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Keystone Symposium: Receptors and Signalling in Plant Development and Biotic Interactions, March 14-19 2010
This Keystone symposium was organized by Thomas Boller and Jen Sheen, both of whom have made huge contributions to our understanding of plant innate immune signaling. The meeting started with a keynote address to set the stage for diverse talks to follow, with Jules Hoffmann revealing some of the intriguing history of Drosophila immunity to a room full of plant scientists. It was a clear illustration that great advances can be made in understanding signaling pathways by observing and learning from other model systems.
The meeting was divided into various sessions with themes emphasizing either development or defense. The first session, focused on growth regulation, featured inspiring talks from Mark Estelle (UC San Diego, California) and Roberto Solano (CNB-CSIC, Spain).
Their fascinating work showed how the regulation of auxin and jasmonic acid signaling relies on similar modular signaling pathways composed of a hormone receptor, regulated by E3 ligase activity, resulting in complex modulation of transcription factor activity.
A new link between development and defense was revealed by the identification of an NBS-LRR resistance (R) protein (VICTR), playing an important role in root development (Tae Houn Kim, UC San Diego, USA). The connection between signaling related to development and defense was a recurring theme during the conference and has prompted increased interaction between scientists from these different fields. Jian Hua (Cornell University, USA) presented a model for temperature modulation of R gene function, again connecting disease resistance to plant development.
Temperature has long been known to affect resistance of plants to pathogen infection, but the mechanism has been elusive. This work provided some insight by exploiting genetic screens for temperature insensitive mutants of the resistance gene SNC1.
Silke Robatzek (TSL, UK) discussed results obtained in collaboration with another conference speaker, Ueli Grossniklaus (U. Zurich, Switzerland), providing another link between development and defense. Their work shows that receptor kinase FERONIA, important for fertilization of embryos, is also required for disease resistance.
Kris Palma (U. Copenhagen, Denmark) presented exciting data on epigenetic regulation of resistance gene LAZARUS5, revealing that histone modification, known to be important for many processes including flowering, is also a mechanism for cell death control.
Philip Benfey (Duke U, USA) described the use of a systems biology approach to create a root map – an atlas of root transcriptional networks, and shared his latest ideas about the link between developmental processes and the cell cycle. The concept of phyllotaxis was explored in a talk by Cris Kuhlemeier (U. Bern, Switzerland), where modeling and mathematics are blended with biology to try to understand organ patterns. This led into Ben Scheres’ (Utrecht U. , The Netherlands) seminar about transcription factors in the root meristem controlling shape changes leading to root formation.
Multifunctional receptors came up many times, including during Sarah Liljegren’s (U. North Carolina, USA) talk about the role in trafficking of the receptor kinase NEVERSHED and its impact on organ abscission.
The innate immunity sessions featured microbe-associated molecular pattern (MAMP) receptors, pathogen effectors and signal transduction, with talks by Thomas Boller (U. Basel, Switzerland) who described the state of the art of MAMP-triggered immunity (MTI). The role of receptor kinase (RK) complexes in MTI is a currently a key question being explored by many labs. Naoto Shibuya (Meiji U. , Japan) discussed chitin perception in rice and the recent identification of the RK responsible for downstream signal transduction. Birgit Kemmerling (U. Tuebingen, Germany) revealed a novel interactor of the coreceptor BAK1 (brassinosteroidassociated receptor kinase 1), which plays a role in development and defense, while Pamela Ronald (UC Davis, USA) focused on perception of the MAMP ax21 and its role in bacterial virulence as well as defense activation in rice. Cyril Zipfel (The Sainsbury Laboratory, UK) talked about the role of ethylene signaling in receptor regulation and formation of complexes between the MAMP receptor EFR and other receptor kinases. The suppression of MTI by effectors is the interest of Jonathan Jones and Sophien Kamoun (TSL, UK), whose work illustrated the utility of effectors as molecular probes for plant defense signaling components.
John Schiefelbein (U. Michigan, USA) discussed work on the function of positional control in root cell fate specification, dependent on SCRAMLED/ SCM receptor kinase function. He offered an interesting perspective on redundancy, questioning the molecular basis for genetic redundancy by microarray analysis of ‘invisible’ mutants, which have a redundancy and thus no phenotype as single mutants.
The conference was well organized, comfortable and went smoothly.
Granlibakken resort at Lake Tahoe is a perfect location for excellent scientific discussion during the sessions as well in the great outdoors, skiing or strolling in the sunshine surrounded by the beautiful snow-capped mountains. The meeting was small enough to facilitate lively exchange of ideas and networking, while the poster session gave the opportunity to discuss and learn more. Attending the symposium was a great opportunity for me to engage with scientists in my field and meet others involved in diverse science to gain new perspectives and contacts. I am grateful to the BSPP for the travel award and the Keystone Symposia, who also provided me with a scholarship, both of which allowed me to have this unforgettable experience.
Milena Roux The Sainsbury Laboratory Norwich, UK