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Around 270 delegates from 28 countries attended the 11th Cell Wall Meeting in August. The venue was the Panum institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. A welcome reception was held at the institute on the first evening which was followed by an official civic reception later in the week which provided delegates with an opportunity to visit the impressive city hall and included a full smorgasbord supper (with plenty of Carlsberg lager!). This was an intense week with no concurrent sessions and seventy-two papers were presented over eight sessions. In addition over 200 posters were presented.
In the field of pathology Jocelyn Rose (Cornell University, USA) described the proteins that are secreted into apoplast by both host and pathogen as an ‘apoplastic battlefield’ and talked of the difficulties in using disruptive methods particularly in obtaining samples uncontaminated by cellular content. His group have developed a new suite of applied analytical tools which include comparative protein profiling using stable isotope labelling (iTRAQ) and 2-D fluorescence difference gel electrophoresis (DIGE) analyse coupled with nanol C-ESI-MS/MS and LC-MALDI TOF/TOF mass spectrometry-based protein identification. iTRAQ, he described as being more effective for the highly glycosylated proteins found in the apoplast. The application of this array of techniques has allowed them to identify a new protein, Suppressor of Necrosis 1 (SNE1), a Phytophthora infestans early secreted protein, isolated from infected tomato. SNE1 has both a motif that has been associated with transmembrane trafficking and a predicted nuclear localisation signal. He also introduced ‘SecreTom’, a new cell wall bioinformatics search engine and database for the tomato cell wall secretome.
The last session covered cell wall proteins and included two presentations which I found especially interesting. The first, by Carolyn Shultz (University of Adelaide, Australia) described arabinogalactan-rich proteins (AGPs) and their functions. Research on two fasciclin-like, AGPs, FLA1 and FLA4, predicted to be GPI- anchored to the plasma membrane, has shown them to have a role in turgor sensing and regulation. fla-1 and fla-4, have both been found to be unable to close their stomata in response to darkness or ABA with both exhibiting increased root turgor in the presence of mannitol and fla-4 having a root swelling phenotype in the presence of salt.
The second paper by Maura Cannon (University of Massachusetts), was on the requirement of an extensin scaffold during cell wall assembly at cytokinesis. The proposal of a glycoprotein scaffold built up of self-recognising extensin monomers was very interesting especially with a proposed regular scattering of positively charged lysine residues which could interact with a negatively charged pectin network. These and other talks, although not directly related to pathology studies nevertheless gave valuable insights into the structural and biochemical functions of cell wall components which are also known to be involved in plant/microbial interactions.
The week ended with short presentations being given by the USA Department of Energy’s three bioenergy research centres currently being established. Deb Mohnen from BESC (BioEnergy Science Centre) Henrik Vibe Scheller of JBEI (Joint BioEnergy) and Kenneth Keegstra Of GLBRC (Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Centre) all presented overviews of their respective institutes and their goals as part of a $375million dollar push to make cellulosic ethanol cost-competitive with petrol by 2012. This initiative not only proposes research on the breakdown processes to produce the ethanol but also into a sustainable source of feedstocks which could include grasses and tree species but also inedible plants and non edible portions of crops.
As a PhD student the conference allowed me not only to present a poster to an international gathering but also gave me an opportunity to hear and be inspired by a diverse range of speakers whose research on different but related aspects of cell wall research shed new light on my own subject area of cell wall modifications in response to microbial challenge. I would like to thank the BSPP for contributing towards my travel expenses and allowing me the opportunity to attend.
Imperial College at Wye