About the conference

The 18th International Conference on the Cell and Molecular Biology of Chlamydomonas, will have an international attendance, a strong interdisciplinary orientation, touches on many areas of biology and fosters extensive collaborations among researchers in the field. Chlamydomonas reinhardtii has become a sophisticated model system relevant to studies of a diversity of biological processes and has been referred to as the ‘green yeast’. This organism is being used to examine flagella structure and function, chloroplast biogenesis, structure-function of the photosynthetic apparatus (including carbon metabolism and electron transport), photoperception and phototaxis, nutrient deprivation responses (carbon, nitrogen sulfur, phosphorus and anion and cation deprivation), and lipid and starch synthesis, among other processes.

Special Speaker

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Susan K. Dutcher is a Professor of Genetics and Acting Director of the McDonnell Genome Institute at Washington University in St. Louis.  As a graduate student, she worked with Dr. Leland Hartwell at the University of Washington on the role of cell division cycle (CDC) genes in nuclear fusion. This fostered her long-standing interest in using model organisms to study human biology and in microtubule organizing centers (MTOCs), which led to her decision to study centrioles in the unicellular green alga, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, at The Rockefeller University with Drs. David Luck and Gianni Piperno.  Centrioles are needed to template cilia as well as organize the microtubules of the cell.   Dutcher identified unique tubulin isoforms that are needed for centriole assembly.  The phylogenetic distribution of epsilon and delta-tubulin lead her lab to use a simple but elegant bioinformatic approach to build a parts list for centrioles and cilia. The lab searched for genes present in the genomes of ciliated organism but missing from nonciliated organisms, which includes land plants and most fungi.  Many of these 700 genes play major roles in human health, including microcephaly and a class of diseases referred to as ciliopathies.   The lab also studied genes involved in assembly of dynein arms that are needed for determining the waveform of the two motile cilia.  New genes have been identified from unbiased forward genetic screens in Chlamydomonas as well as from the analysis of exomes from patients with immotile cilia. These genes include structural proteins of cilia as well as cytoplasmic proteins that are important for early assembly of these macromolecular complexes.

Dutcher has also been active as a grant reviewer for the NIH, NSF, HHMI, ACS, and PKD Foundation.  She has served on the Board of Directors for the Genetics Society of America and on the Council for the American Society of Cell Biology.  She is a fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Science and was named a Distinguished Faculty for her mentoring of junior faculty.  She served as Chair of the Department of Genetics and is currently the Acting Director of the McDonnell Genome Institute, which is involved in large scale sequencing and analysis of human genomes to find genes involved in cardiovascular disease and cancer.  

Plenary and Special Lectures

The International Conference on the Cell and Molecular Biology of Chlamydomonas (2018) will be attended by leaders in the field of Chlamydomonas biology, many of whom are focused on photosynthesis and flagella structure and function. This year there is a strong contingent of investigators coming in both of those fields, and while a session is devoted to each of those topics, many presentations in other sessions will also be relevant to photosynthesis. There will also be many young scientists (graduate students, postgraduates) attending who are becoming rising stars in the field. The meeting will also include a number of special invited speakers, as listed below:

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Fred Cross, Plenary Speaker. Fred Cross received his PhD at Rockefeller University in 1984, did his postdoctoral training at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and then assumed a position at The Rockefeller University in 1989. He became a full Professor in 1995. From 1988-1992 he was a Lucille P. Markey Scholar.  Dr. Cross’ laboratory has been interested in the cell cycle and proteins and conditions that regulate the cell cycle, which is critical for developmental processes and cell identity; aberrations in the cycle are responsible for specific disorders in mammals, including cancer. Much of Dr. Cross’ work has been with budding yeast, but more recently he has begun to work on the Chlamydomonas cell cycle. The lab has been attempting to establish a collection of mutants that covers all genes involved in Chlamydomonas cell cycle control, which will help establish similarities and differences in eukaryotic cell cycle control across kingdoms. Recently Dr. Cross’ Laboratory has generated a collection of over 3000 temperature sensitive lethal mutants with about 200 that are potentially defective in their cells cycle.

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Dr. Peter Hegemann, Plenary Speaker: Peter Hegemann is Professor and Head of the Department for Biophysics at the Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany. He studied chemistry in Münster and Munich, and earned his PhD in 1984 in Munich for his work on the structure and function of halorhodopsin in Halobacterium halobium. From 1984 to 1986, he was a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratories of Dieter Oesterhelt and K. W. Foster and in 1986 moved to the the Department of Membrane Biochemistry at the Max-Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Frankfurt, Germany where he established his own research group. He then became professor at the University of Regensburg and in 2004 was appointed full professor at the Humboldt University of Berlin. Dr. Hegemann discovered the channelrhodopsins, a family of proteins that serve as light-gated ion channels. This discovery was instrumental in establishing optogenetics, in which scientists use channelrhodpsins to manipulate cells through exposure to light. Dr. Hegemann and his group have also focused on improving the light sensing properties of channelrhodopsin, first identified in the green alga Chlamydomonas, by molecular engineering. Channelrhodopsins are being used by neuroscientists around the world to activate specific neuronal populations to establish their function(s). Dr. Hegemann has received many awards including the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize, the Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine, The Brain Prize, the Hector Wissenschaftspreis, the Harvey Prize and the Massry Prize.

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Martin Jonikas, Leader of Workshop: Martin Jonikas is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University. His laboratory aims to transform our understanding of photosynthetic eukaryotes by developing and applying cutting-edge technologies. He led the construction of the world’s first genome-wide mutant collection in a single-celled photosynthetic organism, the model alga Chlamydomonas. Working with Chlamydomonas, his laboratory made fundamental discoveries relating to the biogenesis and structure of the pyrenoid, a mysterious algal organelle that enhances photosynthesis and mediates approximately one-third of global CO2 fixation. With collaborators, they are working to transfer the pyrenoid into higher plants to make crops that produce more food with fewer resources.

Martin studied aerospace engineering as an undergraduate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He then received his Ph.D. from the University of California, San Francisco working with Jonathan Weissman, Maya Schuldiner and Peter Walter on high-throughput genetics and protein folding in the endoplasmic reticulum. Prior to coming to Princeton, he was a Staff Associate at the Carnegie Institution for Science Department of Plant Biology and an Assistant Professor by courtesy at Stanford University. He is the recipient of several awards, including a 2016 HHMI-Simons Faculty Scholar Award, a 2015 NIH New Innovator Award, a 2010 Air Force Young Investigator Award, and a 2005 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.



Organizing Committee

Chair: Arthur Grossman - The Carnegie Institution for Science, Department of Plant Biology
Co-Chair: Stephen King - Department of Molecular Biology and Biophysics, University of Connecticut Health Center

Susan Dutcher – Washington University, USA
Hideya Fukuzawa – Kyoto University, Japan
Ursula Goodenough – Washington University, USA
Michael Hippler – Universität Münster, Germany
Martin Jonikas – Princeton University, USA
Sabeeha Merchant – UC Los Angeles, USA
Maria Mittag - Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, Germany
Mary Porter –University of Minnesota, USA
Saul Purton – University College, London, UK
Lynne Quarmby –Simon Fraser University, Canada
Michael Schroda – Technische Universität, Kaiserslautern, Germany
Carolyn Silflow – University of Minnesota, USA
Jim Umen – Danforth Center, USA
George Witman – University of Massachusetts, USA
Francis-André Wollman – CNRS-UPMC, France 


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