The figure above represents the tumor-inducing Ti plasmid in an electron microscopy moon raised among old buildings photographed during the Ghent light festival.

With this introduction, I want to invite you to the “Agrobacterium 2018” symposium, a joint event of the 39th American Crown Gall meeting and the 2nd European Agrobacterium conference that will be hosted by the VIB institute and Ghent University in Belgium on the 12th and the 13th of September 2018. 

Based on historical data, it can be stated that the “Agrobacterium science in Ghent” is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2018.  Indeed, in 1968, Jeff Schell was appointed professor at the faculty of Sciences at Ghent University and he decided to build a research team by fusing with the unit of Marc van Montagu in the Medical School. Then in 1973, by a concerted effort of both groups, the Ti plasmid was discovered as containing the transforming principle which was transferred from Agrobacterium to the plant cell, resulting in non-controlled plant cell growth and crown galls; this attracted a lot of interest as being the first case of horizontal gene transfer between prokaryotes and eukaryotes.

Whereas the first 15 years focused on the molecular and genetic characterization of Agrobacterium, the focus shifted in 1983 to the transformed plant cell. From then on, Agrobacterium was and is used as a tool in most plant biotech labs to transfer DNA into the plant to insert extra genes. It was clear from the beginning that genetic modification by Agrobacterium-mediated plant transformation technology could be used as a research tool in the lab and as a new breeding technique to obtain crops with specific new traits.

The study of Agrobacterium itself in mean time resulted in a much better knowledge of bacterial cell growth, bacterial conjugation, quorum sensing and production of biofilms and these are the aspects we want to highlight during the meeting. The “Agrobacterium 2018” symposium should present timely perspectives on the cell biology of Agrobacterium, on Agrobacterium as a pathogen (ecology, diversity, treatment), on horizontal gene transfer between bacteria and eukaryotic cells, on plant responses upon Agrobacterium infection, and on the use of Agrobacterium as an essential tool in plant biological sciences.

On a personal note, I want to celebrate my retirement with the organization of this meeting after a carrier of 45 years, which started with the study of the Ti plasmid of Agrobacterium.

Kind regards,

Ann Depicker

On behalf of the Local Organizing Committee

Prof. Ann Depicker, VIB-Ghent University, Belgium

Prof. Em. Marc Van Montagu, VIB-Ghent University, Belgium

Dr. Sylvie De Buck, VIB-Ghent University, Belgium

Prof. Barbara De Coninck, KU Leuven, Belgium

Prof. Geert Angenon, VUB, Belgium