Here’s my brief roundup of day two at The EMBO Meeting.
It started with Susan Lindquist‘s excellent talk on how cells react to stress by synthesising lots of new heat-shock proteins, which help proteins to fold properly. Susan discussed Hsp90 in more detail. It’s a highly specific protein chaperone, helping diverse signalling proteins to fold. Hsp90 is expressed at levels about 10 times higher than required, and thereby serves as a buffer for genetic variation: In Drosophila, removal of one copy of Hsp90 uncovered effects of hidden genetic variation – about 1% of the flies had developmental defects, depending on their genetic backgrounds. The same was true for Arabidopsis. Susan presented a lot more fascinating data on the inheritance of environmentally acquired traits via prions, and you can find a short film on her here.
I then attended the afternoon session, “Balancing potency and specification in the embryo”, which was opened by Janet Rossant. She presented her lab’s work on the role of the Hippo pathway in the specification of trophoblast and inner cell mass. Next was Wolf Reik, who talked about the profiles of methylation and hydroxymethylation in ES cells. Miguel Manzanares compared the embryonic pluripotency network in chick and in mouse, concluding that it is an evolutionarily young concept in mammals. Next was Claire Chazaud‘s study on a later step in pre-implantation development, primitive endoderm differentiation. Takashi Hiiragi and his lab have developed an impressive live-imaging system to track cell behaviour and address stochasticity in gene expression in pre-implantation mouse embryos. Finally, Alfonso Martinez Arias talked about the regulation of the pluripotency network and how this modulates the balance between self-renewal and differentiation of mouse ES cells. After the session I had a chance to interview Janet Rossant, keep an eye out for it here on The Node!
In the evening I went to the Scientific Publishing Session, where Bernd Pulverer presented his thoughts and ideas on the future of scientific publishing. If you ever have a chance to go to one of his talks, take the opportunity – it’s definitely interesting and thought-provoking!