April 2010

Symposium: Biochemistry and Cell Biology of ESCRTs in Health and Disease


James Hurley

The endosomal sorting complex required for transport (ESCRT) system is a conserved pathway for membrane budding and scission with roles in endolysosomal sorting and receptor downregulation, autophagy, the egress of enveloped viruses, including HIV-1, and cell division. ESCRT research has been central to the endosome-to-lysosome sorting field since the discovery of the ESCRTs almost a decade ago. More recently, ESCRT research has become important to other areas: Elucidating ESCRT function is increasingly important in understanding the budding of enveloped viruses, and, defects in the ESCRT pathway have been implicated in neurological diseases. Thus, the short conference on ESCRTs will span ESCRT-ology, from basic biophysical and structural mechanisms, all the way to the clinic.

Phyllis Hanson

Despite their expanding numbers, North American ESCRT researchers never have had a dedicated ESCRT conference. Worldwide, there has been only one symposium on the topic, a two-day conference organized by the Biochemical Society and held in Cambridge, U.K., in 2008. Polling of the field within the United States and Canada made clear that there was a strong desire to sustain the momentum built at that meeting and to involve greater numbers of younger North American researchers. This fall’s ASBMB-sponsored meeting will fill this need and will be a must-attend for endolysosomal-trafficking specialists, structural biologists and membrane biophysicists interested in ESCRT mechanism, and cell biologists, virologists and clinical researchers interested in cell division, autophagy, viral budding and neurological diseases.

The meeting will begin with a session on the fundamental mechanisms and structures that underpin ESCRT action and will continue with five sessions on the roles of ESCRTs in various aspects of cell function and disease. The role of ESCRTs in cargo sorting and multivesicular-body biogenesis will be addressed in the first of the five sessions. The session will feature several speakers who pioneered early ESCRT studies and will illustrate how far the field has come and set the stage for the sessions on “newer” roles for ESCRTs. Much of the more recent attention to the ESCRT system has come from the fact that they are required for the detachment of viral buds from the plasma membrane of infected human cells. The session on HIV-1 will feature talks by two of the co-discoverers of this role and will be chaired by another pioneer in the area. The key finding in ESCRT biology in 2007 was the complex’s role in severing the narrow membrane neck connecting dividing cells at the last stage of mammalian cytokinesis. The session on development and cell division will feature the leaders in this area and will highlight the roles of ESCRTs in development in plants and other organisms. The junction of receptor endocytosis and endolysosomal sorting has important implications for signal transduction and cancer, which will be highlighted in the session on receptor downregulation and cancer. The emerging role of ESCRTs in autophagy will be explored in both this session and the subsequent session. The clinical implications of ESCRT dysfunction extend to several classes of disease – but most prominently to neurological diseases. The last session will be, to our knowledge, the first conference session to focus on ESCRTs in neurological disease.

Biochemistry and Cell Biology of ESCRTs in Health and Disease
Oct. 14 – 17, 2010
Snowbird Resort, Snowbird, Utah
Short talk and poster abstract submission deadline: July 30, 2010  Early registration deadline: July 30, 2010

We are very pleased to have Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz present the keynote lecture. She is one of the world’s leading cell biologists and is best known for her work on the Golgi apparatus and for co-developing the photoactivated localization microscopy (PALM) technique for superresolution microscopy. Jennifer’s lectures are well known for their high-energy, beautiful images and movies and paradigm-challenging insights.

We appreciate that these are challenging times for funding, and, by keeping the meeting short and centrally located, we hope to keep costs down. For those who are not able to attend the meeting, we will have an archived webcast of the sessions.

James Hurley (jh8e@nih.gov) is at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and Phyllis Hanson (phanson22@wustl.edu) is an associate professor at the Washington University School of Medicine.

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