Evolution and Core Processes in Gene Expression

May 9-12, 2019, Michigan State University, Lansing, MI                                    

Organized by:

David Arnosti, Michigan State Univ.; Ingo Braasch, Michigan State Univ.; Justin Fay, Washington Univ. in St. Louis; Shin-han Shiu, Michigan State Univ.; Julia Zeitlinger, Stowers Inst.

Meeting Description: 

Focus: Connections between gene expression and evolution, bringing in new aspects of plant genomics and computational evolution

Evolutionary processes operate at all levels of gene expression, and increasingly detailed mechanistic understanding has provided rich hunting grounds for pathways and processes that underlie evolutionary variation. We have focused in our previous three meetings on bringing together researchers expert in the biochemistry of gene expression with evolutionary researchers working on humans and model organisms (microbial and animal, mostly non-plant). Our participants have described the latest approaches in physical, genetic, and genomic sciences that complement the molecular understanding of transcriptional, RNA processing, and translational machines. Attendees of previous meetings have been especially pleased with the wide disciplinary scope of our talks, as well as the high quality of invited speakers. We see much new ground to break in this area, including further exploration of how systems biology data points to the combined effects of evolutionary variation in central and peripheral processes (not simply changes that affect enhancers of specific target genes). 

Two specific areas in which Michigan State University scientists will bring special expertise to the 2019 meeting include strength in plant genetics and genomics, an area anchored by outstanding researchers of the DOE-supported Plant Research Laboratory and over 100 faculty in related sciences. Because of a historical cleft between plant and non-plant biological departments, programs, journals, and funding agencies, there remains a surprising level of ignorance between groups identified as “plant” and “non-4 plant”. Clearly, many individual research programs and studies explore the interfaces, but the essential outlines of the Central Dogma that is key to gene expression (in particular the biochemical aspects) has been built on microbial and metazoan, not plant, systems. At the same time plants offer a degree of sophistication in metabolic pathways that put animals to shame, and the evolutionary diversification and selection of these paths offer important lessons in molecular evolutionary “engineering”.

A second area of excellence at Michigan State University is computational evolution, a hybrid study area that has led to the creation of the NSF-supported BEACON (“evolution in action”) center. BEACON brings together scientists such as Richard Lenski, famous for his studies of in-laboratory evolution of bacteria, with computational scientists Erik Goodman, Charles Ofria and Wolfgang Banzhaf, pioneers of computational evolutionary approaches that impact biomedicine, engineering, and behavioral studies. BEACON has worked to cross over traditional disciplinary boundaries, with success, linking scientists in diverse fields at the five associated universities. Our conference will benefit from presentations from top researchers in this field, stimulating discussion how in silico modeling and analysis can test specific features of gene expression control and evolution, and identify novel regulation that may be important for gene regulation in the context of synthetic biology.

Important Dates:

February 26, 2019: Oral programming abstract submission deadline
March 14, 2019: Discounted symposium registration deadline
March 21, 2019: Poster programming abstract submission deadline
April 1, 2019: Symposium registration deadline
April 11, 2019: Registration cancellation deadline