These conference reports are written by the beneficiaries of our travel fund
Click here to read more about the fund and apply yourself
The 24th Fungal Genetics Conference, California, 2007
Conference at Pacific Grove, California in March this year. The conference was attended by 750 people, but there was also a waiting list because more people wanted to attend.
The plenary session talks were given by some well-known and established group leaders and also by some scientists establishing their first research group.
From the plenary session talks, I was very interested to hear about the involvement of heat shock protein 90 (HSP90) in the evolution of fungal drug resistance from Leah Cowen, University of Toronto. Her work described various roles of HSP90 including regulating the storage and release of genetic variation, facilitating the evolution of drug resistance in Candida albicans and Aspergillus fumigatus. Another role of these proteins was protecting and stabilising mutated cell regulators in cancerous cells. Inhibitors of HSP90 were seen to remove the evolution of drug resistance. These chemicals are now in trial as anticancer drugs.
During a Dothidiomycete genome workshop reports were given on the progress of genome sequencing and annotation of seven species within this order, all of them agricultural pathogens. The genomes are proving to be enormously useful tools to the individual communities working on the species involved. The potential for analysis between these taxonomically related plant pathogens is going to be very important for developing a better understanding of pathogenicity. We heard how the size of genomes of two species within a genus can differ by 80%, how large quantities of repetitive DNA within some genomes has made genome assembly much more difficult and how whole chromosomes can be lost without altering virulence or fecundity.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) – highly reactive chemicals classically associated with various plant-pathogen interactions were a theme occurring in the conference for many different organisms and lifestyles. Barry Scott and Carla Eaton from Massey University, New Zealand talked about the role of reactive oxygen species in maintaining the symbiotic relationship of the endophyte EpicloÃ« festucae on its host perennial ryegrass. Marty Dickman from Texas A&M University described how antioxidants were able to inhibit the necrotrophic pathogen Sclerotinia sclerotiorum from colonising host plants. ROS were also shown to have an influence on hyphal tip morphology.
Transformant strains where ROS distribution in hyphae was abnormal had altered patterns of hyphal branching.
Marianela Rodriguez-Carres from Duke University, North Carolina talked in the Fungal-Plant Interactions session about conditionally dispensable chromosomes in Nectria haematococca. By analysing two conditionally dispensable chromosome the group had found that there was a large amount of homology between them, but that this DNA was not found anywhere else in the genome. Some genes encoded on these conditionally dispensable chromosomes are found in other fungi to be habitatdefining, that is, they allow colonisation of habitats that might otherwise not be available to the fungus. The group have identified features of the DNA that indicate many recombination events have occurred and have arranged the genes in a mosaic fashion.
The conference organisers had arranged for the day’s plenary session speakers to be available for one hour exclusively to talk with students. This really encouraged a newcomer such as myself to interact with scientists at all stages of their research and academic careers. I have been inspired by hearing such a wide range of scientific research, and the inclusion of topics close to my PhD research theme has been very valuable. Thank you very much to the BSPP for the contribution towards my attendance at this conference.