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The 32nd New Phytologist Symposium – Plant interactions with other organisms: molecules, ecology and evolution, Buenos Aires, Argentina 20th – 22nd November 2013.
The 32nd New Phytologist Symposium “Plant interac t ions wi th other organisms: molecules, ecology and evolution” certainly lived up to expectations! New Phytologist specialise in organising Symposia that target emerging research topics and stimulate ideas through assembling world class researchers from across the spectrum of related subject areas. And this was no exception. Hosted at the Universidad Catolica Argentina in the fantastic city of Buenos Aries this 3-day conference addressed a diverse range of topics from plant defence to friendly interact ions through to global interchange. I t was a superb opportunity to interact and network with a broad spectrum of scientists from a wide variety of disciplines; ecologists, plant physiologists, microbiologists, chemists through to hard core molecular biologists – while being spared yet another genome sequence! Rather than listing all the excellent talks, I will highlight a few that really excited me.
Ian Baldwin (MPI for Chemical Ecology, Jena) used eco-molecular approaches to elegantly demonstrate the tri-trophic interact ions between Nicot iana attenuate, Manduca sexta and the wolf spider. Not only can M. sexta tolerate large concentrations of nicotine, but also larvae sequester a fraction of the ingested nicotine into their hemolymph to use to as an anti-spider deterrent.
Ted Farmer (Lausanne) highlighted how Spodoptera littoralis feeding initiates electrical signals that travel in excess of 5cm/min and are rapidly translated distally into defence responses, including accumulation of jasmonates.
Farmers studies redef ine, both temporally and spatially, the host response to herbivory.
Natalia Requena (Karlsruhe) expanded upon her exciting work showing how beneficial arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi deploy a set of “elicitor” molecules that are decoded via multiple host signalling pathways, enabling discrimination be tween such s ymbiont s and pathogenic fungi.
Marcel Dicke (Wageningen) presented intriguing data on multi-trophic interact ions in plant herbivore interactions. The need to consider both plant and insect associated organisms was highlighted as the impact of rhizosphere bacteria and parasitoids on plant-herbivore relations and need to consider the impact of “stowaways” on the greater food-web. This was an excellent example of establishing an experimental system encompassing four trophic levels.
Of course there were many other fantastic presentations , from fundamental molecular mechanisms to global environmental change.
The conference was highly successful with the poster sessions being particularly well attended. I’m sure that had nothing to do with the proximity to Mendoza or its renown red liquid. Here there were some notable successes from young British scientists. Serena Thomson (University of Warwick) won one of the two “best poster” awards with her work on “Understanding the spatial distribution of soil microorganisms across the landscape, under changing land use management”.
Kiran Gadhave (Royal Holloway, University of London) achieved a runner -up prize for his poster on “Interactions between plant growth promoting Bacillus and foliar feeding insects”.
The over-riding message from the conference was the need to ensure experimental design considered multiple interactions whenever practical, and not to underestimate the complexity of community dynamics and phenotypic plasticity. I was greatly indebted to the British Society for Plant Pathology’s financial support to enable me to attend this Symposium. I certainly came away motivated and educated.
Murray Grant Exeter University To my surprise, the symposium was a relatively small but very popular event with around 150 attendees. We were told that the venue even had to be changed to accommodate more attendees. Furthermore, nearly all of us were presenting some of our work, with 23 plenary speakers, 99 posters and around 50 PhD students competing for poster prizes, which made it a very dynamic symposium.
The Symposium was entitled “plant interactions with other organisms: molecules, ecology and evolution” and therefore presented advances in different systems (rhizospere and phyllosphere) with various interactors (wound, virus, bacteria, fungi, plants) using multiple communication methods (volatile organic compounds (VOCs), effectors, phytohormones, electrical potentials.
One of the most relevant talks for me was given by Toby Kiers from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (NL) on bidirectional interactions occurring between fungi (AMF) and various plant root systems. Symbiotic fungi are often considered as “enslaved” by the host: as long as the plant benefits from the fungi, the interaction pursues. However, AMFs were also shown to be able to choose which plant to interact with based on the reward they get from it. It is a complex and dynamic system, which she compared to a “biological market”, where interactions are formed and broken by both partners to benefit as much as possible from it. This was particularly relevant to my work as it lays ground theories for successful plant -microbe interactions, whether they lead to symbiosis or pathogenicity.
Among the other interesting presentations, Edward Farmer (University of Lausanne, Switzerland) presented recent work suggesting that electrical depolarisations can spread systemically to neighbouring leaves from an initially wounded leaf to trigger jasmonate (JA) accumulation and JAdependent defences. Martin Heil (CINVESTAV-Irapuato, Mexico) took it up a level and explained how VOCs can trigger induced resistance against biotic and abiotic stresses, but highlighted this was more likely to be a within-plant communication tool than between plants of different species. Marcel Dicke (Wageningen University, The Netherlands) went a scale even higher and demonstrated how an insect-plant pathosystem or a plant-growth promoting bacteria symbiosis can have multitrophic consequences on other insects and parasitoids.
To conclude, the symposium organisers (Amy Austin and Carlos Ballare) did a great job in creating a dynamic atmosphere. A ‘quick-fire’ session was organised before each poster session, where PhD students had one minute to advertise their research and encourage people to visit their poster. It made it incredibly fun and the efforts and imagination put in by some students was incredible.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge BSPP for awarding me this travel grant, which enabled me to present my poster entitled “Disease – promoting saprophytes on barley”.
Clement Gravouil Scotland Rural College, Edinburgh.
The New Phytologist symposia take place mostly twice per year and they aim to support specific areas of research. The amount of delegates or attendees is kept relatively small (around 120) in order to provide a less formal atmosphere to promote ideas exchange and collaborations. Last November I had the privilege to attend this symposium. Initially I was attracted by the “other organisms” part of the conference topic and later by some of the speakers names such us Ian Baldwin, Gary Stacey, Ralph Panstruga, and Marcel Dicke.
Due to the broad topic range of this meeting, the presentations were carefully and cleverly grouped, and sessions ranged from the very well known topics of plant defense and plant -pathogen interactions to the less promoted “friendly interactions”, or “plant-plant interactions” ending with the session of complex interactions and global change.
My work, as a postdoctoral researcher in the Bos lab, at the James Hutton Institute, is centered in plant-aphid interactions, with special focus in aphid View from conference centre -Buenos Aires and Jacaranda 31 effectors proteins. Therefore the highlights, in my opinion, were the talks by Ian Baldwin and Marcel Dicke. Ian Baldwin, from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, in Jena, presented data from his lab regarding the use of plant-mediated RNAi in the field to study plant-insect interactions.
Plant-mediated RNAi is so far a convenient way of silencing insect genes, since insects do not possess the molecular machinery to amplify injected or infested smRNAs. By these means they silenced a midgut-expressed and nicotine-induced cytochrome from M.
sexta larvae, MsCYP6B46. Interestingly a major natural predator of these larvae preferred the cytochrome-silenced ones, since silencing of CYP6B46 impairs the mechanisms of passing ingested nicotine from the midgut to the hemolyphm. He presented data showing how N. attenuata -ingested nicotine is co-opted for M. sexta larval defense by a unique mechanism, respiration as a form of defensive halitosis. Special emphasis was placed in the need of performing field work and how essential it is to understand the organismic-level function of a herbivore gene.
Another highlight was the talk of Marcel Dicke, from the Laboratory of Entomology of Wageningen University. Research in recent years has shown that plant-associated and herbivoreassociated organisms may and can influence interactions between plants and herbivores at several trophic levels. And in this direction he presented data on the effects of non-pathogenic rhizobacterium Pseudomonas fluorescens and parasitic wasp Diaeretiella rapae on plant-hervibore interactions. He showed that the volatile blend from rhizobacteria-treated aphid infested plants is less attractive to the aphid parasitoid D. rapae than the volatile blend from aphid-infested plants without rhizobacteria. And moreover, this modification of herbivore-induced plant volaties by root-colonising microbes is regulated by JA signaling.
Overall this research is relevant for understanding the underlying aspects of microbe-plant-insect interactions and supports the idea that beneficial organisms do not benefit the plant in the defense against all attackers, which is a concept that is essential when using beneficial soil microbes in agriculture, a practice that has been going on for decades.
The poster sessions were preceded by a very original and enthusiastic “student quick-fire session”, in which selected students had a chance to present and awake the audience interest in their research by showing only one slide in exactly 1 minute. Then the poster sessions took place and led to rewarding discussions with other participants and speakers, and here I presented my work of “Interactions of a Myzus persicae effector protein with a host target involved in vesicle trafficking in plants”.
After two and a half full days of very fruitful talks, poster sessions and amiable lunches and/or dinners, including a tango-restaurant lunch with tango lessons, the common message was the need of more collaborative work between the different branches of science, i. e. biology, chemistry, biochemistry and ecology, in order to get a broader and more realistic knowledge of plants and “other organisms” interactions.
Finally I would like to thank BSPP for granting me a travel award to attend this conference in Buenos Aires, a model city for the emerging research community in South America, and the organizers of this symposium, among them Amy T. Austin, Carlos L. Ballare and Michael Panagopulos.
Patricia Rodriguez The James Hutton Institute.