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May 16
​Membership Numbers Rise Leading up to IS-MPMI XVIII Congress

In the past few months, more than 600 new members have joined IS-MPMI! We want to send a big thank-you to everyone who has joined our society and to those who have renewed their memberships. As we head into the IS-MPMI XVIII Congress, our member count is up to 1,530. If you are a new member, visit our welcome site and learn about all the ways you can participate in the society. If you haven’t yet registered for the congress, register today and join us in Glasgow, Scotland, from July 14 to 18 for a week full of discovery! 

March 15
​MPMI VXIII Congress Concurrent Sessions Announced

Concurrent Sessions and Co-Chairs

  1. Molecular Reco​gnition in Plant Immunity: I
    1. Bostjan Kobe – University of Queensland, Australia
    2. Frank Takken – University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
  2. Molecular Recognition in Plant Immunity: II
    1. Thomas Kroj – UMR, BGP, Montpellier, France 
    2. Cyril Zipfel – University of Zurich, Switzerland 
  3. Microbial Manipulation of the Host: I
    1. Gitta Coaker – University of California, Davis, U.S.A. 
    2. Suomeng Dong – Nanjing Agricultural University, China
  4. Microbial Manipulation of the Host: II
    1. Peter Dodds – CSIRO, Canberra, Australia 
    2. Renier van der Hoorn – University of Oxford, U.K. 
  5. Emerging and Re-Emerging Systems
    1. Diane Saunders – John Innes Centre, Norwich, U.K. 
    2. Nik Grunwald – Oregon State University, Corvallis, U.S.A. 
  6. Population Biology (Ecology, Genomics)
    1. Eva Stukenbrock – University of Kiel, Germany 
    2. Daniel Croll – University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland
  7. Apoplastic Interactions 
    1. Satoko Yoshida – NAIST, Ikomo, Japan 
    2. Guido van den Ackerveken – University of Utrecht, Netherlands
  8. The Roles of Extracellular Vesicles in Intercellular and Interkingdom Communication
    1. Hailing Jin – University of California, Riverside, U.S.A. 
    2. Roger Innes – Indiana University, Bloomington, U.S.A. 
  9. Cell Biology of Host–Microbe Interactions
    1. Silke Robatzek – Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, München, Germany 
    2. Christine Faulkner – John Innes Centre, Norwich, U.K.
  10. Symbiosis and Mutualism 
    1. Myriam Charpentier – John Innes Centre, Norwich, U.K.
    2. Katharina Markmann – University of Tübingen, Germany
  11. Comparative Mutualist and Pathogen Studies
    1. Sebastian Schornack –Sainsbury Laboratory, University of Cambridge, U.K. 
    2. Simona Radutoiu – Aarhus University, Denmark
  12. How the Environment Impacts Microbial Infection
    1. Sheng Yang He – Michigan State University, East Lansing, U.S.A. 
    2. Zuhua He – Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Shanghai, China 
  13. Microbiome and Phytobiome: I
    1. Alga Zuccaro – Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding, Cologne, Germany 
    2. Joy Bergelson – University of Chicago, U.S.A. 
  14. Microbiome and Phytobiome: II
    1. Jan Leach – Colorado State University, Fort Collins, U.S.A. 
    2. Soledad Sacristán – INIA, Madrid, Spain 
  15. Post-Translational Modifications and Their Control of Immunity
    1. Steven Spoel – University of Edinburgh, U.K.
    2. Piers Hemsley – University of Dundee, U.K. 
  16. Invertebrate (Nematode/Insect)–Plant Interactions
    1. Jorunn Bos – University of Dundee, U.K. 
    2. Sebastian Eves-van den Akker – University of Cambridge, U.K. 
  17. Systems Biology and Modelling 
    1. Kenichi Tsuda – Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research, Cologne, Germany 
    2. Youssef Belkhadir – Gregor Mendel Institute, Vienna, Austria 
  18. The Role of Organelles and Interorganellular Communication in Plant Immunity
    1. Murray Grant – University of Warwick, U.K. 
    2. S. Dinesh-Kumar – University of California, Davis, U.S.A.
  19. Host–Microbe Co-Evolution
    1. Beat Keller – University of Zurich, Switzerland
    2. Detlef Weigel – International Max Planck Research School, Tübingen, Germany
  20. Long-Distance/Systemic Signalling
    1. Corina Vlot – German Research Center for Environmental Health, München, Germany 
    2. Jean Greenberg – University of Chicago, U.S.A. 
  21. Emerging Topics in Plant–Microbe Interactions
    1. Jeanne Harris (Editor in Chief of MPMI) – University of Vermont, Burlington, U.S.A.
    2. Tolga Bozkurt – Imperial College London, U.K. 

March 12
IS-MPMI VXIII Congress: Plenary Speakers Announced

 IS-MPMI is bringing together scientists with diverse backgrounds in disease resistance, molecule manipulation, fungal effectors, and other technologies for the premier event in plant-microbe interactions: the 2019 IS-MPMI VXIII Congress, taking place July 14-18, 2019, in Glasgow, Scotland. Topics in this year’s program include molecular recognition in plant immunity, microbial manipulation of the host, emerging and re-emerging systems, and more!

Twenty-four plenary speakers have been announced:

  • Petra Boevink

  • John Carr

  • Jijie Chai

  • Pierre-Marc Delaux

  • Gunther Döhlemann

  • Xinnian Dong

  • Marc Ghislain

  • Hui-Shan Guo

  • Caroline Gutjahr

  • Maria Harrison

  • Jonathan Jones

  • Xin Li

  • Rosa Lozano-Durán

  • Jane Parker

  • Phillippe Reymond

  • Libo Shan

  • Ken Shirasu

  • Nick Talbot

  • Ryohei Terauchi

  • Bart Thomma

  • Leena Tripathi

  • Julia Vorholt

  • Maria Zanetti

  • Jian-Min Zhou

Read these speakers’ biographies and bookmark the congress website for updates in coming months!

January 29
IS-MPMI Congress Abstract Submissions are Now Open!

Abstract submissions for the IS-MPMI XVIII Congress in Glasgow, Scotland, are now open. ​The deadline is March 7, 2019, and abstracts can be submitted online. When you submit your abstract, you can also apply for a Shimimoto Travel Award to fund your trip to the Congress. Watch the Congress website for updates on registration, housing, travel, and more! 

December 17
​InterView: Detlef Weigel

Detlef Weigel is a Director at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology. Interactions recently spoke with Weigel about his membership with IS-MPMI, his research, and more.

Interactions: What guided your decision to dedicate the next stage of your research career to MPMI?

Detlef Weigel: My path to MPMI was rather circuitous. Genetics is my first love, and genetic phenomena of any kind appeal to me. Almost 15 years ago, Janne Lempe and Kirsten Bomblies in my lab discovered a syndrome of Arabidopsis hybrid weakness that we at first interpreted as a developmental abnormality. We quickly learned that this syndrome was not specific to Arabidopsis spp. and that it was already well known from many wild and cultivated plants, for which it is called “hybrid necrosis.” Anybody in the MPMI field knows that necrosis is often a hallmark of pathogen infection. Nevertheless, we were apparently the first ones to recognize that inappropriate immune reactions in the absence of pathogens were most likely the defining characteristics of this phenomenon, rather than developmental defects.

For us, one of the attractions of studying hybrid necrosis was that we thought it would teach us about speciation, but after many thousands of crosses and having cloned quite a few of the causal genes, we realized that hybrid necrosis has much more to do with how the plant balances the demands on its immune system. With too little immunity, the plant will succumb too quickly to infection, but with too much immunity, the plant will damage itself. Hybrid necrosis occurs when components of the immune system are mismatched, and these components begin to signal even if there is no pathogen trigger. Satisfyingly, the molecular observations in Arabidopsis spp. seemed to match similar observations in several other species. As a matter of fact, with hindsight we realized that the first case of hybrid necrosis that was molecularly understood predated our own work in Arabidopsis—namely, the study of the tomato Cf-2/Rcr3 system by Jonathan Jones.

In parallel with our efforts to clone the causal genes for hybrid necrosis in Arabidopsis spp., we could confirm through our whole-genome resequencing and sequencing studies that immune genes—particularly those of the NLR class but also of other smaller families—are the most diverse genes in the Arabidopsis genome. This, in turn, made us wonder what drives this diversity—hence, our current obsession with trying to understand the relationship between Arabidopsis and its natural pathogens in the real world.

I: What do you see as the next big challenge in this field of research?

DW: The MPMI field has already revealed in exquisite detail many of the molecular mechanisms that allow pathogenic and symbiotic microbes to infect plants, as well as a plethora of mechanisms that plants use to either accommodate or ward off microbes. It is also clear that many of these molecular interactions are evolutionarily very fluid—perhaps the best example being the ease with which pathogens often jettison effectors. However, what this means in an ecological context is much less obvious. I therefore see as a big challenge how we can integrate the advanced molecular knowledge with an understanding of the interaction between wild plants and their microbes in the real world and how this changes over ecological and evolutionary time scales. To begin to dissect these, we need to know much more not only about the spatial and temporal distribution of hosts and microbes but also about their fine-scale genetic variation in effectors, resistance genes, and so on. My dream is to learn how genetic diversity in wild plant species maps onto the diversity of their microbiota (and vice versa) and what genetic, molecular, and ecological mechanisms relate the two. To this end, we recently started an ambitious effort, which we call “Patho(gens in Arabi)dopsis,” or “Pathodopsis” for short, to generate such foundational data. It would be fantastic to initiate such efforts in many other species. So far, the focus has mostly been on local populations, such as the impressive long-term studies by Anna-Liisa Laine in Finland and Jeremy Burdon and colleagues in Australia. I would love to see the sorts of insights they have gathered across the entire geographic ranges of many different plant species.

I: Symbiotic relationships between plants and microbes have been occurring for hundreds of millions of years, and we are only studying a tiny “snapshot” in the history of these interactions. How can we extrapolate our observations to better understand MPMI and improve the resistance capacity of agricultural crops?

DW: I agree that we need to have a better understanding of how wild plant pathosystems are different from agricultural systems. Whether the information from the wild systems is directly useful for agricultural systems is difficult to know beforehand, although it is probably safe to assume that increased immune system diversity in individual agricultural fields would most likely be helpful—an idea that has been advocated, for example, by Bruce McDonald. I like to think that with agriculture, we have often “broken” long-term stable interactions, and we need to learn what confers long-term stability before we can fix the broken state. I realize that to this end, I need to learn a lot more ecology, and I am benefitting in this area greatly from my collaboration with Joy Bergelson.

I: Your recent paper in PLoS Genetics highlights how interactions between NLRs from different species might affect the fitness of progeny. Do you feel that NLR interactions are a driving force in speciation?

DW: It is an attractive hypothesis, and I would not be surprised if there are cases of speciation or population divergence caused by inappropriate NLR interactions, but they are unlikely to be major drivers, because NLR variants typically do not become fixed in species. Having said this, there is a minority of NLR genes that seem to have very little, if any, variability, and these highly conserved NLR genes probably deserve more attention.

I: Do you plan to continue your research on plant development and adaptation? What do you hope to gain from your IS-MPMI membership?

DW: There is very little developmental work going on in my lab these days, as we have pivoted almost completely to genomic variation and plant immunity. As plant biologists, we are sometimes annoyed when animal biologists lump us all together simply because we all study plants, but I actually see this as a great advantage of our field. Beginning with the very first Arabidopsis conference that I attended in 1990, a large fraction of the plant meetings I have gone to have included at least a bit of plant immunity. Moreover, at the Salk Institute, I worked next to the late Chris Lamb, who was an important early figure in MPMI, and I have been lucky enough to have had Jeff Dangl as a friend for many years—a friendship that eventually turned into a very productive and enjoyable long-term collaboration. In addition, I have had the good fortune of having served on the board of The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL) for several years, where I have received a tremendous education in MPMI from colleagues such as Cyril Zipfel, Sophien Kamoun, Silke Robatzek, David Baulcombe, and John Rathjen.

Even though I’m still somewhat of an amateur when it comes to MPMI, it is what I think about most these days, so it seemed only natural to join IS-MPMI. Not a small contributor to this step was that I have come to know the work of the three most recent IS-MPMI presidents very well: Sophien Kamoun’s work because of my association with the TSL and also through several collaborative projects, Sheng Yang He’s work because of my recently emerged interest in Pseudomonas biology, and Regine Kahmann’s work because she is a Max Planck colleague with whom I meet very regularly.

I: Much of your research engages interdisciplinary and international interactions. What methods/tools do you use to initiate and foster these interactions?

DW: Tool number 1: an open mind. I strongly believe that almost everybody we meet can teach us something—both inside and outside science. In other words, if one respects others and their research, even if it’s not automatically one’s own “cup of tea,” then productive interactions with a wide range of colleagues, both in different disciplines and in a wide range of institutions, are essentially preprogrammed.

I: Many students and some early post-docs are undecided on their ultimate career paths academia/industry/government/other). What advice do you give students and early post-docs in your research group who might need help making this decision?

DW: Many colleagues, both old and young, equate science only with academia, which is very shortsighted. Science has many different incarnations, from blue-sky discovery to translational and applied research, but also when we use the tools of scientific thinking and reasoning to make the world around us a better place. In the end, it is about personal proclivities and what career paths best fit one’s own personality along with the demands of family and friends. Somebody who is geographically more constrained because of a partner or parents must, of course, be more open minded about different careers—which is perfectly OK!


December 17
Stay Tuned! Shimamoto Travel Awards for 2019 IS-MPMI Congress

IS-MPMI will be distributing travel awards for eligible students, post-docs, and early career professionals to attend the IS-MPMI XVIII Congress, July 14-18, 2019 in Glasgow, Scotland. 

Awards up to $1,500 (depending on travel distance) will be given to pay for registration, travel, and/or lodging expenses. Award selection will be based on the quality of the applicant's science reflected in the research abstract, impact statement and curriculum vita. 

October 23
In Memory: Jonathan Walton, 1953-2018

Jonathan Walton, Acting Director, Molecular Plant Sciences Program, Department of Plant Biology at Michigan State University, passed away October 18, 2018. Jonathan served as IS-MPMI President from 2003-2005. He also was the editor-in-chief of Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions and a fellow of the American Phytopathological Society. IS-MPMI is grateful for Jonathan's service to the society; his passing is a great loss to he society and his field. Our thoughts are with his family and friends during this time. Find a full obituary online here.

September 27
Pierre de Wit Receives 2018 Jakob Eriksson Prize

IS-MPMI member Pierre de Wit is the 2018 recipient of the Jakob Eriksson Prize, awarded by the International Society of Plant Pathology at the International Congress of Plant Pathology (ICPP2018). The Eriksson Prize is the highest international honor for achievement in plant pathology. Established in 1923, the prize encourages creative study of plant pathogens and the processes of disease development in plants. The prize is named for Jakob Eriksson (1848–1931), a prominent Swedish mycologist and plant pathologist who was an international leader. The prize was first awarded in 1930 and has since been awarded to 11 individuals from seven countries.

de Wit has been a pioneer in molecular plant pathology and plant–microbe interactions research. Among his many accomplishments, he was instrumental in introducing molecular biology techniques into phytopathology research. He has authored or co-authored close to 200 articles, several of which have been published in high-impact scientific journals. de Wit is also an elected member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and received the Academy Professor Prize in 2008, the Emil Christian Hansen Gold Medal Award from the Carlsberg Foundation in 1996, and the Noel Keen Award from The American Phytopathological Society in 2007.

A recording of de Wit’s lecture at ICPP2018 is available online.​

​​Pierre de Wit receives the Jakob Eriksson Prize. From left to right: Mauritz Ramstedt, Chair of the Jakob Eriksson Commission; Pierre de Wit; Ulla Gjörstrup, representative of the Swedish Consul in Boston.

What area(s) of molecular plant–microbe interactions do you feel your research has impacted most?

As an MSc student at Wageningen University in the 1970s, I was intrigued by lectures on the gene-for-gene hypothesis proposed in the 1940s by Professor Oort in the Netherlands for wheat and Ustilago tritici and by Harold Flor in the U.S.A. for flax and Melampsora lini. I was fortunate to be offered a PhD position and having the freedom to choose my own research subject. I ended up studying the interaction between tomato and Cladosporium fulvum. I witnessed different episodes in the research on gene-for-gene systems. At the third ICPP in Munich in 1978—the first international congress that I attended—research was focused on elicitors and their capacity to more quickly induce phytoalexins in incompatible interactions than in compatible ones. My role models at that congress were Noël Keen, Peter Albersheim, and Joseph Kuć. Their research inspired me to carry on in times when I did not make much progress in my own research. Phytoalexins have now become popular as health-enhancing phytochemicals (such as resveratrol, glyceollin, polyphenols, etc.). I was surprised to read an article recently that the tomato phytoalexin falcarindiol, which we discovered in tomato in 1981, is also a potential drug, inhibiting human cancer cell lines. In addition to phytoalexins, we studied the role of antifungal pathogenesis-related proteins, including chitinases and β-1,3-glucanases in incompatible interactions. However, the breakthrough came when we started to study apoplastic fluids from tomato leaves infected by C. fulvum, which appeared to contain many proteinaceous elicitors—the products of fungal avirulence (Avr) genes recognized by cognate Cf receptor-like proteins in tomato. Then, very soon, the specificity question was solved. In the absence of cognate Cf-proteins, race-specific elicitors (now called “effectors”) suppress defense responses induced by nonspecific (glyco) protein fungal elicitors (now called “pathogen-associated molecular patterns,” or PAMPs), and in the presence of cognate Cf proteins, they induce a Cf-mediated defense response. With a very enthusiastic group of MSc students, PhD students, and post-docs, we have cloned many C. fulvum effectors, and for some of them, the structure and function have been elucidated. Many of the PhD students and post-docs now occupy prestigious academic positions, and I see the Jakob Eriksson Prize also as a recognition of their contributions to my research.

What advice do you have for young scientists aspiring to achieve the level of science that has major impact?

There is no guidebook that leads to success in science. Everybody stands on the shoulders of other scientists who have pioneered and partly paved roads in different research directions. There are still many fundamental and applied research questions in plant–microbe interactions that need to be addressed and solved in order to get more sustainable agriculture. I grew up on a farm and was motivated to find alternatives for the use of pesticides after reading the book Silent Spring, written by Rachel Carson in 1962. I still strongly believe in the power of disease resistance breeding in sustainable agriculture together with healthy soils and biocontrol agents when no resistance genes are available. The genomics era opens new ways to address and solve difficult research questions. However, to become successful in science, talent is not enough; ambition, curiosity, inspiration, loving your work, endurance, and not being afraid of working hard and making mistakes are equally important. However, it is also important to get sufficient time to develop a new research line after your PhD, which is not easy, as tenure positions are becoming rare in many countries.

When you were a post-doc, what had the largest influence on your decision to enter your specific research area in your permanent position? Was this a “hot topic” at the time, or did you choose to go in a different direction?

I was very fortunate to obtain a permanent position already during my PhD, as I was hired to assist in teaching and work on my PhD project. This gave me more time to develop my PhD project than a regular PhD student. If I had been allowed to work on my PhD project for only 4 years, I would never have discovered the race-specific elicitors of C. fulvum and their encoding genes. After my PhD, I received a Fulbright Fellowship to work 1 year in the U.S.A. in the laboratory of Professor Joseph Kuć at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, which allowed me to continue my research project and interact with researchers working on induced systemic resistance against pathogens in different crops. At that time, research on gene-for-gene interactions was a hot topic, as well as research on local and systemic resistance, and they still are. 

August 17
IS-MPMI Members Deliver Plenary and Keynote Addresses at ICPP2018

IS-MPMI members (right, clockwise) Saskia Hogenhout, Steven Lindow, Wenbo Ma, and Sophien Kamoun delivered keynote addresses during the International Congress of Plant Pathology (ICPP2018) in Boston. Pierre De Wit (left) received the prestigious Jakob Erikkson Prize and delivered an address during the opening plenary session. A recording of the opening plenary and photos from the congress are now available online. Thank you to all IS-MPMI members who attended ICPP2018! 

June 15
Satellite Meetings at IS-MPMI XVIII Congress Announced

Read about the satellite meetings you'll find in Scotland! Register to attend a Satellite Meeting when you register for the congress. Registration to open in early 2019!

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