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The XVI International Congress of Virology, Montreal, Canada 27th July – 1st August 2014
The XVI International Congress of Virology (ICV) was held in the beautiful city of Montreal as part of the meetings of three divisions of the International Union of Microbiological Societies (IUMS; Bacteriology and Applied Microbiology, Mycology and Virology). Montreal is located on an island in the Saint Lawrence River in south-western Quebec and is the second largest metropolitan area in Canada with over 3. 8 million residents, who represent no fewer than 80 different ethnic groups that make it one of the most fascinating cultural mosaics anywhere.
About 1000 virologists from around the world came together for one week to discuss recent advances in basic and applied virology covering all the aspects of research on human, animal, plant viruses and bacteriophages. The XVI ICV, as a meeting of such magnitude and diversity, afforded participants the opportunity not only to discuss with others their own field of interest, but also to broaden their vision of the whole field of virology. The exchange of knowledge and ideas between animal and plant virologists enriches both sides with new tools and approaches, given the generality in structure and functions of all viruses regardless of the nature of their hosts. Environmental virology was also of particular interest. For example, Curtis A. Suttle of University of British Columbia, Canada, in his plenary lecture presented an excellent overview on viruses in the sea. Viruses are the most abundant life forms on the planet and represent a vast reservoir of genetic diversity of global metabolic processes. This has the potential to transform our understanding of the role of viruses in global ecosystem processes as well as to provide new insights into the evolution of life itself.
The five conference days were split into plenary sessions, 74 (!) parallel symposia and poster sessions. Among the traditional plant virology highlights were presentations on plant virus-vector interactions, host response and resistance, virus replication and translation, virus movement in plants, viroids and emerging viruses. The short format of this report does not allow me to mention all the interesting and important talks, and hence I will focus on my own scientific preferences.
Traditionally the central focus of plant virus research has concerned their prominent role as pathogens. However, plant viruses have become used as tools to study general molecular mechanisms of biological processes. This original approach was the focus of the presentation of Lyubov Ryabova (Institut de Biologie Moleculaire des Plantes, France) who elucidated mechanisms of translation reinitiation using cauliflower mosaic virus as a model.
Bio Ding of Ohio State University, USA, presented an excellent review on the structure and functions of viroids. Viroids are small, circular, noncoding RNAs that currently are known to infect only plants. They also are the smallest self-replicating genetic units known.
Plant viruses and their components must move within cells to systemically infect their host and cause disease. An understanding of intracellular virus movement will provide information necessary to design and test new methods to prevent systemic virus infections. Richard Nelson (University of Missouri, USA) presented updated models of virus trafficking within cells.
RNA silencing is a fast developing area of molecular biology which plays a very important role in our understanding of the key antiviral defence mechanisms in plants. Viruses can induce RNA silencing, which subsequently targets the viral genome. Peter Moffett (Universite de Sherbrooke, Canada) presented a talk on the role of the AGO proteins (which are specialized to function in different RNA silencing related mechanisms) in plant antivirus defence responses.
Understanding the mechanisms controlling vector-transmission of viruses, as well as their ecological/evolutionary consequences, requires integrating information from at least three different viewpoints: virus-vector interactions, host-vector interactions and virus-host interactions. Current views and future prospects in all these aspects were reviewed by Stephan Blanc (INRA, France).
In conclusion I would like to thank BSPP for the travel grant giving me the opportunity to attend the XVI ICV. The next International Congress of Virology will be held in Singapore in September 2017.
Michael Taliansky The James Hutton Institute