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Over 140 delegates from 25 countries attended the conference which was a pleasant surprise as we had budgeted for 60 to start with! This was the first time this meeting has been held in the UK. Talks and posters were held in the Department of Physics conference centre, with accommodation and meals provided at Trinity College. The three day meeting seemed to go really well and the local organisers (Rob Jackson, Gail Preston, Dawn Arnold, Richard Thwaites and John Mansfield) have had several emails from people saying how much they enjoyed it. It helped that the sun shone all the time and this made Trinity look particularly impressive, we kept hearing overseas delegates saying they felt they were in a Harry Potter movie! The first evening was a reception in the University Natural History museum which involved a very interesting introduction to Oxford by Gail Preston followed by wine with the dinosaurs. The next day the science started and was a very long day with morning and afternoon talks followed by a poster session and then a genomics workshop that finished at 9.30 pm. We were very impressed how many delegates made it to the end, which reflected the quality of the work that was being presented. The following day was again a full day of talks including a young researcher’s prize competition. This was followed by the now traditional conference football match. This year it was team ‘1448A’ vs ‘DC3000’ with 1448A eventually winning. It proved to be a great way to encourage networking and to break down barriers, but fortunately not bones! The final day saw another full day of talks followed by a wrap-up session from John Mansfield which was highly entertaining and scientifically stimulating at the same time. At the end of a long few days, Trinity College did us proud with an excellent banquet (more Harry Potter comparisons!) and the diehard few (well, about 40) made it to a local club until 3.00am. After all this the local organisers could finally breathe a sigh of relief and pass the baton over to the Spanish who have agreed to organise the next meeting in Malaga 2014. We would like to thank BSPP for their financial and practical support for this meeting. In particular we are indebted to Steve Whisson who ran the online booking for us, to Chris Ridout for supplying us with BSPP promotional material and displays and to Diane Hird for helping man the registration desk. More details of some of the scientific sessions are given on the following pages by two researchers funded to attend the meeting by BSPP. Dawn Arnold, Robert Jackson, Gail Preston The fourth session of the 8th International Congress on Pseudomonas syringae and related pathogen covered novel findings about pathogens other than P. syringae. During this session the speakers dissected bacterial virulence by analyzing bacterial inter communication mediated by Quorum Sensing (QS), the dispersion and the outbreak in different environments, structural analysis of molecules involved in virulence as well as molecular and functional studies. These studies did not just limit their findings to an in vitro model but they also have been tested in vivo, which is a remarkable example of research that can give important output from the field and hopefully soon propose applied solutions f o r agriculture. The session was opened by Dr. Ingyu Hwang from the University of Seoul (Korea) with a presentation on “Quorum sensing-dependent multi behaviors of Burkholderia glumae”. Dr. Hwang’s study showed how a QS deficient mutant of B. glumae is compromised in virulence. The QS system in B. glumae governs multiple behaviors such as flagella production, extracellular protein secretion via T2SS and heat shock resistance. When the QS system regulation is disrupted there is a dramatic decrease in virulence due to the lack of regulation on all these systems. The second speaker of the session was Dr. Matthias Ullrich (Jacobs University, Germany). Dr. Ullrich presented a work entitled: “The Marine Outreach: From Pseudomonas syringae to the oceanic food web”. Dr. Ullrich’s goal is to develop a molecular model system for diatom-bacteria interaction s to undersand how pho to syn the tic products of algae are sensed, accessed, and utilized by heterotrophic microorganisms. In particular the main focus of Dr. Ullrich’s group is to study genes, gene products, and molecular signals important during the biotrophic interaction of Thallasiosira weissflogii, and Marinobacter adhaerens bacteria, which is highly related to P. syringae. Dr. Yasufumi Hikichi (Kochi University, Japan) presented his research entitled “An aldehyde dehydrogenase gene and a phosphinothricin N-acetyltransferase gene compose of a pathogenicity island with hrp genes and are implicated in virulence of Pseudomonas cichorii, independently of hrp genes”. Dr. Hikichi discovered that analdehyde dehydrogenase gene (aldH) and a phosphinothricin N-acetyltransferase gene (pat) are actively involved in the regulation of single pathogenicity islands (S-PAIs) and are critical for full P. cichorii virulence on eggplants. Interestingly, the expression of aldH and pat was not independently regulated by the type 3 regulator, HrpL. The final speaker of the session was Dr. Saul Burdman (Hebrew University, Israel) who presented his findings on the involvement of type IV pili and polar flagella in virulence of Acidovorax citrulli the causal agent of bacterial fruit blotch of watermelon and melon worldwide. A transposon mutant library was generated and screened for reduced virulence. One of the identified mutants was impaired in pilM, encoding a protein required for assembly of type IV pili (TFP). The finding from Dr. Burdman revealed that TFP regulates several components important for virulence such as twitching motility, biofilm formation and flagella production. Federico Dorati University of Reading On Friday morning there were eight excellent talks on the subject of genomics and bioinformatics including speakers from the UK, USA and Spain. Boris Vinatzer started off the day by giving us an insight into the analysis of genome sequences of multiple, near identical strains of P. syringae pv. tomato (Pto) to understand their evolution. He discussed how the identification of single nucleotide polymorphisms within these genomes has enabled the production of highly detailed phylogenetic trees which in turn has led to the unravelling of Pto evolution over the last 50 years. One of the few talks that did not focus on P. syringae was given by Ian Toth on the subject of the potato pathogen Pectobacterium atrosepticum (Pba). Ian discussed the use of whole-genome microarrays to, among other things, identify genomic islands that have been horizontally acquired and determined their specificity to Pba. The afternoon was just as packed and included such diverse subjects as the evolution of P. syringae in river headwaters, given by Cindy Morris, to the use of essential oils in disease control, given by Nicola Sante Iacobellis. Local organiser Gail Preston gave the final talk of the session likening the search for clues as to how P. syringae adapts to life in the plant environment to the study of forensics, including line-ups and profiling, in the forms of phenotypic analyses and bioinformatic profiles of stress tolerance and nutrient assimilation in Pseudomonas. This was followed by a wrap-up session hosted by the recently retired John Mansfield, who gave a brief talk about some of the exciting work he’s been involved in recently and where we all discovered what John spends his time thinking about during seminars…The Joy of Socks! John then treated everyone to a short recital on the spoons, engraved with Pseudomonas syringae, presented to him by Dawn Arnold and Robert Jackson on behalf of the organising committee. This marked an end to proceedings whereupon everyone returned to Trinity College to get dressed up before being treated to a champagne reception, a fabulous four course meal and an incredible amount of wine, followed by an incredible amount of bad dancing in a local nightclub…..the perfect end to an excellent and thoroughly enjoyable conference.
Helen Lovell University of the West of England
2013: Protecting our woodlands: tackling tree pests and diseases University of Reading, 16th – 17th September 2013
In the light in increased findings and interest in tree diseases across the UK, this BSPP organised meeting was timely, and offered some great insight into the world of woodland pathology and the pivotal work that is being undertaken by some of the UK and EU’s scientists to alleviate the problem of tree disease. Over the two days, there were opportunities to hear about and discuss most of the key diseases that are currently being fought and the major threats on the horizon. Steve Woodward opened the conference with an extremely interesting world overview of threats from alien invasive pathogens from which he presented his wealth of knowledge of tree diseases from some wild and wonderful locations around the world and showed how climate change, and increase in trade is effectively extending their geographical distribution. His photographs displaying some beautiful worldwide woodland scenes were a reminder of what would be lost if left to succumb to tree diseases, a key take home message of this conference. We then focussed our attention on the oomycetes which started with a talk by invited speaker, David Studholme, on comparative genomics of emerging Phytophthora species. Further talks complemented this by demonstrating how this recent molecular knowledge of Phytophthoras has helped in the identification and detection of lineages and new species, as well as successes (and failures) in the battle against these plant destroyers. True fungi and bacteria were not left out, with many angles on our response to Chalara ash dieback, including a very informative talk by invited speaker Jan Stenlid on this pathogen that has recently hit UK shores. Two talks by Nik Cunniffe and Stephen Parnell on how epidemics can be expertly modelled using latest technologies were well received by the audience. Another invited speaker, Daniel Rigling ensured viruses were not left out with some exciting studies on biological control with mycovirus infected isolates of Cryphonectria parasitica inducing hypovirulence to sweet chestnut blight (a current and real threat to the UK). Bacterial disease were well covered by colleagues from Forest Research with a talk on work undertaken on Pseudomonas syringae pv. aesculi looking at its acquisition of virulence and its divergence from its Indian evolutionary ancestor by invited speaker Sarah Green and her colleagues. This prompted lively discussion and interesting thoughts on the topic and many ideas to think about when approaching newly emerging pathogens. The profiles of bacteria on oak trees were demonstrated by Sandra Denman who gave an interesting talk on acute oak decline. Recent improvements in diagnostics in the lab and field were covered via a number of talks, and both Jenny Tomlinson and Paul Beales (Fera) were privileged in being asked to present from both laboratory and field perspectives. The newly emerging mainstream use of LAMP for the detection of pathogens was well presented by Jenny and a visit from sponsors Optigene showed the product that they had developed in action to a crowd of intrigued onlookers. The programme was concluded with a further talk on Fera’s recent outreach activities that aim to involve a wider demographic of the UK in the pursuit of tree diseases. Sarah James, winner of the student poster competition sponsored by Opti gene, commented: “For me the high lights of the conference were Britt Koskella’s work on Pseudomonas syringae and bacteriophages and Daniel Rigling’s excellent talk on the biological control of Chestnut Blight in Europe. Britt’s work added a completely different take on the problem of tree disease and bio logical control of the disease. Her work focuses on the bacterial and bacteriophage populations living within the tree and the levels of local adaptation that they display, adding rationale and considerations for the development for phage bio-control agents. Daniel’s work showed that successful biological control could be achieved using a virus to target the chestnut blight fungus Cryphonectria.” Paul Beales was equally enthusiastic about the meeting: “The mix of epidemiology, pathogenicity, molecular biology, modelling, research, diagnostics, control and delivery and the presence of Optigene demonstrating some of the new field diagnostics kits ensured this meeting was well rounded and touched on most pathogenic bases, something for everyone (interested in tree diseases that is!). Personally it was great to meet up again with recent and past friends and colleagues, and as always, meetings such as these enable great networking and collaborative opportunities”.
Paul Beales, Sarah James and Elizabeth Orton