BSPP News Summer 2001 - Online Edition

The Newsletter of the British Society for Plant Pathology
Number 39, Summer 2001 

Powdery Mildew Interaction Symposium. Imperial College, London : 6 April 2000

This year's annual Powdery Mildew Interactions Symposium sponsored by the BSPP took place at the Department of Biology and Biochemistry (South Kensington) Imperial College at the beginning of April. The meeting has traditionally been an informal gathering of academic researchers interested in all aspects of the biology of powdery mildews and although the cereal mildews take centre-stage, other mildews are dealt with as well.

The meeting is an excellent opportunity for junior researchers, particularly graduate students and post-docs, to present their work. The presentations are usually "work in progress", unpublished result or unexplained findings and problems which are then discussed both in the plenary sessions and during the informal conversations over the breaks. This year was no exception. Carsten Pedersen (who, from the Risø National Laboratory, Denmark, was the only overseas participant) and Pari Skamnioti  (John Innes, Norwich) reported on progress towards mapping and cloning avirulence genes in Blumeria graminis; both groups appear to be tantalisingly close to their goals and we expect them to reach their first targets in the near future. Helen Robinson (John Innes, Norwich) and Jenny Butters (LARS, Bristol) presented data on the biochemistry and population dynamics of resistance to strobilurins in wheat powdery mildews. Helen used this mitochondrially-encoded trait to investigate the inheritance of the organelles during the sexual cycle of the fungus.

Remaining on the theme of fungicides and the evolution of fungicide resistance, Tim O'Neill (ADAS, Ely) presented data on the evaluation of fungicides for the control of powdery mildew on Solidago and other cut flowers that constitute a growing market and surprisingly (to me at least) require very high levels of disease control to enable production of marketable crops.  Alessandra Devoto (UEA, Norwich) and Fasong Zhou (Sainsbury Lab, Norwich) reported on the advances in characterisation of host resistance genes (Mlo and Mla respectively) against barley powdery mildews, their evolution and intracellular signal transduction mechanisms. Alison Wright (IGER, Aberystwyth) showed us a series of staggeringly beautiful scanning electron microscopical images of the early stages of infection of barley powdery mildew as part of the investigation into the role of the extracellular matrix in adhesion between fungus and host. Vasileios Fotopulous (University of Southampton) studies transport phenomena and the expression of transport-related genes in the interaction between Arabidodpsis and its powdery mildew. Sabine Eckert (Imperial College, London) presented preliminary results on an EST sequencing programme of barley powdery mildew at the epiphytic, pre-sporulating stage. Gemma Priddey (University of Oxford) told us about results on the characterisation of some protein kinases in barley powdery mildew with particular reference to their sensitivity to inhibitors used to study their role in development and infection. Pedro Rocha (Sainsbury Laboratory) concluded the meeting by giving us an overview of the research activities of his recently established group (lead by Ken Shirasu) which focuses on the mechanisms of action and intracellular signalling pathways of disease resistance genes:  we expect very interesting results next year.

The meeting showed how lively and varied powdery mildew research is in the UK. We plan to continue the series next year, when James Brown will organise the get-together, possibly in Cambridge: watch this space!

Pietro Spanu
Imperial College