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Society for Experimental Biology Annual Main Meeting, Prague, Czech Republic 30th June – 3rd July 2010
I was fortunate enough to receive funding from the BSPP to attend this multidisciplinary meeting covering a broad range of subjects encompassing cell, plant and animal biology. Taking place in the beautiful city of Prague, it was hard to imagine a better location which could have offered more to see and do out with the time spent in the conference. Of interest for my research was the session on ‘Ubiquitin and Plant Cell Signalling’ that took place on the first day of the conference. This included some fascinating and informative presentations from some of the foremost authorities in plant protein post-translational modifications. In addition there were also insightful sessions on ‘The Plant Cell Cycle and its Interaction with Plant Hormones’ and ‘Plant Temperature Response Networks’ among others.
One particularly interesting presentation was given by Richard Vierstra (University of Wisconsin – Madison), who spoke about some of his groups work on proteomic analysis of SUMOylation. They have identified over 350 targets of SUMOylation of which approximately 80% are nuclear in nature. Some of these targets are found to be SUMOylated at the SUMOylation consensus sequence and others are not, and interestingly, ubiquitin is also found attached in some cases. It was observed in the work that the Vierstra group have done that some of the enzymes involved in SUMOylation are in fact SUMOylated themselves. Indeed it seems to be the case that in situations where the plant is put under environmental stresses some proteins are SUMOylated while some by response are deSUMOylated.
Furthermore, SUMO and ubiquitin conjugates are observed to be formed during heat stress, and there is some suggestion that SUMO could be a signal for ubiquitination to occur, leading to subsequent protein degradation.
Another investigation in terms of the post-translational modification SUMOylation was the presentation by Lucio Conti (University of Milan) who spoke about the OTS SUMO protease and its role in linking plant development and salt stress responses.
Claus Schwechheimer (University of Tübingen) gave a fascinating presentation about AMSH3, a recently discovered deubiquitinating enzyme (DUB) necessary for intracellular trafficking. The mammalian orthologue of AMSH is an endosomal deubiquitylation enzyme, with specificity for lysine 63-linked ubiquitin chains. The predicted role for human AMSH is the removal of ubiquitin from internalised plasma membrane proteins, promoting recycling of plasma membrane receptors and regulating endocytosis. In Arabidopsis there are three AMSH’s (AMSH1, 2 and 3). It was found that a mutant of AMSH3, amsh3- 1 accumulated ubiquitin, suggesting that AMSH3 is a DUB of some considerable importance. Indeed, it was found that AMSH3 hydrolyses lysine 48- and lysine 63-linked ubiquitin chains in vitro and in vivo. amsh3-1 mutant cells are found to lack vacuoles, having lots of small dispersed vacuoles.
Furthermore, this mutant is defective in vacuole biogenesis and linked to this, it is deficient in vacuolar transport and endocytosis. This and further evidence led to the conclusion here that AMSH3 is a membrane-associated protein with many interactors that is a novel DUB involved in membrane trafficking.
We were lucky enough to hear a presentation by Pascal Genschik (University of Strasbourg) which presented the Ubiquitin-Proteasome system as an “engine that modulates plant growth”. He covered many aspects of APC and SCF type E3 ligases that are integral to the cell cycle.
Indeed, to use one example, SCF’s play an important role in phytohormone signalling, influencing the GA/DELLA interplay and therefore plant growth.
DELLA proteins are demonstrated to make plants more environmentally tolerant, for example restraining saltinduced accumulation of reactive oxygen species by modulating genes that respond to oxidative stress such as the Cu/Zn superoxide dismutases (Cu/ Zn-SOD). Among other roles of E3 ligases evidence was presented for FBL17, an F-box ligase conserved in the G1/S phase of the cell cycle, having an effect on pollen development.
The conference included two fascinating plenary lectures. The Bidder lecture was given by Ben Scheres (Utrecht University) who talked about his groups work on multilevel signalling in plant development. His work focusses on the developmental mechanisms present in plants and the extent to which these mechanisms differ with the animal kingdom. Don Grierson (University of Nottingham) gave the Woolhouse lecture, talking about his study of the synthesis and action of the plant hormone ethylene, describing recent analysis he has carried out on aspects of the ethylene perception and signalling chain.
In addition to these presentations the conference included a host of other interesting talks covering a great deal of fascinating, unpublished data at the cutting edge of plant research which there is not enough time to mention.
What is evident is that the volume of research being done in plant science and specifically protein posttranslational modifications is increasing dramatically, and there is certainly a much greater focus on posttranslational modifications and their role in the life cycle of plants.
The conference had a great many implications for my work. Some of the work being carried out on SUMOylation is very closely related to my area of research so obviously this was incredibly beneficial in terms of gaining knowledge about my subject area. In addition to allowing me to hear about the work and methods of many accomplished academics, it was useful in terms of being able to talk about my work with a wide range of scientists with a great breadth of knowledge and at different stages in their careers, and take as much advice from them as possible in terms of approaches to my work. I presented a poster entitled ‘Ubiquitination and Tumour Formation in Arabidopsis thaliana in one of the poster sessions, allowing for discussion and advice from peers and academics which was very specific to my area of study.
I would like to thank the BSPP for providing me with funding for this conference and my supervisor Ari Sadanandom for helping me to apply for this which allowed me to have the opportunity to go to this conference.
Ailidh Woodcock University of Warwick