Friday, July 27, 2012

Lab happenings, food, and sites in Krakow, Poland

The International Symbiosis Society 7th Congress is coming to a close. Below are a handful of pictures that Im fond of and will hopefully inspire you to get to Krakow one day. It is a beautiful, lovely, and cozy city. Also very cheap.
The Royal Castle on Wawel Hill in the distance. One of the great symbols of Polish statehood. The former capital and seat of kings as well as the place of their coronation and burial.
Squint and you may see a walking beer holding a stop sign. Inquiring minds want to know more.

The tower is what's left of the old town hall in the Market Square of Krakow.

The biggest square in Europe and Krakow's elegant showpiece.

What the town hall looked like in its completeness. Only the tower in the pictures above remains standing today.

An Espresso Lunch at Hotel Francuski, recommended by a friend of my student. For $6 USD, this was a steal. Freshly squeezed juice, cabbage, ribs, potatoes, and rugula cake.

 Senior graduate student, Rob Brucker, giving his talk on "Gut Bacteria Enhance Postmating Reproductive Isolation"

Perhaps the best chicken cesar salad Ive ever had.

Group picture of Lisa, me, Rob, and Jason in front of Lisa's poster "Mom knows best: Maternal regulation of Wolbachia titers"

I'll add just one scientific thought to this post. This meeting has convinced me more than ever that we live in an age where symbiosis is a centerpiece to Biology in the 21st century. A profound, modern synthesis is underway in which the century old merger of evolution and genetics is being updated with symbiosis as the third pillar.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My talk at the International Symbiosis Society Congress 2012

The International Symbiosis Society is now meeting in Krakow, Poland. About 300 participants have gathered to discuss their latest research, meet colleagues, and form new collaborations. Here is my talk from yesterday's session on Horizontal Gene Transfer and the Role of Viruses:

The Entangled Bank in Animals: Viral Transfer Between Bacterial Symbionts

Note 1: the recording starts on the second slide of the talk
Note 2: Related blog post at

In this talk at the International Symbiosis Society Meeting in Krakow, Poland, 2012, I discuss the transfer of genes between bacterial coinfections in animal hosts. Animal species are a conglomerate of their own cells, viruses, and bacterial symbiont cells. Indeed, the genes in the symbiont population can vastly outnumber the genes of the host, and yet we know little about the frequency at which these symbiont genes are swapped between coinfecting microbes or co-opted by the animal host. Here, I demonstrate that even in the most restrictive class of symbionts, the obligate intracellular bacteria, there is a surprising amount of genetic flux between coinfections. I discuss three primary findings. First, the most common obligate intracellular bacteria on the planet, Wolbachia pipientis, exemplifies extraordinary rates of bacteriophage transfer that are akin to the levels of genetic flux seen in free-living bacteria. Second, genome sequencing demonstrates that whole bacteriophage genomes can transfer apparently unrestrained between related and unrelated intracellular bacteria that coinfect the same host. Third, a new tool is presenteed that rapidly isolates genomes of microbes in a mixture of genomes from various organisms and environments. I conclude that animals are frequently ecological arenas for gene transfer between intracellular bacteria - thereby providing a means by which new genes and functions can be acquired in symbionts and inherited in their animal hosts.

Hat tip to Rob (@liveinsymbiosis) for recoding the video.