Reports from ICAR 2013 – Nur Izzati Mohd Noh

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Published on: August 7, 2013

The second of our posts from ICAR 2013 travel bursary awardees is from Nur Izzati Mohammed Noh, a PhD student in the Signal Transduction Group at the University of Cambridge.

From the 24th until 28th of June I was in Sydney, Australia, for ICAR 2013, and I had a chance to present a poster of my work. That was my first experience attending an international conference and I met a lot of great scientists who have done amazing studies on Arabidopsis. Here are some of the interesting topics that were presented in the conference: 

  • Ian Small (Western University of Australia) described his group’s studies on PRR (pentatricopeptide repeat) proteins, which are important for plant development. PRRs can recognise a specific sequence present in RNA to control gene expression. Ian’s group has also identified two arginine methylation genes, PRMT10 and PRMT5, involved in autonomous pathway and flowering time regulation. PRMT10 is a plant specific protein, whereas PRMT5 has a close homolog of human PRMT5. Together, PRMTs control plant development by regulating RNA splicing.
  • Gonzalo Estavillo (Australian National University) gave a talk on retrograde signalling and drought. It is known that organelles can act as sensors in order to tolerate environmental stress. However, how organelles are involved in this process is a big question to be answered. Estavillo’s group propose that plants can tolerate drought stress via SAL1 and PAP interaction.
  • Schwarz N. presented work on localisation and membrane interaction of zeaxanthin epoxidase (ZEP). ZEP is required for non-photochemical quenching (NPQ) and abscisic acid (ABA) biosynthesis. Schwarz’s group has successfully identified AtZE1, a protein involved in both pathways. Interestingly, the study showed that AtZE1 can localise at two different locations in the chloroplast. It is thylakoid bound for NPQ and envelope bound for ABA synthesis. AtZE1 is a peripheral protein and has hydrophobic interactions with the membrane.
  • Geoff Fincher (University of Adelaide) gave a nice talk on the application of plant cell walls for bioenergy and human health. Cellulose has been used widely for biofuel production. However, production of fermentable sugars is low because cellulose is difficult to degrade. Therefore, an alternative method using agnostic conversion of lignocelluloses to produce fermentable sugars has been developed. Cell wall biomass is also known as non-starch polysaccharides (NSP), which is a good human dietary fibre resource.
  • Luis Herrera-Estrella’s (Laboratorio Nacional De Genomica Para La Biodiversidad) group has developed a novel fertilisation and weed control system in order to overcome limited phosphate resources in agricultural ecosystems. The group has found a Bacillus strain that can adopt to a low phosphate environment. This bacteria uses phosphite as a phosphate source, and Herrera mentioned that phosphite can be a superior alternative to phosphate fertiliser. However, plants cannot assimilate phosphite even though phosphite can enter plants in the same way as phosphate, so the group have produced transgenic Arabidopsis and tobacco lines expressing PTXD from the Bacillus strain. These transgenic lines can grow in phosphite-rich environment.

In short, ICAR 2013 gave me a good opportunity meet new people and introduced me to new research areas. Apart from the rain, I enjoyed my time in the conference and Sydney so much. I would also like to thank the organisers for such a great hospitality, and Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre was a good choice for this conference.

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