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The 10th EUROPEAN CONFERENCE ON FUNGAL GENETICS
The 10th European Conference of Fungal Genetics (ECFG10) was held in Noordwijkerhout, which is located in the middle of the famous Dutch tulip fields, between the 29th March and the 1st April 2010. The conference centre was situated near Leiden and within close proximity of the capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam. It marked the return of an ECFG to the Netherlands, following ECFG2 which was held in Lunteren in 1994. As with previous ECFG conferences the program comprised a number of plenary lectures given by leaders in their fungal genetic research fields, focusing on further advances in understanding fungal biology.
The first day, after the registration, the key lecture was chaired by Arturo Casadevall from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Yeshiva University (NY, USA). During the talk Dr.
Casadevall started showing the fact that of more than 1. 5 million fungal species only 10-15 are relatively common as humans pathogens (in contrast, fungi are the major pathogens for plants and insects). This evidence poses questions including the mechanisms responsible for the origin of virulence among the few pathogenic species and the high resistance of mammals to fungal diseases. The speaker developed the hypothesis that interactions with nonanimal hosts selected for traits that, in certain circumstances such as weakened immunity, can allow invasion of mammalian hosts. At the end, Dr.
Casadevall analyzed also the possibility that global warming will annul the thermal difference between humans as mammals and the environmental temperatures; this event could potentially bring about new fungal diseases for humans at the end of this century.
The rest of the conference was divided in three major areas of plenary sessions each one followed by three different parallel sessions. The first day focused on fungal diversity and evolution followed by three parallel sessions related to “Phylogeny and the fungal tree of life”, “Fungal-host biology” and “Regulation of gene Expression at the genome level”. The following day focused on “Fungal way of living”. From my point of view, in this session, of particular interest was the talk by Paul Dyer from the School of Biology at the University of Nottingham, which focused on the new advances in genetic factors regulating sexual behaviour in filamentous fungi using Aspergillus and Botrytis species as models. Another talk that was interesting was the one presented by John W. Taylor from the University of California at Berkeley in the USA, describing a new approach based on the solexa sequencing of mRNA to simultaneously identify Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) and quantify gene expression for more than sixty isolates of Neurospora crassa from the Caribbean Basin. The presenter argued that the results represent an ideal dataset for the study of the early stages of speciation. The plenary lectures were followed by three parallel sessions focused on “Fungal Physiology and Biochemistry”, “Fungal Way of Living: Sex and Other Encounters” and “Fungal Way of Living: Cell Biology”.
The plenary lectures of the last day were related to fungal physiology and gene expression and they were followed by two parallel sessions on “Fungal and Oomycete Effectors” and “Fungal Biotechnology”.
In addition, PhD students and young postdocs were given the opportunity to present their research as short talks during workshops (e.g. the Colletotrichum workshop and the Fusarium Satellite meeting) and as a poster. I fully enjoyed the experience of presenting a talk of my PhD project at the Colletotrichum workshop. The posters were displayed throughout the entire conference and were presented by their authors in two poster sessions.
Thanks to DSM, 5 poster prizes were awarded to the best posters by young scientists. The conference was a great experience which attracted more than 400 delegates and over 250 posters. I would very much like to thank the BSPP for the financial support.
Riccardo Baroncelli, Warwick HRI, University of Warwick