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The 18th Annual Oomycete Molecular Genetics Network Meeting, Asilomar, California 11th – 14th March 2017
The annual OMGN meeting is usually held every second year in conjunction with the Fungal Genetics Meeting in Asilomar conference grounds on Monterrey Bay in California. This year around 80 oomycete biologists from all across the globe came together for a full program of excellent talks and beautiful weather provided by the organising committee. Sessions included Genomics, Host interactions and resistance, Effectors, Oomycete biology and Evolution. The Keynote speech was given by Jason Staijich from the University of California, Riverside who told us all about comparative genome evolution in fungi; which are strange oomycetelike organisms.
Kicking off the first day Yufeng ‘Francis’ Fang formerly of Brett Tyler’s lab at Virginia Tech, gave a talk presenting the development of the CRISPR/Cas9 system for oomycetes. They have developed new vectors and protocols available to the community which may prove powerful new tools for genetic studies of our favourite pathogens. Yuanchao Wang from Nanjing Agricultural University presented the latest work from his lab where they had previously identified the new oomycete Pathogen Associated Molecular Pattern (PAMP) a glucoside hydrolase called XEG1. Using Virus-Induced Gene Silencing (VIGS) to systematically silence each membrane localised Leucine Rich Repeat (LRR) receptor in turn (~400) they identified the receptor for XEG1 called RXEG1.
This recognition is based on direct interaction between PAMP and receptor and overexpression of RXEG1 in N. benthamiana confers resistance to P. infestans. A small misunderstanding with the conference catering staff meant that for the first day of the meeting there was no coffee provided. So we took part in an impromptu experiment detailing the effects of caffeine depravation on biologists attending a conference. I am happy to report no casualties occurred although I’m not sure those involved would want to carry out another biological replicate. Thankfully the poster sessions which went on throughout the evenings were supplied with enough liquor to keep proceedings well oiled.
On the second day we had a very interesting talk from PhD student Kiki Kots from Wageningen University focused on live cell imaging of Phytophthora infestans. Using Lifeact-GFP and a newly developed GFP-Tub she was able to visualise actin and microtubules respectively in real time. This may allow us to follow P. infestans during various different developmental phases and at different stages of infection and would provide bioassays to test chemicals which could disrupt these processes. Guido van den Ackerveken from Utrecht University gave an update on their work with Necrosis and Ethylene-inducing Peptide 1 (Nep1)-like proteins (NLPs) which are PAMPs that can be found in oomycetes, fungi and bacteria. Overexpression of NLPs in Arabidopsis results in dwarfed growth and strongly activated defence responses. Using genetics screens of a mutagenised population they are trying to identify components of the NLP signal pathway in these Decreased NLP induced Immunity mutants (DNIs).
A popular activity with the delegates are lunchtime “networking” walks along Asilomar State beach which backs onto the conference centre (pictured opposite). Here you can catch up with the latest in your field while paddling in the Pacific and watching sea otters hanging out in the surf. Throughout the meeting there were also several interesting talks highlighting more diverse areas of oomycete research. Yacine Badis from the Scottish Marine Institute told us about the oomycete genus Olpidiopsis which is an emerging threat to seaweed aquaculture a recent fast growing industry.
Laura Grenville-Briggs from SLU mentioned the mycoparasites Pythium oligandrum and Pythium periplocum which are oomycetes which can infect and kill plant parasitic oomycetes and may have biocontrol potential. While PhD student Miriam Escos from Zaragoza University, was describing the identification of Phytophthora palmivora as the causal agent of black pod disease in cocoa (Theobroma cacao) in Ecuador. She is investigating local Trichoderma strains or extracts thereof to try and control this disease, any way to preserve chocolate production is a subject close to my heart.
Finally I would like to thank BSPP for the travel grant enabling me to present my own work at this meeting.
Hazel McLellan University of Dundee