing Address: 
K8520 IWK Health Centre 8th Floor East Research 5850/5980 University Avenue Halifax, NS, Canada B3K 6R8
Research Topics:
  • peroxisomes
  • genetics
  • Drosophila
  • Innate immunity
  • macrophages
  • immune signaling


Laurea Magistrale (equivalent of North American BSc plus MSc):
University of Naples “Federico II”
PhD: University of Naples “Federico II”
Postdoctoral Training:
•   2007-2009 Norman Salvesen research fellowship at postdoctorate fellowship, University of Edinburgh
•   2010-2014 Postdoctoral fellow at the University of Alberta
•   2015-2018 Research Associate and project manager at the University of Alberta

Research interests

Our research relies primarily on the use of Drosophila, a genetically amenable model system, to elucidate the previously unexplored role of peroxisomes as signaling platforms in the innate immune response. We demonstrated the peroxisome direct involvement in immune defense, with evidence of peroxisome requirements in phagocytic pathogen clearance and innate immune signaling in immune responsive tissue in flies and mammals. Peroxisomes are essential metabolic organelles present in every eukaryotic cell.

Our research program aims to define peroxisome-specific requirements during immune challenge. Specifically, we want to dissect how peroxisomes regulate innate immune signals produced by macrophages and gut cells upon infection. We focus on the role that peroxisomes and peroxisome metabolic products (lipids and reactive species) play in the Drosophila Toll and IMD immune defense pathways (orthologous to the human Toll and TNF innate immune pathways) for the resolution of infection. Defining the roles of peroxisomes in these processes has implications for our understanding of peroxisome metabolic signaling in inflammation, immunodeficiency, cancer and diabetes and opens a new unexplored field of the innate immunity.

Selected publications

Di Cara F. *, Rachubinski R.A. and Simmonds A.J.* (2018) “Functional characterization of Peroxin5 and Peroxin7 in Drosophila melanogaster” ( in press Genetic/2018/301157). * denotes corresponding author

Di Cara F. *, Rachubinski R.A. and Simmonds A.J.* (2018) “Functional characterization of Peroxin5 and Peroxin7 in Drosophila melanogaster” ( in revision for Genetics manuscript number Genetic/2018/301157). Total page numbers 41. * denotes corresponding author  

Di Cara F.*, Margret Bülow, Simmonds A.J. and Rachubinski R.A.* (2018) “Dysfunctional peroxisomes compromise gut structure and host defense by increased cell death and Tor-dependent autophagy” Molecular Biology of the Cell, in press doi: 10.1091/mbc.E18-07-0434. [Epub ahead of print] * denotes corresponding author

Di Cara F.*, Sheshachalam A., Braverman N.E., Rachubinski R.A. and Simmonds A.J*. (2017) “Peroxisome-Mediated Metabolism Is Required for Immune Response to Microbial Infection”, Immunity. 2017 Jul 18; 47 (1):93-106.e7. * denotes corresponding author

Di Cara F and King-Jones K. (2016) “The Circadian Clock Is a Key Driver of Steroid Hormone Production in Drosophila” Curr Biol. 2016 Sep 26; 26 (18): 2469-2477.

Di Cara F, Maile M T, Parsons D B, Magico A, Basu S, Tapon N, and King-Jones K. (2015) “The Hippo pathway promotes cell survival in response to chemical stress” Cell Death Differ. 2015 Sep; 22 (9): 1526-39.

Di Cara F, Duca E, Dunbar D, Cagney G and Heck MMS. (2013). Invadolysin, a conserved lipid droplet-associated protease interacts with mitochondrial ATP synthase to modulate mitochondrial metabolism in Drosophila. J Cell Sci. 2013 Oct 15; 126 (Pt 20): 4769-81.

Memberships/Services and Activities

•   The Genetic Society of America
•   Canadian Center for Vaccinology
•   Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute

Selected awards and honours

  • Open European Peroxisome meeting presentation award 2016
  • British Society of Cell Biology travelling award 2009