2nd European Workshop

Summary of the 2nd annual meeting

The 2nd European Workshop was held in the multipurpose room of the Agricultural University of Athens with the participation of around 130 attendants.  The title of the meeting was “Molecular A-Biotic Plant Interactions” and its topic covered both the biotic and abiotic stress of plants, with emphasis on plant mechanism to overcome it. Following a short welcome by Kyriaki Machera, Director of the Benaki Phytopathological Institute (BPI) and Epaminondas Paplomatas, Associated Dean of the Agricultural University of Athens (AUA), the 12 invited speakers gave their oral presentations which focused on different aspects of the aforementioned topic.

In detail, Prof. Polydefkis Hatzopoulos (AUA) gave a talk on the “combinatorial action of signaling molecules in plant development and defense” covering the perplexed networks of signaling molecules which play regulatory roles in development, plant responses to abiotic/biotic stress and in plant defense. Such signal molecules include the polymanines, as Dr. Panagiotis Moschou pointed out in his talk, entitled “Stress responses: A developmental perspective” where he made clear that the elucidation of the molecular strategies employed during stress responses can lead to the identification of developmental signals. Signaling includes RNA molecules as Kriton Kalantidis, Assistant Professor at the University of Crete (UoC) and research group leader at the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (IMBB), mentioned in his presentation on “RNA silencing crosstalks”. His experimental data supported that this crosstalk includes light and temperature perception, cell endo-regulation, biotic stress by pathogens and cellular functions. He concluded that RNA silencing pathways are integrated in the cellular functions and as such, are affected but also affect other cellular functions. On the same direction, Dr. Alexandra Boutla, employed at BPI as a technology transfer expert, gave a talk on the “Role of DCL and RDR6 in plant – pathogen interactions”, where she pointed that RNA silencing mediators, such as the dicers, are involved directly and indirectly to plant pathogen virulence. Mariana Gozmanova, Lecturer at University of Plodviv, used RNA molecules to study “Trafficking of the Potato spindle tuber viroid between tomato and Orobanche ramose” as the title of her talk suggests, and concluded that the Potato spindle tuber viroid moves unidirectionally via phloem from tomato to the novel host Orobanche ramosa.

On the other side of plant-pathogen interactions, bacteria employ a sophisticated arsenal of weapons against their respective host, including effector proteins. Such proteins, as Prof. Panopoulos (University of Berkleley and UoC) mentioned in his talk entitled “Phytobacterial type III/VI effectors: more effects than you think” affects the plant defense both at the protein as well as the post-transcriptional level. The structural studies of such effect or proteins secreted by type III secretion systems of plant pathogens, reveal essential details of bacteria-eukaryotic host interactions as Prof. Michael Kokkinidis (UoC) suggested in his talk entitled “Structural studies of bacterial secretion systems”. He mentioned that such studies might offer alternative targets for novel antibiotic drug development. In his talk by the title “The role of AIF proteins in Arabidopsis innate immune system” Dimitris Tsitsigiannis, Lecturer at AUA, focused on plant Apoptosis inducing Factors on his talk, which are genes that play an important role in activation of the plant immune system and the resistance or susceptibility to a number of crop pathogens. John Vontas, Associate Prof. at UoC, in his presentation entitled “Identification of detoxification genes involved with xenobiotic metabolism in insect pests” talked about the mechanisms by which insects develop resistance to xenobiotics, such as insecticides and phytotoxins, for improving pest control interventions. He emphasized on the P450 monooxygenases and the novel approaches to study plant-pest interactions.

In order to underline the importance of genetic transformation to study the aforementioned mechanisms, Prof. Paul Christou of the University of Lleida gave a talk on “Engineering of complex metabolic pathways in plants through combinatorial transformation” where he explained that multi-gene and multi-pathway engineering is now possible and this opens the way for the engineering of polygenic traits in crop plants. He focused on the insertion of carotenoid transgenes in maize and rice. His talk expanded on the essence of plant biotechnology and he gave his personal reflection on plant biotechnology and politics. Finally, Prof. Angharad Gatehouse of the University of Newcastle gave a global perspective on plant biotechnology, her talk covered topics from transgene expression to increased yield to novel insecticides based on fusion technology. Dr. Nicholas Skandalis (BPI) gave a short presentation to wrap up the meeting, where he pointed the convergence points between biotic and abiotic stress as made clear by the speakers and summarised their keynote findings and statements, as also presented in this report.


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