The RNA 2010 Meeting has come and gone. Previously, in a sort of preview of coming attractions, I gave a list (from the conference web site) of the many invited speakers. What I thought I would do here is toss out some random comments, to give readers a small taste of the meeting. (One aside – the abstracts are not “open access” and attendees are asked in the abstract book to not cite anything without authors’ consent. This means that I won’t be very explicit about the individual talks or posters. However, in a few instances, I will provide links to related papers.)
The meeting was, not surprisingly, on the large size – definitely not your Cold Spring Harbor meeting or a Gordon Conference. There were more than 670 abstracts, covering what seemed like every imaginable aspect of RNA biology. The organizers did manage to keep all of this accessible, as much as could be expected. The idea of having a poster “scouting” session where no authors were required to attend posters was good; even better was the open bar at this (and the other) poster sessions. Maybe its because RNA scientists drink like fish, I don’t know, but the poster sessions were very well-attended, and discussions lasted way past the promised closing time.
The subject matter was impressive and broad. I didn’t take a survey, but I am willing to guess that lots of attendees found the subject of small RNAs in bacteria to be pretty fascinating (and, if my small circle or friends is any indication, surprising). The CRISPR story continues to develop, and it is becoming very clear that bacterial genomes are fairly littered with small RNA genes. E. coli has hundreds of small regulatory RNAs, over and above the more familiar riboswitch motifs that are embedded in mRNAs. A Pubmed search for “”small RNA” AND bacteria AND review” will bring up an interesting list of further reading. It is more clear than ever that RNA regulation is as important in prokaryotes as in eukaryotes.
As I said in a comment, plant posters were pretty rare. The good news is that I managed to visit most of them. I also caught up with most of the polyadenylation people at the meeting and managed to swap notes and ideas.
One theme that looms large is that NextGen DNA sequencing is becoming more and more widely used to address genome-scale questions, replacing microarrays (including tiling arrays). There are still uses for arrays, especially for labs with somewhat limited resources. But NGS seems to be the way to go. (For the record, my own lab and my collaborators are invested in this approach; I am hopeful that I will be able to summarize our own papers on this blog, much as I have some other selected reports.)
Structure. Lots of structure. This is another theme – lots of information coming from x-ray crystal and NMR structures (of both proteins and RNAs). And more than just a few conundrums. For example, I think developments with the structure of the exosome will prove to be fascinating. I won’t quote the abstract or talk, but leave this comment as a teaser and maybe a pointer for enterprising souls to check up on over the next year or so.
I saw previews of this work last summer and fall, and there was a talk at RNA 2010. I think the results are pretty interesting, as they put transcription and processing in a fascinating temporal light.
Natural products chemistry meets RNA biology. Well, it’s a little bit old news, but there is growing interest in the effects of natural products on splicing. A paradigm is seen here , and not surprisingly there is some interest in exploring the universe of natural products along these lines. They are proving to be very useful tools for studying gene expression and probably have considerable therapeutic potential. (I haven’t heard of any plant scientists using these. I get the impression, though, that they are not widely available.)
I could go on and on with these snippets – as I pore over the abstract book and my notes, a new random comment pops up every minute or so. If readers have any specific questions about these or other RNA topics, please ask. I may not be able to cut and paste stuff, but I can give pointers and commentary.