This is a conference report written by the beneficiaries of our travel fund.
Click here to read more about the fund and apply yourself
Autumn-Winter 2014 Plant Biology Europe FESB/EPSO 2014 Congress, Dublin, Ireland 22nd – 26th June 2014
The meeting was held at the striking Convention Centre Dublin, fondly known locally as the ‘Dyson’ – see picture below. This traditionally European meeting attracted approximately 850 delegates from around the world. The weather was mainly dry and sunny during the week of the conference except the one free afternoon when many of the organised tours of some of Dublin’s key attractions took place. The conference was organised with twelve plenary seminars covering a wide range of topics including many of interest to BSPP members such as ‘below ground processes’, ‘symbiotic interactions’ and ‘plant-pathogen interactions’. There were also seven blocks of four concurrent sessions and two evening poster sessions. I particularly enjoyed the public lecture “Future of food” given by Charles Godfray as he described past fluctuating interests in our food security and highlighted our current challenges.
The plenary speaker representing ‘plant -pathogen interactions’ was John Mundy from University of Copenhagen. John described MAPK cascades triggered during PAMP-Triggered Immunity (PTI) and particularly focused on the function of the Arabidopsis MAP kinase, MPK4 which functions downstream of Pattern Recognition Receptor (PRR) FLS2, the MAP3K, MEKK and the downstream MAP2Ks, MKK1 and 2. MPK4 was shown to be a negative regulator of disease resistance by using mpk4 mutants which display increased resistance to biotrophic pathogens. MPK4 is known to form a complex with MKS1 and WRKY33, preventing expression of PAD3. John presented that another MPK4 substrate had been uncovered, PAT1, which functions as an mRNA decapping activator. This work indicates that mRNA decapping plays an important role during defense.
A fascinating seminar was given by Giles Oldroyd on “Calcium encoding and decoding symbiotic signalling” as the ‘symbiotic interactions’ plenary speaker. He began by describing the puzzle that both MYC factors secreted from mycorrhyzal fungi and NOD factors from rhizobial bacteria activate a common symbiosis signalling pathway in legumes but result in activation of different transcription factors leading to different outputs. He presented how his lab was trying to work out how this may happen and it is exciting because this pathway could be engineered to improve interactions of cereals with symbionts. In legumes, it is known that when Nod factor is perceived, signalling requires generation or perception Ca2+ oscillations. A nuclear-localized CCaMK has been positioned immediately downstream of Ca2+, along with an interacting partner, CYCLOPS and the transcription factors NSP1 and NSP2. Varying experiments examining the importance of phosphorylation sites in various domains of CCaMK led to the finding that CCaMK is maintained in the inactive state at basal calcium concentrations and is activated via CaM binding during calcium oscillations. Giles’s final thought was that monocots that currently recognise mycorrhyzal MYC factors, but not rhizobium NODs, could be engineered to generate cereals that can fix nitrogen.
The ‘plant-pathogen interactions’ concurrent session, was unusually, an all lady affair. Angela Feechan presented her work on identifying resistance genes against the grapevine fungal pathogen powdery mildew (Erysiphe necator) and oomycete pathogen downy mildew (Plasmopara viticola). The North American grapevine species Muscadinia rotundifolia is known to be resistant to both powdery and downy mildew however this species is associated with a characteristic, but sometimes undesirable, wine flavour.
Resistance to both pathogens in this species has been mapped to a single locus containing a family of seven TIRNB- LRR genes. Two highly homologous (86% amino acid identity) family members were identified which designated resistance to Uncinula necator (MrRUN1) and resistance to Plasmopara viticola (MrRPV1). These genes were transformed into commercial Vitis vinifera wine-grape cultivars and although these genes provide resistance to the majority of powdery and downy mildew isolates tested, a single powdery mildew isolate collected from the south-eastern region of North America, to which M. rotundifolia is native, was capable of breaking MrRUN1-mediated resistance.
Fiona Doohan from University College Dublin presented “Orphan genes as tools for improving wheat disease resistance”. She described that wheat is complex; its hexaploid genome encodes >90,000 genes, many of which are orphans. She presented the first evidence that orphan genes play a role in wheat responses to wheat diseases such as Septoria tritici blotch (STB) disease, caused by pathogen Zymoseptoria tritici and Fusarium head blight which produces harmful mycotoxins such as deoxynivalenol (DON). Analyses of transcriptomic data of susceptible vs resistant responses to these diseases and functional validation studies on interesting candidates show that orphan genes represent an untapped reservoir for plant breeding programmes. I was lucky enough to be selected to give an oral presentation in this concurrent session entitled “Pumped up on (brassino)steroids: multiple Phytophthora infestans effectors manipulate the Brassinosteroid pathway”. I would like to thank the BSPP for providing me with a travel grant which allowed me to cover the cost of the registration fee for this meeting which provided me with an opportunity both to present, but also to catch up on the research in the wider plant science community.
Eleanor M Gilroy The James Hutton Institute