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The 9th International Conference on Pseudomonas syringae and related pathogens, Malaga, Spain 2nd – 5th June 2015
The International Conference on Pseudomonas syringae and related pathogens takes place every four years, with this year’s conference hosted by Universidad de MÃ¡laga in Malaga, Spain. The conference took place over three days and the programme included 13 plenary talks by experts in different areas of research into species belonging to the P. syringae complex, as well as 30 shorter talks and a poster session where around 30 posters were displayed.
Of particular interest to me, was the session on Epidemiology and Disease Control. Dr Boris Vinatzer started off the session with a plenary talk introducing a possible novel system for classification and identification of pathogens using codes called Life Identification Numbers (LINs). LINs are unique numbers sequentially assigned to individual genome-sequenced organisms and are based on the level of sequence similarity between related organisms. The more related two strains, species or genera are the more similar their LIN numbers will be. Dr Vinatzer showed that the core genome phylogeny of species belonging to the P. syringae complex agrees with the LINs assigned to these strains. He indicated that the long term goal of this project is to assign a LIN number to every genome sequenced organism, with the idea that this stable reference system could be applied to identification, epidemiology, taxonomy, biosecurity and plant/animal breeding certification.
Keeping with the theme of epidemiology, Dr Honour MaCann presented the evolution and population genomics of P. syringae pv. actinidiae (Psa). Kiwifruit has only been domesticated in the last 100 years and is native to China. Dr MaCann hypothesised that the Psa strain responsible for the most recent outbreak of bacterial canker of kiwi originated in China, and may have an ancestral association with wild kiwifruit. Sampling of symptomatic and nonsymptomatic cultivated- and wildkiwifruit was carried out in six provinces of China, and a selection of isolated Psa strains were genome sequenced. The phylogenetic analysis revealed that most strains were isolated from symptomatic cultivated kiwifruit and confirmed that the global outbreak of bacterial canker was caused by strains originating in China. The genomic population study also revealed that Psa strains have different effector complements, which are possibly new variants, and that there is an exchange of mobile genetic elements between pathogenic and non-pathogenic strains in the leaf niche. Future analysis of the data generated by Dr MaCann will surely reveal more about the evolutionary process of Psa.
Another talk I greatly enjoyed was given by Dr David Baltrus about phage derived bacteriocins from P. syringae and their killing action against other P. syringae strains. A diverse range of P. syringae strains were assayed for killing action and the responsible bacteriocins were identified. Following deletion of these bacteriocin genes in a model strain, the killing activity against other P. syringae strains continued. The genes responsible for the killing action were identified as a phage-derived bacteriocin locus. These produce phage tail proteins which target specific P. syringae pathovars. Dr Baltrus also found that it is possible to re-target the bacteriocin by inserting only two additional genes from the phage-derived locus of >20 genes. This exciting discovery provides a possible source of novel antimicrobials for use in agriculture.
Each day the sessions started at 9:00 am and ended at 7:00 pm, but even with a packed programme, there was ample time to enjoy the beautiful city of Malaga. A social event on the beach for the traditional football match was arranged one evening, with ‘tinto con limon’ and paella served afterwards. The final conference dinner was held at the Vinoteca El Patio de Beatas, a ‘wine museum’, where we were served typical Andalucian dishes and local wines. After three days of stimulating talks, the meeting was closed with the announcement that the next International Conference on Pseudomonas syringae and related pathogens will be held in Akureyri, Iceland in 2019. The organising committee at Universidad de Malaga are to be congratulated for an excellent, well-run and enjoyable conference.
Carrie Brady University of the West of England
First of all, I want to thank the organisers and everyone involved for a fantastic meeting with a very interesting program, high calibre talks and a very engaging audience. I believe the intimacy of small conferences like this one makes these meetings even more valuable, because it gives you ample opportunities to talk to fellow researchers, students or perhaps even the one person in this field that has inspired you to follow a particular path. I was really captivated by many of these talks and it is hard to pick out just a few. Here are some, in no particular order, that are relevant to my research:
Emilia Lopez-solanilla talked about how light perception influences the infection of a plant by phytopathogenic bacteria. She provided evidence that Pto swarming depends on light-intensity and quality, with white light exposure having an effect on flagellum synthesis. I particularly liked this talk because it showed me that as a researcher, one should remain open-minded and not forget about the big picture, e.g. in the case of pathogens, the influence of the environment on the plant-bacteria interaction.
David Guttman impressed with a comparative evolutionary genomics study of close to 400 whole genome sequences of different phylogroups of P. syringae, looking at compositional dynamics of the genome, host-associated genes and hot-spots of recombination and selection.
To me, Cindy Morris gave perhaps the most inspiring talk. I particularly like the way she drives her research in a direction that is important for agriculture. She is looking at ways of balancing the positive and negative effects of P. syringae in the environment by making use of the ice nucleation activity to influence rainfall, as droughts are becoming more and more of a problem for agriculture.
I was stoked to win the Best Poster Award for my poster entitled “The kiwifruit phyllosphere – a playground for P. syringae“, with the gift being the book “Bacteria-Plant Interactions: Advanced Research and Future Trends”.
Apart from the scientific side of things, let us not forget the social events, which make these meetings all the more fun! At the reception on the first evening we were treated to drinks and tapas on the terrace of the Universidad de Malaga with views of the Alcazaba.
We also enjoyed a city tour of Malaga with a local guide and I was captured by the charm of the old town. One evening we were all carted to the beach, where most of us participated in the (quite rough) human Foosball event, (pictured above) which was great fun not only for the players, but also the audience.
Overall, it was a fantastic opportunity for me to mingle with specialists in P. syringae research and I came back with a lot more knowledge and a head full of new ideas. And finally – thank you, BSPP, for the travel grant, which heavily subsidised my travel costs and allowed me to attend this worthwhile conference.
Christina Straub Massey University, New Zealand