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The 2014 European Fly Neurobiology Conference

Posted by , on 15 May 2015

The ‘Biennial European Fly Neurobiology Conference’ is now more commonly known by its other name, ‘Neurofly’. And as of today, it has been about 7 months since the last Neurofly, which took place in October 2014 along a shore of the island Crete. Off the top of my head, the meeting was held at the Creta Maris Convention Centre. I do not recollect exactly how many Neurofly meetings have taken place (14, 15, 16?), and I am now guessing Neurofly 2014 took place sometime between the 10th and 19th of October. I do remember there was a good approval by show-of-hands on the last day of Neurofly to have the next meeting in Greece again.

Attending Neurofly was such as pleasure, I think, but now I find myself asking why it had been such a pleasure. I mentally draw out the landscape of a welcoming sandy beach… with a relaxing 5-star resort nearby… occupied by fellow friends and colleagues… who gathered in groups for meals and poster sessions, very much engaged in catch-up and scientific discussions… We listened to lectures and short talks in an air-conditioned conference hall. It is always fun to communicate our own research and to listen to those of others, yet calling forth detailed contents of each talk purely on memory is naturally impossible. I know the opening afternoon of Neurofly was graced with 2 plenary lectures, of which the first speaker discussed the complexity of Notch signalling. The second speaker discussed the [daresay] necessary biology of forgetting, in which dopamine signalling is involved.

More accurately, there has been 15 Neurofly to date and the 15th took place on the shores of Hersonissos on Crete from Sunday, 5th October, to Thursday, 9th October 2014. A welcoming first day greeted attendees at the Creta Maris Convention Centre with two plenary lectures in the late afternoon. Spyros Artavanis-Tsakonas had expertly navigated the convoluted complexity of the Notch signaling pathway while Ron Davis, lest we forget, took us back in time to 1974, just over 40 years ago, to explore the milestones in Drosophila memory research since. The history was followed on by Davis putting forward that the biology of forgetting is necessary, being also a form of ‘homeostasis’ after a learning event, and that dopamine signaling is key in memory acquisition and forgetting.

Amongst the talks in the Development and Differentiation session, Angela Giangrande seeks to decode the molecular interactions between transcriptional fate determinants which drive stable glial cell fate. Glia depends on the glial cell missing (Gcm) transcription factor and the reverse polarity (Repo) homeodomain protein to dictate neural stem cells for choice of either neuronal or glial identity. The Giangrande research team demonstrated an existence of a temporal sequence of regulatory loops. In the earlier part of the sequence, Gcm controls its own level of expression until the threshold necessary to trigger gliogenesis is reached. As soon as this threshold is achieved, a Gcm target starts to degrade Gcm itself to allow a stable differentiation of glia. Repo acts together with Gcm such that the level of the former also ascends and reaches threshold after Gcm’s peak. Then Repo acts by inhibiting Gcm to influence the outcome of cell differentiation into glia.

Another interesting talk was given by Jean-Maurice Dura, who expanded the Wnt5/Derailed-mediated axon guidance mechanism from more familiar grounds and into fascinating new landscape with its descriptions of ligand capturing and receptor shedding during brain development. A personal highlight was the work of Adel Dunayevskyy and Adi Salzberg from the Technion-Israel Institute of Techology in Israel. Salzberg talked about examining an enigmatic phenomenon of numbers in developmental biology. A cluster of five proprioceptive chordotonal organs contains five neuron, five scolopale cells, five cap cells, five ligament cells…, but only two cap attachment (CA) cells. Indeed, it must be a case of ‘five minus three’ CA cells for proper morphogenesis. For even when developmental apoptosis is perturbed, the developing organ insists to eliminate unwanted excess cells and it does so by switching on autophagy.

On day 3 of Neurofly, there was a window of opportunity between talks and dinner time for attendees to visit Knossos Palace, a relic from the Bronze Age and an archaeological site amidst beautiful hilly surroundings. The day eventually led to scientists and accompanying guests feeding on the gastronomic delights of Cretan dishes at the Cretan Thematic Park.

During dinner, I took interest in the history of Neurofly, specifically on how it started. This sparked a discussion on past Neurofly events at the dinner table. The scientists sitting with me on this conversation were 2 of the 4 host organisers, Efthimios Skoulakis and Maria Monastirioti, and Carsten Duch. We didn’t get to find out how and why Neurofly started, but we did gather a list of past Neurofly locations. Here is the initial list which we came up with:

  1. ?
  2. ?
  3. 1990 – ?
  4. 1992 – Glasgow, UK
  5. 1994 – Regensbourg, Germany
  6. 1996 – Würzburg, Germany
  7. 1998 – Warwick, UK
  8. 2000 – ?
  9. 2002 – Alicante, Spain
  10. 2004 – Dijon, France
  11. 2006 – Würzburg, Germany
  12. 2008 – Manchester, UK
  13. 2010 – Belgium
  14. 2012 – Padua, Italy
  15. 2014 – Crete (Hersonissos), Greece

After the meeting, I found out that everyone was fairly good in recollecting past Neurofly locations. I refined the list through an update of the year-location pairing, and I found out that the 1st to 11th meeting were known in their time as the ‘European Meeting on the Neurogenetics of Drosophila’. Here is the updated list:

  1. 1986 – Simonswald, Germany
  2. 1988 – ?
  3. 1990 – Saint-Rémy, France
  4. 1992 – Glasgow, UK
  5. 1994 – Montpellier, France
  6. 1996 – Regensbourg, Germany
  7. 1998 – Warwick, UK
  8. 2000 – Alicante, Spain
  9. 2002 – Dijon, France
  10. 2004 – Neuchatel, Switzerland
  11. 2006 – Leuven, Belgium
  12. 2008 – Würzburg, Germany
  13. 2010 – Manchester, UK
  14. 2012 – Padua, Italy
  15. 2014 – Crete (Hersonissos), Greece

The venue of the second Neurofly remains unknown. Should anyone uncover the mysterious location, please respond by commenting below.

It has been a pleasure for me to report on Neurofly 2014. If you’re interested in attending the next Neurofly meeting, keep an eye on the upcoming meetings webpage hosted by FlyBase.



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