Hotel Galvez • Galveston, TX
January 6 – 11, 2013
Scientific Organizers: Robert Reenan, Nina Papavasiliou, Jane Jackman and Michael Jantsch
Royal Society • Edinburgh, Scotland
January 15 – 17, 2013
Scientific Organizers: Amy Buck, Javier Cáceres and Richard Bowater
Fairmount Hotel • Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
January 20 – 25, 2013
Scientific Organizers: Joshua T. Mendell, Phillip A. Sharp, Judy Lieberman and Howard Y. Chang
Whistler Conference Centre • Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
March 19 – 24, 2013
Scientific Organizers: David C. Baulcombe and Irene Bozzoni
IGBMC • Strasbourg, France
April 21 – 24, 2013
Scientific Organizers: Bertrand Séraphin, Georg Stoecklin and Roberto Gherzi
IMBA • Vienna, Austria
May 27 – 29, 2013
Scientific Organizers: Javier Martinez, Julius Brennecke and Stefan Ameres
University of New England • Biddeford, ME
June 2 – 7, 2013
Scientific Organizers: Rachel Green, Karolin Luger, Wolf-Dietrich Heyer and Elena Conti
Congress Center Davos • Davos, Switzerland
June 11 – 16, 2013
Scientific Organizers: Frédéric Allain, Witold Filipowicz, Adrian Krainer, Osamu Nureki and Sarah Woodson
Silverado Resort and Spa • Napa Valley, CA
July 9 – 12, 2013
Scientific Organizers: Jamie Cate and Jamie Williamson
CSHL • Cold Spring Harbor, NY
August 20 – 24, 2013
Scientific Organizers: Tom Blumenthal, Kristen Lynch and Karla Neugebauer
EMBL • Heidelberg, Germany
September 8 – 12, 2013
Scientific Organizers: Fatima Gebauer, Matthias Hentze, Alan Hinnebusch and Marat Yusupov
EMBL • Heidelberg, Germany
October 9 – 12, 2013
Scientific Organizers: Elisa Izaurralde, David Bartel, Jörg Vogel and John Rinn
Eldorado Hotel & Spa • Santa Fe, NM
January 10 – 15, 2012
Scientific Organizers: Alan M. Gewirtz (in memoriam), Anastasia Khvorova and Mark A. Kay
Fairmont Hotel • Vancouver, British Columbia
February 7 – 12, 2012
Scientific Organizers: Richard W. Carthew and Olivier Voinnet
Hilton/Historic Plaza • Santa Fe, NM
March 4 – 9, 2012
Scientific Organizers: Thomas Tuschl, Mikiko C. Siomi and Gideon Dreyfuss
Snowbird Resort • Snowbird, UT
March 31 – April 5, 2012
Scientific Organizers: John S. Mattick, Jeannie T. Lee and Kevin V. Morris
Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research • Basel, Switzerland
May 21 – 23, 2012
Scientific Organizers: Marc Bühler, Helge Grosshans, Nicole Meisner
University of Michigan • Ann Arbor, MI
May 29 – June 3, 2012
Scientific Organizers: Rachel Green, Nils Walter, Melissa Moore and Gerhart Wagner
Salve Regina University • Newport, RI
July 15 – 20, 2012
Scientific Organizers: Manual Ares and Melissa Moore
Robinson College • Cambridge, UK
July 22 – 25, 2012
Scientific Organizers: Kristine Arnvig and Andres Ramos
CSHL • Cold Spring Harbor, NY
August 28 – September 1, 2012
Scientific Organizers: Gregory Hannon, Elisa Izaurralde, and Michael Terns
CSHL • Cold Spring Harbor, NY
September 4 – 8, 2012
Scientific Organizers: Thomas Dever, Ian Mohr, and Tatyana Pestova
Hôtel Chéribourg • Orford, Quebec
September 24 – 26, 2012
Scientific Organizers: Sherif Abou Elela, Benoît Chabot, Jean-Pierre Perreault, and Raymund Wellinger
EMBL • Heidelberg, Germany
October 7 – 12, 2012
Scientific Organizers: Anne Ephrussi, Nahum Sonenberg, Joan A. Steitz, David Tollervery
Suzhou Dushu Lake Conference Center • Suzhou, China
October 8 – 12, 2012
Scientific Organizers: Fátima Gebauer, Narry Kim, Adrian Krainer, and Mutsuhito Ohno
In a vintage episode of The Simpsons, Homer, after destroying and then over-repairing a toaster, finds it can magically transport him through time by simply pushing down the toast button. He first backtracks to the time of dinosaurs, and recalls a piece of advice given to him on his wedding day by Grampa:
If you ever travel back in time, don’t step on anything, because even the tiniest change can alter the future in waaays you can’t imagine.
Homer breaks the rule at once–cue noisy bug encircling him—
Stupid bug! You go squish now!!
Then, once he pushes down on the toast button in order to thrust himself back to present time, the world is strangely different.
Homer’s predicament invoked a keystone question in biology: how contingent is evolution on life history? Like a kid in a candy store, I pondered these types of questions at the Keystone Evolutionary Developmental Biology meeting in Lake Tahoe, CA, last February.
The meeting had a friendly reunion-like feeling, as it was organized by Sean Carroll and two of his former postdocs who now have their own labs, Trisha Wikktrop and Nicole King. There was a lot of camaraderie on display, and an eagerness to share new results and ideas.
I was so pleased to meet Sean Carroll, the coolest PI on the planet. If you ever see Sean, plant yourself next to him, as he can regale you with wonderful stories on science, from world travels to research his acclaimed books, to why you’ll probably see Tiktaalik in an upcoming episode of Family Guy. He’s also incredibly kind, brilliant, and appears to be as equally comfortable talking to you in the lab as he is at the bar.
My favorite talk of the meeting was by Richard Lenski, who gave an update on his mind-blowing 50,000+ generation/22-year long (and counting), E. coli evolution experiment. If you’re not familiar with this work, you really should go read about it.
The dominant theme of the meeting was cis-regulatory elements, and our developing understanding of how critical a role they play in evolution. This played out in pretty much every kind of trait under the sun, in all kingdoms of life. Enhancer sequences were the most common example discussed, including the importance of having strong ones, weak ones, and those close to and far-away from the genes they regulate. (I think these things also share some similarities to miRNA binding sites.)
I spent some recreation time with a couple grad students from Joe Thorton’s lab, Mike and Dave. We went snowshoeing down a freshly powdered trail to the brilliant blue Tahoe lake. This day turned out to be perfect snowman building weather too.
This was the kind of meeting that any biologist could really love, and I can’t wait for my next one!
[Simpsons reference from Halloween special, Season 6.]
I didn’t go to this meeting, but it sounded like there were fewer marquee talks this year, due in part to the host of other small RNA meetings recently. Plus it was raining cats and dogs in Monterey. Thus the “Enhhh.”
Still a few nuggets worth mentioning though.
Ian MacRae told an interesting result of guide strands being unloaded more with increased complementarity, especially in the 3′ end, to the target RNA. Introducing more mismatches could inhibit unloading. Therefore when targets are present, miRNAs are more stable in AGO than siRNAs, possibly due to the acrobatics that AGO performs to accomodate a ~19-21mer duplex, especially the PAZ domain which interacts with the 3′ end of the guide. I imagine the degree of this effect is also AGO specific.
The structure of C3PO, an endoribonuclease that promotes RISC activation by removing siRNA passenger strand cleavage products, was solved twice and was compared to an avocado and the Death Star. Yay.
There was a bit of controversy regarding a paper published by Rachel Green’s group early last year which proposed an allosteric site in the MID domain that could bind the 5′ cap of mRNAs (which I presented in RNA Journal Club and reviewed here). Filipp Frank from Nahum Sonenberg’s group presented convincing biochemical and structural studies that showed no functional evidence for this allosteric site in the MID domain.
Argument over the mechanism of miRNA repression–mRNA degradation vs. translational repression in both temporal and absolute senses continued to be hotly debated.
Elisa Izaurralde pushed the idea that deadenylation is a direct effect of miRNA action, and not solely a consequence of translational repression.
One of the most intriguing talks came from Antonio Giraldez. His lab has been doing ribosome profiling in zebrafish during early embryogenesis where miR-430 dominates to clear maternal mRNAs, so the system is pretty clean. His main point was that in this scenario, at one time point where miR-430 expression peaks, there is translational repression without mRNA degradation. At the next time point a couple hours later, mRNA degradation comes into play, perhaps even slightly more than translational repression. Understanding the kinetics of deadenylation in relation to mRNA degradation will be key to interpreting these data from time points so close to miR-430 expression peaking.
Lastly, lush biochemistry is still the essence of the Yuki Tomari lab. They have some nice in vitro assays to follow piRNA processing, namely trimming of precursor molecules by a yet unidentified nuclease whose function seems to be coupled with methylation of the piRNAs.
New Year’s resolution: don’t get scooped. But enjoy a meeting.
Hit the slopes in Banff, run to the aquarium in Monterey, or just trip out in Austria and Japan.
Fairmont Banff Springs • Banff, Alberta
February 11 – 16, 2011
Scientific Organizers: Gregory J. Hannon, Curtis C. Harris and Martine F. Roussel
Fairmont Banff Springs • Banff, Alberta
February 11 – 16, 2011
Scientific Organizers: Eric N. Olson, Sakari Kauppinen and Eva van Rooij
InterContinental San Juan Resort and Casino • San Juan, Puerto Rico
March 7 – 11, 2011
Scientific Organizers: Gisela Storz, Jörg Vogel, Karen Wassarman
Portola Hotel & Spa • Monterey, California
March 20 – 25, 2011
Scientific Organizers: Elisa Izaurralde, Victor Ambros and V. Narry Kim
Alte Mälzerei • Mosbach/Baden, Germany
April 7 – 9, 2011
Scientific Organizer: Dagmar Klostermeier
IMBA • Vienna, Austria
May 16 – 18, 2011
Scientific Organizers: Javier Martinez & Julius Brennecke
University of New England • Biddeford, Maine
June 5 – 10, 2011
Chairs and Vice Chairs: Christopher D. Lima & Roland Kanaar; Rachel A. Green & Karolin Luger
Kyoto International Conference Center • Kyoto, Japan
June 14 – 19, 2011
Scientific Organizers: Eric Westhof, Yoshikazu Nakamura, Lynne Maquat, Haruhiko Shiomi, Jamie Williamson, Melissa Jurica
Wyndham Hotel • Chicago, Illinois
October 10 – 12, 2011
Scientific Organizers: Erik Sontheimer, Howard Chang, John Pham, Fabiola Rivas
The Non-Coding Genome meeting held at EMBL in Heidelberg this past October was great. To me, this “European Keystone” bettered the two (American) Keystones I’ve attended (’08 and ’09), with more breadth, including prokaryotic regulatory RNAs and lincRNAs. NCG also ran a more functional schedule, with the full day comfortably broken up with ample coffee/tea and meal breaks. The food was also ten-times better, and the venue was nifty in the building interior boasting a true double-helical walkway. Neat. This year’s organizers mentioned they plan for NCG to continue bi-annually, so look out for it in twenty-twelve.
After Heidelberg I hurried down to Stuttgart to get my car fix at the impressive museums of Porsche and Mercedes-Benz (highly recommended even if you have only a casual appreciation for German autos). Next, in a blur of French countryside, I was whisked to Paris, where everything was lovely. Everything. The art, architecture, churches, food, parks, the ladies. I spent my visit there with a friend, former labmate, and esteemed blog contributor (Robin!) who just started a Postdoc in Paris at the Pasteur. To those with true visual and gustatory aesthetics, Paris will make you weak in the knees.
Sometimes good things happen to Ph.D. students!
In a black+tinted Audi A8, briskly driven toward our plush hotel in central Vienna by a sharp looking Austrian, my trip began. These Europeans, they live properly. My 007-like arrival, however, soon gave way to an intense urge to sleep. But before I hit dreamland, with my friend I managed a trek up the tower of the ~14th century Gothic cathedral Stephansdom. Our reward later was a full meal, and cold lagers. Deep sleep was now imminent, and would do me well until next morning: the start of the 5th Microsymposium on small RNAs. It was a damn fine conference.
After attending two consecutive Keystone RNAi conferences (2008-2009), it was so refreshing to be at a meeting where I didn’t feel so anonymous. Due to the smaller size, and perhaps partly the fact that half my lab wasn’t there (thank god!), there were numerous opportunities to meet other students, postdocs, and PIs. The conference hosts were friendly, and the meals were very good. The meeting ran smoothly. For entertainment, the second night there was a great Brazilian drums-guitar duo that provided pleasant rhythms. And good times were had by all out at the bars. They don’t close at 2am in Europe. You can stay as loooonnggg as you want.
The big-shots Narry Kim, Phil Zamore, Dinshaw Patel, and Olivier Voinnet all gave very nice talks. These, along a talk by fast rising Yuki Tomari, were the highlights for me. But the talks by numerous junior group leaders are what really set the tone for the meeting. Young blood ruled here. Nine talks by Ph.D. students further cemented this feeling. (I was fortunate to give one of them.) By contrast, now I recall Keystone speakers as comparatively geriatric.
In terms of topics, animals, plants, yeast, and bacteria were all discussed. Along with a panoply of methods, from deep sequencing to whole animal, all the bases (pun intended!) were covered. Applause for Javier Martinez especially, as well as Julius Brennecke, for constructing such a great program. Overall, in terms of the science, food, schmoozing, and boozing–the 4 cornerstones of a meeting–Vienna hit a home run.
After the conference, my beer-laden hops (pun intended!) up to Prague and then Munich nicely rounded out my central European vacation. Below are some photos from my digital. I actually shoot primarily with a 35mm camera, and have many nice photographs from this trip on film, many of which will end up eventually here.
And now my awards for the cities of Vienna, Prague, and Munich:
- Best Science: Vienna (no contest!)
- Best Beer: Prague (for god sakes man, it was cheaper than bottled water, and soooo delicious.)
- Most Beautiful City: Prague
- Most Beautiful Women: Vienna
- Best Museums: Both in Munich, the splendid Brandhorst (modern art), and, vroom-vroom, the BMW museum!
Pictures from Prague, and the BMW Museum in Munich:
I will soon share my thoughts on the Vienna small RNA conference, once I’m comfortably home in my lab computer chair, custom ass-groves and all, but the short of it is “most-excellent.”
In the meantime, hop on over to the “MolBio Research Highlights” blog, run by my blogging compadre Alejandro Montenegro-Montero, to read a guest post I was selected to write, “The allure of regulatory RNAs.” For most readers of this blog, my reasons could sound obvious, but I’m curious to know what you think. So chime in over there, or here, if you wish. At the very least, CLICK THAT LINK.
Now back to more pertinent business: drinking Budvar 12 degree. I’m in Prague right now.
Time to break out the shorts and Ray-Bans! I’m going to Europe. Well actually, I’m going to Vienna–which is looking extremely lovely–to attend the 5th Microsymposium on Small RNAs, to be held at the IMBA May 17-19. (Don’t worry, I’m not bringing the shorts, and have never owned Ray-Bans or an American-abroad-arrogance.)
This place and this conference are right up my alley. It’s gonna be hella sophisticated. Scarfing down topfenkolatsche and Ottakringer while chatting up the impressive speakers/attendees, that is the goal. How do scientists schmooze in Europe? Probably with better food and more cigarettes. And ohhh, the bier... you’re the other reason I’m coming.
Never having been to Europe before, my lab mate remarked, “you’re going to lose your European virginity!” Well damn, it’s about time.
Stories and photos forthcoming.
UPDATE APRIL 2015: The work originally referred to in this post has been retracted. Please read more here.
Look to the plant. Look at ’em; eat ’em; use ’em for medication; and appreciate them because they offer numerous biological fruits, including well studied RNAi. Here are some things overheard at this year’s RNA Silencing Mechanisms in Plants Keystone Symposium, which met in Santa Fe late last month. (Thanks a bunch to my friend M. for helping with this.)
A couple heavy-hitters described a class of predominantly 22 nt miRNAs in Arabidopsis, Dcr-like 1 products, that initiate secondary siRNA biogenesis by an unknown mechanism. This has also been seen in rice, where they are also Dcr-like 4 dependent. They key point is that specific miRNAs only appear to be able to initiate secondary siRNA biogenesis if they are 22 nt, and not 21 nt. (Most miRNAs in Arabidopsis are 21 nt.) The implication is that Argonaute can decipher a 1 nt difference in length of a miRNA, and this may induce some structural change that could, for example, lead to recruitment of RdRP and other factors responsible for producing secondary siRNAs. Pretty fascinating that such a minute difference could be responsible for such critical decision making.
Another speaker presented work showing some elegant, and very technically challenging, grafting experiments in Arabidopsis that show 24 nt siRNAs can move through tissues, and cause RNA induced DNA methylation. [Hearing this caused me flashbacks to my first-year grad Development course in which we learned about pioneering grafting experiments in newts in the early part of last century, and how crazy it is that these Franksteinian techniques work so well.] Using a different technique, particle bombardment, another speaker demonstrated spreading of siRNAs through cells. Very fascinating to think of how spreading is regulated/controlled to remain specific. They’d be potent little things to be sending out without exact destinations/address labels.
Although it is worth pointing out that 24 nt siRNAs repress transposons and repeat elements, so it may not be so bad to have this activity be somewhat constituitive in a given region when such a challenge is detected. When silencing components were removed, transposition was observed to grow slowly. When silencing components were re-introduced, it took several generations to re-establish silencing, in reproductive tissues.
One of the above speakers also described experiments mating tomatoes. [I love tomatoes myself, and, did you see The Simpsons episode where Homer see’s Ralph Wiggum’s alcohol powered car at the Springfield Elementary science fair? “One for you; one for me” Homer says, as he dreams sipping half of his fuel purchase. That would be me if I was mating tomatoes in lab.] What was really cool is that after a few generations they saw the emergence of new siRNAs that were neither present in the parental nor F1. These progeny with novel siRNAs expressed new traits as well. Maybe I’m overinterpreting the result, but, wow! It’s unlikely perhaps, but the traits could be solely due to the fresh siRNAs. Or more interestingly, could evolution be dictating some sort of package deal for the emergence of new traits? “I’ll give you a new trait, but you’ve gotta take small RNA(s) along with it.” Or maybe it’s simply coincidence–you mate two non-isogenic things, and all kinds of stuff comes out.
Also mentioned was a new set of 24 nt miRNAs in rice, Dcr-like 3 dependent, present in reproductive organs, that direct methylation of their target genes in trans, in a strand specific manner. Yeah, but what kind of rice? Was it brown basmati?
Finally, comparing two different Arabidopsis strains, one Columbia (from Missouri) and one from the Cape Verde islands, a speaker described that they produced vastly different genome-wide Cytosine methylation patterns. Promoter methylation appeared to be conserved while gene body methylation was greatly reduced in the Cape Verde Island strain. Presumably this has some significant functional consequence, perhaps due to the differential environmental responses that the two strains have evolved.
I wish I was in Cape Verde right now, on the beach, eating a salad.
I didn’t make it to this year’s Keystone conference, RNA Silencing: Mechanism, Biology and Application, held last month in Colorado. I know, however, a bunch of people that did go, and they said it was pretty good. Pre-tay, pre-tay, pre-tay, pretay good.
Some things I heard (thanks kindly to my comrades):
A theme that first splashed at last year’s Keystone was a major interest this year: CLIP experiments. One surprise observed in these datasets is much more Argonaute binding in open reading frames than was previously considered. Some extend this to say that there is much more functional binding in ORFs than was previously thought. I imagine, however, that much of this binding is non-specific, or transient, analogous to what’s seen for transcription factor binding genome wide (e.g. see Li et al. 2008). Prudent calibration of potential background/noise should be required before the outstanding potential of these immense datasets can be exploited to make fresh, solid conclusions about miRNA targeting. One group is extending their CLIP method beyond just Argonautes, and looking for the RNA binding signatures of many other RNA binding proteins.
One speaker revealed a triumphant result that nicely explains why knockouts of mammalian Ago2, but not the other Argonautes, are embryonic lethal. This was previously very confounding because while mammalian Ago2 is the only Ago with slicer activity, slicing activity hasn’t been widely demonstrated in mammals. All four mammalian Agos obviously facilitate miRNA seed directed repression, but now we have a thoroughly satisfying explanation for why slicer activity is also necessary in the developing embryo.
A couple groups showed some nice new structural and biochemical data that further refines our understanding of which domains of GW182/TNRC6 and PABP bind each other. Early looks show some predicted binding differences in two model systems studied, fly and mammal. The data is revealing more about the mechanism of repression of mRNAs by miRNAs.
Lastly, another speaker convincingly showed why some sRNAs are methylated and some are not. In plants, for example, the vast majority of target sites form near perfect complementarity with miRNAs, and all the miRNAs are methylated. The same goes for endo-siRNAs in flies. But in mammals, the vast majority of miRNAs do not have perfect site targets, nor are they methylated. Methylation appears to provide protection from degradation of the sRNA when it pairs with a perfect site target. In contexts where many perfect sites for sRNAs are present, sRNAs will be methylated. In contexts where such sites are very rare, the sRNAs aren’t methylated. A very pleasant resolution.
Mm-hai. Mm-hai. Approximately once a month, as they’ve done since 2007, RNA scientists in the area assemble for the New England RNA Data Club, or NERD Club, mm-hey. The next meeting will be taking place this Thursday, January 21st, 2010, mm-hoi.
It’s a excellent place for New England scientists to hear about new RNA research taking place, with the transCRIPtion, and the transLAtion, and the spLY-cing, and the RNA-in-ter-FEAR-ANce! Ng-hey. There are three 20 minute research presentations, plus 5 minutes for questions, mm-hey. And all the brilliant scientists from the MITs, and the Harvards, and the UMass Worcesters, and the Boston Universities, and the Brandeis and the Dartmouth and the Tufts and the Yale… whew-mm-hey, so many institutes of higher edu-CAY-tion. Ng-hey.
And to promote the thrill of social in-ter-actions–and possibly romantic conquest, as I so impressively demonstrate above, p-herven-whea–they have the drinking of the alcohol, and eating, and the con-VURR-SIng.
Sooo, if you’re in the area, I encourage you to attend! For the betterment of science. Mm-hey.
Now enjoy some audio clips from the ALL-time greatest nerd: yours truly, Professor Frink. Mm-hoi-ven.:
Picture and audio courtesy of http://www.lowb.org/alan/frink/