BLACKSBURG, Va., January 25, 2007 – Researchers from the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) recently gave invited talks at the International Plant and Animal Genome XV Conference. The conference, which was held on January 13-17, 2007, in San Diego, Calif., provides a forum to discuss recent developments and future plans for plant and animal genome projects.

VBI Associate Professor Christopher Lawrence presented a talk entitled, “The Alternaria brassicicola genome project: current status of annotation and applications for health-related research across host kingdoms.” During his talk he highlighted recent progress on the sequencing of the Alternaria brassicicola genome in collaboration with Washington University Genome Sequencing Center in St. Louis, Mo. In addition, he demonstrated how the genome sequence in combination with functional genomics technologies developed in his laboratory at VBI are already being used to identify Alternaria genes and proteins important for the development of diseases of plants (in particular Brassicas) and human airway disorders such as chronic sinus disease. This work is being done in collaboration with researchers at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., and the University of Buffalo’s School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Buffalo, N.Y.

VBI Professor Brett Tyler presented at three workshops covering large-insert DNA libraries and their applications, plant development and signal networks and host-microbe interactions. His talks focused on research on Phytophthora sojae, which is a serious root pathogen of soybean that has been developed as a model oomycete. His talks entitled “Integrated physical map and genome sequence of the soybean pathogen Phytophthora sojae reveals clustering of pathogenicity genes into regions of elevated genome fluidity,” and “Bioinformatics and functional genomics of pathogenicity in the soybean pathogen Phytophthora sojae,” described the identification of rapidly diversifying gene families that encode potential pathogenicity factors within the genome sequence of P. sojae. His talk entitled “Inference of gene networks controlling quantitative resistance in soybean against Phytophthora sojae,” described a collaboration with other researchers at VBI (Ina Hoeschele), Virginia Tech (Saghai Maroof) and Ohio State University (Anne Dorrance and Steve St. Martin) that is aimed at using genetical genomics to infer the genetic networks that control the responses of resistant and susceptible soybean plants to P. sojae infection.

Trudy Torto-Alalibo, senior research associate and PAMGO project coordinator in Tyler’s research group, presented a talk entitled, “Plant-Associated Microbe Gene Ontology (PAMGO): A community resource of gene ontology terms describing gene products involved in microbe-host interactions.” The PAMGO consortium is a collaboration between VBI, Cornell University, North Carolina State University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the TIGR Division of the J.C. Venter Institute and the European Bioinformatics Institute in the United Kingdom. The consortium members work to develop clearly defined, controlled terms to describe the biology of a broad variety of microbe-host interactions.

Funding for all the work presented was provided by the National Science Foundation and the National Research Initiative of the United States Department of Agriculture Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (USDA CSREES).

This year the conference included more than 70 workshops and sessions. Several agencies from the United States Department of Agriculture, the Rockefeller Foundation, the John Innes Center and the International Society for Plant Molecular Biology sponsored the conference.


Sarah Larkins

Published by Guest, January 24, 2007