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Summer 2008 Plant Innate Immunity – Keystone 2008
Thanks to BSPP for providing grants that enabled us to travel to Keystone, Colorado for the Plant Innate Immunity conference organised by Keystone Symposia. The week long meeting, in the beautiful setting of the Rocky Mountains, was an invaluable and extremely worthwhile experience for all of us, particularly two of our number who were attending their first international conference. Each of us presented posters, with Jack’s work on “Virus alteration of plant metabolism and aphid-plant interactions” attracting much interest. The poster sessions were very well attended, with much discussion of each poster, and we were given useful feedback and ideas from many well-renowned researchers in the community. The standard of talks was excellent and gave us the chance to reflect on our own research and how the topics presented here could influence future experiments.
The conference opened on Sunday night with a keynote address by Brian Staskawicz. He gave an entertaining historical perspective of pathogen effector proteins in plant innate immunity, complete with historical photographs of the organising committee! In the adjacent lecture theatre, the simultaneous “Plant Hormones and Signalling” meeting was being convened and over the next few days, delegates were to be seen rushing back and forth between the various talks. The fields of hormone signalling and plant innate immunity are highly inter-linked and holding these two meetings together allowed scientists from each side of the fence to increase their knowledge. In the plant hormones sessions, Mark Estelle’s (Indiana University) review of auxin receptors and signalling was excellent. It described recent work demonstrating that auxin acts as a molecular glue, increasing the strength of the interaction between TIR1 (the auxin receptor) and the Aux/IAA proteins that repress auxin responsive transcription.
Perhaps the most stimulating session was the joint plenary where talks given attempted to cover areas of significant overlap between the two meetings.
Corne Pieterse (Utrecht University) highlighted the complexity of the interplay between the salicylic acid (SA) and jasmonic acid (JA) signalling pathway. He proposed that inhibition of glutathione biosynthesis can suppress cross-talk between the two pathways and described attempts to identify specific targets in the JA-pathway through which SA can antagonise JAdependent plant defences. Jane Glazebrook (University of Minnesota) went on to further characterise signalling networks in plant defence and proposed a systems biology approach in order to understand the complexity involved in the interactions between various pathways. A large theme of the meeting was the mechanisms underlying the jasmonate signalling pathway. The receptor for JA has long been unknown, so talks by John Browse (Washington State University) and Sheng Yang He (Michigan State University) which provided evidence that COI1 is the receptor for JAisoleucine were of great interest. I found these talks particularly useful as they enabled me to put my own work in context of research carried out in other labs across the globe.
The meeting was held in a unifying spirit of presenting predominantly unpublished and in some instances very preliminary results. This was a refreshing experience as it underlined to us the need for communication in order for scientific advancement and achievement. The conference was well organised and the staff very helpful, especially when one of us had an unfortunate incident involving his passport! Attending this conference was a fantastic experience. The science was outstanding; the location was stunning (enabling us to attempt some skiing in some of the free afternoon sessions!) and the meeting has left each of us invigorated and with an even greater enthusiasm for science in general and our own research. Once again we would like to sincerely thank the BSPP for providing us with this opportunity. We can thoroughly recommend conferences held in the Rockies to anyone considering attending future Keystone meetings!
Jack Westwood, Mathew Lewsey and Keith Macaulay, Dept of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge