Travel grants to go - William Tasker-Brown

01 October 2018 - By: William Tasker-Brown

Travel grants to go - William Tasker-Brown

Billy Tasker-Brown
William Tasker- Brown. Photo: Rosa Furneaux


William travelled to: Turku, Finland to attend the “International Conference on Arabidopsis Research 2018” and present his research entitled “Genes involved in Gynoecium development, recruit cell cycle machinery”.

“The establishment of symmetry in organs and multicellular organisms requires tight spatial and temporal coordination of cell division, cell differentiation and cell expansion. The Arabidopsis gynoecium undergoes an interesting and rare symmetry switch during development, from the bilateral ovary to the radially symmetrical style. Two bHLH transcription factors, SPATULA (SPT) and INDEHISCENT (IND) control auxin dynamics and the cell cycle in order for the symmetry transition to take place. In a SPT IND double mutant, a failure to make the transition to the radial style results in sterility. Remarkably, misexpression of IND and SPT in a bilateral leaf can cause the leaf to be fully radial, demonstrating that these genes are master regulators of radiality. My hypothesis is that downstream of these transcription factors the cell division plane is oriented in order to make this symmetry transition possible. I am studying cell division by visualising microtubules in order to understand whether the cell division plane is controlled by the auxin maxima at the gynoecium apex”, explains Billy.

“The International Conference on Arabidopsis Research (ICAR) 2018 was held in the city of Turku, Finland. The conference fully displayed the diversity of research conducted on the model organism, Arabidopsis thaliana. We are now in an era where the latest technology can be utilised in polyploid crop species such as wheat, yet despite these developments, Arabidopsis research is still pioneering and exciting” says Billy.

“All three keynote speakers: Prof. Alison Smith, Prof. Dominique Bergmann and Prof. Tetsuya Higashiyama, were excellent. Alison Smith kick-started the conference with an engaging talk on starch degradation in the leaf during the night: Arabidopsis plants degrade all of their starch perfectly during the night whether the day is 4 hours long or 12 hours long. Amazingly plants can anticipate that a night will be longer (i.e. when Alison’s lab turn off the lights 4 hours early) by slowing down the rate of starch degradation.

Dominique Bergmann also gave a stimulating talk on the stomatal lineage, a powerful system to study protein function and evolution. Her group has been pioneering several techniques such as single-cell RNAseq and a BioID based method in order to better characterise cell identity and capture the nuclear proteomes of different stages in the stomatal lineage. Professor Higshiyama wrapped up the conference with a fascinating talk discussing new technologies developed in his lab including a group of photostable fluorophores (prex710), a new version of the clearsee protocol for whole-plant fluorescence imaging and a new photoactivated nuclei stain called Kakshine. He neatly demonstrated this technology by writing ‘kakshine’ using root nuclei.

I also attended two inspiring workshops, one on microscopy techniques and one entitled ‘Communicating Science in the age of fake news: broadening your impact’. The former introduced different microscopy techniques including light sheet microscopy and two-photon microscopy; the latter involved a brainstorming session about how to better reach the public in the post-truth era.

There were also some fantastic social events that prompted some great interactions with other scientists. The welcome reception was held in an excellent local brewery, where the food was only topped by the beer. The next day we took a trip out to a tiny island, Loisokari, where a BBQ had been laid out for us and the final conference dinner was held in the town fire station, a memorable venue!

My poster, entitled ‘Cell division plane orientation during symmetry establishment’, prompted some productive discussions with Prof Michael Lenhard and Prof Tom Beeckmann, among others. I was given some enlightening feedback, and drew inspiration from some of the other posters there. I have already started to plan and act on the experiments that were suggested including a simple drug assay, and a method that measures cell wall thickness to determine the most recent cell division planes.

All together this conference was a brilliant opportunity for all who attended. It fostered a collaborative atmosphere within the Arabidopsis community and I got to meet and discuss my project with various eminent scientists.”

Category: Cell Biology
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