JAMS August 2011 meeting report by Karl Hassan

An enthusiastic crowd of around 50 gathered to see out the winter months on the last day of August at another great JAMS meeting at the Australian Museum. The JAMS series brings together research microbiologists, including post-docs, PhD students and senior researchers, working in non-clinical projects from institutes throughout the Sydney region. The JAMS organisers would like to thank the Australian Museum for providing the fantastic venue for the meetings, as well as the Australian Society for Microbiology for sponsoring the event to provide pizza and drinks.

The JAMS schedule includes two short (15 minute) talks followed by a break for pizza and drinks and a longer (45 minute) presentation from a distinguished guest. The August meeting saw all three speakers travelling from outside NSW to present their work, Luke Barrett and Andrew King from the CSIRO in Canberra and Joyce Loper from Oregon State University. The work presented inadvertently turned out to follow a Pseudomonas theme, due at least in part to the Pseudomonas 2011 conference held in Sydney during early September.

In the first short talk, Luke Barret described social interactions of plant pathogenic Pseudomonas syringae strains displaying virulence polymorphisms. These polymorphisms, e.g. in type III secretion systems which mediate interactions with plant hosts, are maintained at high levels in populations of P. syringae on the plant host Arabidopsis thaliana. Luke described experiments showing that less virulent strains display a fitness advantage in non-host environments and that the cost of their lower virulence potential is reduced in co-infection with more virulent strains. In the second short talk Andrew King took us on a virtual tour of a high alpine region where he had investigated the composition of bacterial communities at sites separated by distances of between 2 and 2000 meters. Interestingly, Andrew observed significant autocorrelation of community composition across large spatial scales. Furthermore, Andrew was able to relate the relative abundance of the bacterial species to the properties of the soil in the local environment. The final talk saw a return to the theme of Pseudomonas as Joyce Loper described the significant value of genome sequences in identifying and deciphering novel features of plant beneficial biocontrol pseudomonads. These bacteria are able to control plant pathogens, primarily via the production of bioactive secondary metabolites and exoenzymes. Joyce has used genome sequence information for a group of phylogenetically diverse biocontrol Pseudomonas spp. to gauge their potential to produce secondary metabolites and exoenzymes. Joyce and her collaborators have further capitalised on this analysis by conducting a number of functional genomic analyses, e.g. transcriptomic analyses to identify the secondary metabolites most important for biocontrol phenotypes.

The next JAMS meeting is scheduled for September 28, 6-9pm, and subsequent meetings will take place on the last Wednesday of every month. Information on dates and speakers can be found on the JAMS website.