Meeting of the GPZ Group ‘Cytogenetics’, “Chromosome  biology, genome evolution and modern cytogenetics in the context of plant breeding” – A conference in memoriam of Prof. Thomas Schmidt, 26. – 27. September 2019

The GPZ workshop was initiated by Thomas Schmidt (TU Dresden). In the light of his very tragic death the meeting was dedicated to his memory. Tony Heitkam (TU Dresden) supported by the staff of the “Plant Cell and Molecular Biology” group (TU Dresden) and Andreas Houben (IPK Gatersleben)  took over the organization of the meeting.

At the beginning of the meeting, Pat Heslop-Harrison (UK) gave a keynote honoring Thomas Schmidt. T. Schmidt was one of the pioneers of chromosome analysis, particularly in crops. His research focused on the structure, evolution and chromosomal dynamics of repeats using his optimized FISH technique. He was one of the world’s leading experts in this field and has been actively conducting research in the laboratory until his untimely death. This year, he solved the mystery of the genetic origin of saffron. His drive for scientific innovation has led to numerous joint projects with academic institutions and industrial partners and resulted in numerous high-ranking publication.

The first session of the meeting was focused on the integration of cytogenetics with omics technologies. A. Camara (IPK Gatersleben) introduced polymer simulations to understand the structure and dynamics of mitotic barley chromosomes. H. Simkova (Inst. Exp. Botany, Olomouc, Czech Republic) demonstrated how optical mapping of single chromosome types helps to improve genome projects. The cytogenomics of the small chromosome-sized duckweed genome Spirodela was introduced by I. Schubert (IPK Gatersleben). YT. Kuo (Taiwan) demonstrated how the first complete FISH map of Phalaenopsis orchids was generated. The distribution and complex evolution of tandem repeats  in chili pepper and white lupin genomes was reported by V. Suljevic (Univ. Vienna, Austria) and A. Marques (MPI Cologne), respectively.

Meiosis, polyploidy and gamete formation were the topics of the second session. A. Nowicka (Inst. Exp. Botany, Olomouc, Czech Republic) employed flow cytometry to demonstrate the dynamic process of endoreduplication in developing barley seeds. A. Kovarik (Institute of Biophysics, Brno, Czech Republic) gave insights into the genome structure of pentaploid dogroses, a species characterized by a unique asymmetrical meiosis. The century-old enigma of the origin of saffron was resolved   by T. Heitkam and colleagues (TU Dresden).

Special chromosome types were discussed in the third session. A. Houben (IPK Gatersleben) talked about the structure and biology of holocentric chromosomes. The sequence composition and likely evolution of Eleutherine chromosomes was explained by M. Baez (IPK  Gatersleben). The genus Eleutherine is characterized by species possessing a bimodal karyotype. J. Fuchs (IPK Gatersleben) demonstrated how flow cytometry facilitates the estimation of the B chromosome drive in Aegilops speltoides based on isolated pollen nuclei.

Genome stability and the architecture of nuclei were in the focus of the forth session. K. Pernickova (Inst. Exp. Botany, Olomouc, Czech Republic) linked meiotic instability of alien chromosomes in the background of wheat with their improper interphase position. Using the Festuca/Lolium complex as a model, D. Kopecky (Inst. Exp. Botany, Olomouc, Czech Republic) demonstrated genome stability. Employing a sophisticated single-gene FISH method, M. Said (Inst. Exp. Botany, Olomouc, Czech Republic) deciphered the genome homology in goat grasses.

New tools and perspectives in cytogenetics were introduced in the last session of the meeting. T. Ishii (Tottori Univ., Japan) introduced RGEN-ISL, a CRISPR/Cas9 –based method to label repetitive sequences.  How to increase the size of nuclei and chromosomes by expansion microscopy was demonstrated by I. Kubalova  (IPK Gatersleben).  E. Hribova successfully employed   oligopainting FISH to analyse the chromosomal evolution in banana (Musa).

In addition, 11 posters were displayed and discussed during the meeting. The workshop had 41 participants from academia and industry.