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2013 BSDB Spring Meeting Report

By John Young

John Young won the best student poster competition at the Society for Developmental Biology's 71st Annual Meeting in Montréal, Canada which sent him to the 2013 British Society for Developmental Biology's spring meeting in Conventry, England.  The following is Young's report from the meeting.

I'm John Young, a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley in Richard Harland's lab. I'm interested in axial patterning of the vertebrate embryo. Specifically, I've been studying the role of canonical Wnt signaling in posteriorization of the neural plate in the frog Xenopus. I'm grateful to SDB for sending me to attend this meeting as part of the student poster award from the 2012 meeting in Montréal, Quebec.

The 2013 British Society for Developmental Biology/Cell Biology joint meeting was held on the campus of the University of Warwick in Coventry, England. Given that the meeting included both of these societies, the talks and posters presented topics that ranged from the actin dynamics of sub-cellular structures to the genetics of left-right patterning. The science was exciting, the people welcoming, and England was a wonderful place to visit, even in March!

The meeting began unofficially with a graduate student symposium where six students were selected to present 15-minute talks on the poster that they would present. An excellent idea, it was a nice introduction to the breadth of topics that would be covered during the meeting in a less formal setting that encouraged questions from fellow students as well as lead investigators. Stephen Fleenor (2012 BSDB best student poster winner from Jo Begbie's lab) talked about his identification of specific splice forms of the signaling regulator RGS3 and how these isoforms mediate the transition between progenitor and differentiating neurons. Also in this session, Siyao Wang (Gino Poulin's lab) presented her findings that depletion of the MLL/COMPASS complex, responsible for DNA methylation, results in somatic cells with germ cell like characteristics.

Olivier Pourquié gave the first of two opening plenary talks on the mechanisms of segmentation in the vertebrate axis. Work from his group has shown that many signaling pathways and cyclically expressed genes regulate this process. He showed data from microarray analyses his group did on discrete samples of dissected somitic mesoderm along the anterior posterior axis to understand how cyclic gene expression is different. The data resolved into four clusters corresponding to their axial position, which unexpectedly showed very different metabolic signatures, providing a novel method of regulation. David Drubin provided the second plenary talk on actin dynamics and endocytic vesicle trafficking. His group engineered fluorescent fusion proteins expressed at physiological levels in mammalian cells with zinc-finger nuclease technology. His talk had one of the most memorable moments of the meeting when the entire audience collectively gasped when, using live cell imaging, he showed that clatherin mediated endocytosis in mammals was indeed a regular and efficient process, contrary to previously held beliefs.

John Young at the Tower of London

Various concurrent sessions were presented during the day. In the epithelia and mechanosensory session, Shigenobu Yonemura and Guillaume Charras highlighted the use of atomic force microscopy for assaying force detection in epithelial sheets. Daniel Grimes (Dominic Norris' lab) presented a nice story on the function of the polycystin proteins PKD2 and PKD1L1 in left-right patterning of the mouse by using a novel PDK1L1 gain of function allele, RKS. During the cancer models session, David Adams gave an update of the efforts of the Wellcome Trust in generating knockout mouse lines and their protocols in assessing the associated phenotypes. In the gene regulation session, Sarah Bray spoke on the multiple roles of Notch signaling in the differentiation of blood cell types in Drosophila, and Patrick Lemaire spoke on the evolution of cis-regulatory elements governing neural gene expression in different Ciona species. Elly Tanaka showed that axolotls regenerate their limbs via differentiation of resident stem cells while newts accomplish this by dedifferentiating muscle cells.

This year's student poster award winner was Aditya Saxena from Helen Skaer's lab at Cambridge. His work identified novel factors that interact with Rho and Rac to mediate the morphogenetic movements of cells comprising the Malpighian tubules of Drosophila. Be sure to look for his poster at this year's SDB meeting in Cancun.

The final session included a talk by Kathryn Anderson presenting her lab's finding that mutations in the kinesin Kif7 result in mouse embryos with open neural tubes. However, this is not due to a loss of the primary cilium but because of defective cilia that have overgrown. She showed that Kif7's role is to sever microtubules of the cilium in order to maintain proper length and stability. Robb Krumlauf gave the final talk of the meeting on the evolution of neural segmentation. Lamprey eels do not show segmental hox gene expression in the hindbrain however, he showed that inserting zebrafish hox gene enhancers into lampreys resulted in segmental expression.

Personally, the highlight of the meeting for me was the awards session on the second night. Eric Miska received the Hooke Medal for his work on non-coding RNAs and their roles in epigenetic regulation of the genome. Finally, the Waddington Medal (kept secret until it's given) was awarded to Jim Smith who recapped his work on mesoderm induction and patterning in Xenopus. It was a particularly inspiring talk to me, as I am completing my grad work on frogs. Probably the biggest surprise was when Jim thanked Sir John Gurdon who happened to be sitting in the audience unannounced!

In closing, this was an exciting meeting full of great talks, posters and people. I certainly hope the tradition between SDB and BSDB of sending the poster award winners to each other's annual meetings continues.