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The 10th International Mycological Congress, Bangkok, Thailand 3rd – 8th August 2014
The IMC10 was held in Bangkok – an exotic mixture of colours, flavours and smells touching all ones senses and reflecting the variety of talks and posters presented by more than 1000 mycologists from all over the world. The theme of the IMC10 was “Fungal Biodiversity, Physiology and Ecology in a Changing Environment”, the first IMC to be held in Southeast Asia. The biodiversity of Thailand was wonderfully displayed in the Biodiversity Pavilion complementing the congress. As a plant pathologist, my main interest focused on plant diseases.
The rice blast fungus, Magnaporthe oryzae, is a major emerging global infectious disease of rice causing losses equivalent to that needed to feed 3% to 10. 6% of the world`s population annually. Rice is the world’s staple food; in the face of population increases and climatic change this presents a major food security issue.
Several talks on M. oryzae, including my own, were presented in the “Building and breaking fungal cell wall” session. Fungal cell walls generate great interest in the science community because their unique composition makes them an ideal target for development of fungicides. We studied the multiple gene family of enzymes involved in modifying the ÃŸ-1,3-glucan chains and took the traditional approach by creating triple knock-outs. We found a combination of genes that not only severely reduced the mycelial growth but, more importantly, made the fungus sterile. To overcome the functional redundancy that complicates the analysis of cell wall degrading enzymes, Quoc Nguyen (Vietnam) and his colleagues took an RNAi approach named the “building blocks method”. They knocked down multiple xylanase genes and reported a reduction in pathogenicity that was associated with silencing levels of xylanase mRNA and enzymatic activity.
In another interesting session on fungal signalling and communication, Naweed Naqvi (Singapore) and his group revealed a break-through discovery of a novel chemical effector that attenuates the host innate immunity by unique Antibiotic Monooxygenase (ABM). Its activity is directly involved in the host defence response against Magnaporthe. Thus, the blast fungus directly interferes with jasmonate hormonal signalling involved in pathogen recognition and the defence system in rice. The presentation was followed by a visually interesting talk by Mark Fricker (UK) who used multi-channel 4D confocal imaging of ROS and NO during infection by M. oryzae, and reported on a robust anti-oxidant defence system of the fungus that is able not only to withstand external 80 mM H2O2 exposure challenge but also maintain tight control of its redox state so that the host oxidative burst alone does not stress the pathogen sufficiently to prevent infection.
The only poster on the rice blast, which also won a prize in the student poster competition, was presented by local hero Wasin Sakulkoo (UK). Wasin reported an original observation that inactivation of the Pmk1 MAP kinase, after appressorium morphogenesis, blocks appressorium-mediated plant penetration but furthermore, inactivation after plant infection, blocks cell-to-cell movement of invasive hyphae.
The hot topic of the congress was taxonomy and nomenclature. With an estimated 1. 5 million fungal species, it is extremely challenging to classify and name them all. For example, recent phylogenetic and phylogenomic analyses of the order Magnaporthales by Ning Zhang et al. (USA) and other groups suggest that all major lineages are non-monophyletic and according to the new fungal nomenc lature (Melbourne Code), the name for the rice blast fungus should be Pyrucularia oryzae because it is the older generic name, despite the fact that Magnaporthe oryzae is favoured by the molecular biologist.
The congress dinner was again a splendid display of colours and traditional dance performances. I ended the congress by joining the trip to the historic city and UNESCO site Ayutthaya. After seeing one of the oldest Buddha images we visited a local farm that after severe flooding two years ago decided to change from growing rice to farming Hed Tub Tao (Phlebopus portentosus); its culinary use was demonstrated in a delicious lunch.
Finally, I would like to thank to BSPP for giving me the opportunity to attend this amazing congress and look forward to the IMC11 to be held in Puerto Rico!
Marketa Samalova Oxford University
After hitting the gong, John Taylor, president of the International Mycological Association, declared the congress open. With eight plenary sessions and 64 concurrent sessions, and eight concurrent sessions at a time, it was impossible to see it all and condense it all into a short report, so what follows is a brief overview of the talks that caught my attention.
A great emphasis throughout the Congress, starting with the keynote lecture by Pedro Crous, was put on DNA barcoding and Fungal Genome sequencing. The ITS is widely used as the official barcode region for fungi. It is also used in environmental pyrosequencing studies. DNA data can also be used to describe sterile species in the absence of distinct morphological structures. The registration of names in MycoBank and linking the phenotype to the genotype in GenBank, have changed the face of fungal systematics. The major on-going initiative is the DNA barcoding of all main culture collections, followed by the Genera of Fungi Project, aiming to recollect, and epitypify all type species of all genera. At the moment only approximately 35% of new species descriptions are submitted with a DNA barcode, so Pedro Crous urged the audience to quit describing species without DNA information.
Joseph Spatafora from Oregon State University talked about the 1000 Fungal Genome (1KFG) project. It is a large scale community sequencing project supported by the Joint Genome Institute (JGI). The goal of 1KFG is to facilitate the sequencing of fungal genomes across the Kingdom with the objective to significantly advance genome enabled mycology. The aim is to sequence two species of Fungi for every family-level clade so that genomic data is representative of the phylogenetic diversity. Joseph also advertised the recently announced 1KFG Graduate Student/Postdoc Challenge. From July 2014 to 30 June 2015 nominations can be submitted to sequence up to 100 species of Fungi in support of graduate student and postdoctoral research projects. Students and postdocs are encouraged to nominate species and submit DNA and RNA samples for genomic sequencing and genome annotation.
Martin Dickman raised a very important issue of cell death decisions in plantpathogen interactions, suggesting that whoever controls the programmed cell death wins the battle. Mark Fricker followed the theme of plant and pathogen’s exposure to oxidative stress in the form of ROS and NO during infection by Magnaporthe oryzae. He concluded that M. oryzae has a robust antioxidant defence system and maintains tight control of glutathione (EGSH), the major cytoplasmic anti-oxidant, despite substantial oxidative challenge. Furthermore, the stress from the host oxidative burst alone is not enough to prevent infection in this pathosystem. NO is required for normal development of M. oryzae and infection initiation, but its mode of generation remains obscure.
Gregory Jedd presented amazing cell biology work on hyphal microfluidics and the role of Woronin bodies in maintaining mycelial integrity by plugging selected septal pores during rupture of individual hyphae. I enjoyed the session on building and breaking fungal cell walls that included several talks on chitin biosynthesis in fungi and a very interesting presentation by Neil Gow about the importance of fungal chitin and human chitinases in infection and allergy.
There was an exhibition combined with the poster sessions with different companies presenting products related to mycology, including mushrooms growing kits (see image on front cover).
The conference dinner featured a very passionate and inspirational talk by Lene Lange, Aalborg University, Denmark, dedicated to unlocking the potential of mycology for the world. In between the courses we were entertained by the Thai traditional dancers (pictured left). The next International Mycological Congress (IMC11) will be in Puerto Rico.
I am very grateful to BSPP for a generous travel award that enabled me to experience IMC10 in Bangkok, meet with colleagues and explore possibilities for new collaborations.
Anna Avrova James Hutton Institute