Abstracts of NEMASYM: The Second Nematode-Bacteria Symbioses Research Coordination Network Meeting

S. Patricia Stock, David McK. Bird, Elodie Ghedin, Heidi Godrich-Blair


Intimate associations between microbes and eukaryotes are widespread in nature, occurring in every type of ecological niche. The spectrum of such interactions ranges from highly integrated obligatory symbioses to ‘loose’ associations. Microbial symbioses are integral to the function of every ecosystem on Earth. Therefore to gain  insights  into  fundamental  processes  underlying  symbiosis  and  the  role  of  symbiosis  in  earth/human ecosystems, researchers in this project have focused on one of the most common eukaryote-prokaryote interactions: that between nematodes and bacteria. Associations between nematodes and bacteria range from fortuitous to obligate and from beneficial to pathogenic. The ubiquity and diversity of nematode-bacterium symbioses make them an excellent model to understand the key questions in symbiosis. However, while numerous researchers worldwide are currently studying associations between these two groups of  organisms, these scientists rarely interact because their field of research is often defined by the organism studied rather than by the process (in this case, symbiosis). To reddress this critical need for crossing disciplinary lines, a Research Coordination Network on ‘Nematode-Bacteria Symbioses’ (NEMASYM) was established in 2008 to promote the intellectual discourse among scientists studying bacteria-nematode associations. This network is funded by the National Science Foundation and its specific goals of are: 1) Foster interdisciplinary collaborations between scientists; 2) Encourage scientists engaged in basic and applied research to explore how cross-talk and networking can enhance and advance science in this field; and 3) Develop and distribute educational materials to scientists and educators to promote the study of nematode-bacteria symbioses as model systems in science and education.

There is no other group in the United States or elsewhere that is similar to this research work group in its broad scope of nematode-bacteria interactions. A focal point of the network is the organization of annual meetings for core group members and their post-doctoral associates and graduate students. The inaugural NEMASYM meeting was held in Madison, Wisconsin on August 9-16, 2009 in conjunction with the 6th International Symbiosis Society meeting. The theme focus of that meeting was ‘‘Contributions of bacteria to nematode development, nutrition, and behavior’’. A total of 45 participants representing nine countries from five continents attended this event. There were 42 oral and 25 poster presentations.

The second NEMASYM meeting took place in Tucson, Arizona on November 11-14, 2010. The theme of this meeting was ‘‘Contributions of bacterial symbionts to nematode pathogenesis’’. There were 46 participants representing eight countries from four continents. Keynote speakers were: 1) John ( Jack) Werren from University of Rochester, New York, who talked about the evolutionary consequences of Wolbachia symbionts in insects; 2) Raffi Aroian  from  University  of  California,  San  Diego  who  discussed  the  use  of  bacteria  to  cure  human  nematode diseases;  and  3)  David  Clarke  From  University  Cork  College,  Ireland,  who  presented  results  of  his  research program on the regulation of pathogenicity and mutualism in Photorhabdus symbionts. In addition to these keynote presentations there were 30 oral presentations that are herein presented.

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