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VIII International Fungal Biology Conference, Guanajuato, Mexico, December 2002
Setting. Around 200 scientists gathered from across the continents at the VIII International Fungal Biology Conference in Guanajuato, Mexico this past December. This beautiful colonial city lies nestled in a deep narrow gorge between arid mountains and is known as the Royal City of Mines. Its brightly coloured houses are closely-clustered between baroque palaces and churches. The atmosphere is youthful, boisterous and vibrant: full of students and actors and musicians keen to perform throughout the narrow winding streets of the town.
Science. The programme started with 2 special lectures, and was followed by 6 themed symposia, 5 workshops and poster sessions. The superb quality of so many talks makes it hard to pick out the real highlights and so this should be considered as a personal account. Regine Kahmann (Max- Planck) opened the proceedings with an excellent review of the usefulness of Ustilago maydis to research in molecular phytopathology and Salomon Bartnicki- Garcia (California and Cicese) reviewed his contribution to fungal growth (preceded by an amusing revue of his life, courtesy of Gordon Beakes, who, for his efforts was rewarded with a comb!). The first symposium, on Fungal Structure carried the most beautiful images of the fungal cytoskeleton as viewed by light and electron microscopy (Robbie Roberson, Arizona State), superb 2-photon and confocal images of GFP fused to various organelle promoters (Nick Read, Edinburgh, Fig 4) and an interesting talk on polarity by Michelle Momany (Georgia) (Fig 3). Next, came a workshop on secondary metabolism dominated, naturally, by tales from Aspergillus but ending with a nice review of the work by Paul Tudzynski s lab. (Muenster) on the ergot alkaloid pathway in Claviceps purpurea. Jose Ruiz Herrera (Irapuato) chaired the next symposium on Fungal Growth and Dif ferentiation in which we heard an interesting story on virulence in Cryptococcus neoformans from Jim Kronstad (British Colombia) and about some of the fascinating techniques used to assess the contribution of turgor pressure to fungal invasion of the host from Holger Deising (Halle). The following day Ralph Dean (North Carolina State) chaired the session on Signal T ransduction in which he stunned us with facts about the genome sequence of Magnaporthe grisea. Jesus Aguiree (Universidad Nacional Autonoma) gave an elegant talk about a member of the Hog1 stress MAPK family in Aspergillus and some exciting new data about the role of NADP-oxidase. Scott Gold (Georgia) talked about cAMP and MAP kinases in Ustilago maydis and I managed, by accident, to join together the themes of the previous talks by looking at signal transduction and combating host-imposed oxidative stress in Blumeria graminis. Thereafter, came a workshop in Biological Control and a symposium on Sexual and Asexual Development . Of the 1 1 talks 2 in particular caught my attention: Martha Merrow (Ludwig-Maxililians) talking about the Neurospora circadian clock and Lorna Casselton (Oxford) for the elegance of the genetics which underpins her group s work on genes that initiate sexual development in Coprinus.
Next day, the workshops on Fungal Cell Wall Synthesis and Structure and Genomics were held on either side of the symposium on Yeast-like and Dimorphic Fungi . Highlights here were the talks from Neil Gow (Aberdeen) on Candida and from Judith Berman (Minnesota) comparing morphogenesis in yeast and Candida. So to the final day, where we heard about Fungushost Interactions in the symposium and about Secretion and Extracellular Enzymes in the last workshop. T wo talks caught my imagination here: from Gary Cole (Medical College of Ohio) about an immunodominant glycoprotein produced by the human respiratory pathogen Coccidiodes which may perturb the T-helper 1 and 2 host immune pathways and some exciting new data from Nick Talbot (Exeter) about the role of a particular Znmetallothienin putatively involved in the oxidative cross-linking of the Magnaporthe grisea cell wall .
Social. Here our hosts excelled: We were invited to see a Folk Dance Ballet, to walk around the streets of the town serenaded by a troup of Mexican musicians, invited to sample Mescale and to attend the final conference dinner in the gardens of the Hacienda of San Gabriel Barrera (Fig. 4).
Summary This was one of the best conferences I have attended; it was a stunning location, the speakers were prepared to divulge unpublished data, there was much enthusiasm, intermingling and exchange of ideas and here new national and international collaborations were forged.
I thank BSPP for its generous support.
Sarah Gurr, Oxford