Wednesday, July 24, 2013

From the meeting ASBMB:Evolution and Core Processes in Gene Regulation - Chicago (July 25th-28th)

Well this will be something new for me. I will be both blogging and tweeting from the meeting on the evolution and core processes in Gene Regulation from Chicago over the next few days. I will also be giving a talk there as well.  Understanding how and why genes are turned on (or off) both in space (different parts of your body), and time (when you are growing, or as you age) remains an important question that spans a great deal of biology. It turns out that even when asking seemingly similar questions related to gene regulation, the approaches (and language) that say a biochemist or an evolutionary geneticist use can be completely different (and mutually incomprehensible). So meetings like this are really important to getting us all on the same pages and interacting with one another.

This meeting is being organized by David Arnosti, Justin Fay and Ilya Ruvinsky. The three of them (all great scientists and fun to talk with) are bringing together a very diverse group of scientists from hardcore biochemists to straight up evolutionary biologists. We did a related symposium back in 2011, and also in 2008 (at Michigan State University). It was a lot of fun then. Should be more fun (for me anyways) now, as I am not one of the organizers this time. In any case the program for the meeting can be found here.

David, Justin and Ilya also sent this to all of the speakers (to think about for their talk):

We understand that the DNA-RNA-protein dogma is sculpted by evolutionary forces, but where have experimental insights shown HOW particular features of the central machinery are shaped? Some aspects of the process of gene expression have been tightly linked to evolutionary innovations, such as variable HOX expression and limb morphology. 

In your system, which aspects, if any, of the process studied are known to reflect selective pressure? For example, for central components of gene expression machinery, are there particular features that can be linked to specific conditions or attributes of the species/developmental stage/tissue? Alternative tissue-specific or species-specific components, activities?

If you were founding a new research institute dedicated to understand how evolutionary selection acts at all levels of gene expression, how would you combine nuts-and-bolts mechanistic studies with Big Picture evolution research?

What technical breakthroughs would make the biggest impacts on such efforts? Let's think big; e.g. mosquito blood meals preserved in amber (OK, that was a joke).

Tweets start tomorrow afternoon (Thursday July 25th at around 2PM).  I also hope to be doing a daily summary of the meeting on this blog.  Time to get my talk ready!

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