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2015 International Brachypodium Conference, Amherst, USA 16th – 19th June 2015
The 2015 International Brachypodium Conference was hosted at the University of Massachusetts in June last year. With around 80 attendees, it was a smaller and more focused conference. I had the chance to attend the previous Brachypodium conference in Italy at the beginning of my PhD and found it to be very helpful, as I was able to discover many practical and technical details about this emerging model plant. Last year’s Brachypodium conference turned out to be equally beneficial.
The conference started with an opening reception and a keynote lecture by Professor Richard Amasino of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He provided a background on flowering time control, largely based on research in Arabidopsis, and showed how this knowledge is complemented by flowering time studies in Brachypodium distachyon. The regulatory networks that control vernalisation requirement and flowering time in Arabidopsis thaliana and B. distachyon evolved independently. Therefore, his talk illustrated nicely how concentrating on one model system is a limitation for answering many fundamental questions of biology.
The organisers took care to cover the different areas of research that B. distachyon is contributing to. These ranged from more specialised novel B. distachyon tools and techniques to broad research topics such as plant development, natural variation and evolution, and abiotic stress. For the audience of this newsletter the session on plantmicrobe interactions will be of most interest. Karen-Beth Scholthof of the Texas A&M University presented her group’s research on the interaction between B. distachyon and various grass viruses. Although her group focuses on turf grasses, B. distachyon was identified as a good host for all grass viruses tested and facilitates their research on the cross talk of salicylic acid and jasmonic acid during virus infection.
Zhiyong Liu of the China Agricultural University gave a very interesting overview of the functional characterisation of barley stripe mosaic virus resistance in B. distachyon, B. hybridum, and B. stacei. His group identified a single CCNBS- LRR type gene, which confers resistance to barley stripe rust in a B.
distachyon mapping population. Haplotype analyses revealed that this gene exists as four clades among the various Brachypodium species. Further functional characterisation showed that the LRR domain and C terminal of the CCNBS- LRR are critical for conferring resistance.
Additionally, Ariane Girardin of INRACNRS talked about the role of LysM-RLK in the perception of arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiotic signals and I presented my own work on the genetic architecture of nonhost resistance to wheat yellow rust in B. distachyon.
Across all sessions, an obvious difference to the previous Brachypodium conference was the shift away from developing tools and techniques for this relatively new system towards addressing fundamental questions of plant biology.
For example, a long-standing hurdle has been the difficulty of creating mapping populations between B. distachyon accessions. However, it was nice to see that many different groups have been able to create B. distachyon crosses and have capitalised on natural variation to discover the genes controlling various traits in this nondomesticated grass.
As it was a rather small and focused conference, it was possible to interact with everyone attending and network during the various breaks. Moreover, a banquet was hosted at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The B. distachyon community is still growing and the Brachypodium conferences are excellent opportunities to get to know the other members of this community.
I would like to thank the British Society for Plant Pathology for providing me with the funding to attend the 2015 International Brachypodium Conference.
It was a thoroughly enriching and enjoyable experience.
Jan Bettgenhaeuser The Sainsbury Laboratory