Day 4 and some general thoughts

Apologies for the rather tardy rate of blog posts.  My only feeble excuse is that  with darting in and out of the symposium and platforms, taking in all the interesting posters, catching up with the many scientific acquaintances (and making new ones) etc, very little time seems to be left in the day.  The last four days seem to be a blur; I am hoping it will be a bit more relaxed during today’s truncated day.  The next few days and the weekend might be spent just catching up on sleep!

As such, out of the many interesting talks, couple of highlights of Day 4 were:

–          A platform talk by my friend Stephan Pless from Chris Ahern’s lab. They are using un-natural amino acid mutagenesis to probe some important structure-function questions in various ion channels. By using  these non-natural amino acids, one can introduce much more subtle changes in the protein, e.g instead of a glutamic acid to glutamine, which introduces an additional H-bonding donor atom, one can replace it simply neutral residue (Nha – I forget what the full form is).  In this talk Stephan was looking at the role of acidic residues in the S3 helix of the voltage gated potassium channel. I won’t go into actual details sine they will be hopefully publishing the data soon.

–          Diane Lidke who was this year’s recipient of the Margaret Oakley Dayhoff Award gave a very interesting talk on her research on tracking receptors in live-cells with quantum dots. I believe she was amongst the first few people to demonstrate that proteins could be labeled in situ with quantum dots and tracked with fluorescence microscopy. Her recent work with EGF receptors shed some light on the dynamics of dimer formation of these proteins in vivo.

(She actually started with a brief mention of her graduate school work which involved using lanthanide resonance energy transfer to determine conformational changes in myosins. This was personally interesting, since as a graduate student myself I was trying to use the same techniques in a different protein, and I remember checking out Dr. Lidke’s poster at Biophysics and her PNAS paper on this.

One talk I was sad to miss out was Doug Rees’ presentation during the ’25 years of Membrane Protein’ symposium.  This was a last minute arrangement as the original speak could not make it (and I would have then missed Stephan’s talk!). I have heard he is a very entertaining speaker and this was obvious even in the last 5 minutes I was able to catch. Thanks to those who tweeted the best parts of the talk!

Couple of general observations about the meeting this year:

–          I don’t know if it was just a combination my wider interest, quirks of scheduling or just higher quality of science, I found myself many times during the conference wishing to be at two places at the same time. Someone on twitter suggested that if BPS could record and stream these talks, then no one would be missing out in the long run. There might be logistical issues with this, but I do hope the organizing committee at least gives it some consideration.

–          I wasn’t a big fan of the manner in which the poster area was set up this year. It was an almost circular arrangement and slightly confusing. Many of the posters seemed jammed in at the corners, and I feel sorry those who had their board right next to the rest rooms!

Unfortunately, I will be missing a very interesting symposium on mechanosensitive channels this afternoon with a flight to catch. But I am really looking forward to the transporter talks during the first symposium.




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