stem cells in their environment

Extracellular Matrix: New Perspectives for Translational Medicine, Freiburg

15 March 2016
By Emanuel Rognoni

The German and French Societies for Matrix biology held a joint meeting in Freiburg, bringing together many international speakers and over 80 poster presentations. The conference was well organised, was of the right size and there were no difficulties meeting other scientists during the coffee breaks and poster sessions. The many cutting-edge talks kept a familiar atmosphere, covering a wide variety of exciting research fields in matrix biology from basic science to translational approaches.

There was a strong focus on how extracellular matrix components have a huge impact on cell behaviour and cellular processes. Thus, in the FRIAS lecture Renato Iozzo (Philadelphia), emphasised the role of proteoglycans, specifically Decorin and Perlecan, in controlling cell autophagy.

In the first session I enjoyed the talk of Beate Eckes, Cologne, showing how latent TGFβ1 is secreted by fibroblasts via autophagy, pointing to the possibility that inhibition of the autophagosom might help to modulate TGFβ signaling in disease in the future. Further, I was impressed by the discovery of Chris Overall's lab that extracellular MMPs can exert transcriptional activity. They showed that MMP12, secreted from macrophages translocate to the nucleus and is able to modulate IkBα gene transcription by binding to its promoter.

Intriguingly, MMP12 is able to bind to the DNA through its catalytic domain. Chris' talk sparked a vivid discussion about the mechanisms of nuclear transport and molecular regulation which are still unknown. In my view this unexpected discovery opens a whole new research field. In the System biology of the ECM section I was intrigued by the talk of Ulrich auf dem Keller, Zurich, presenting an elegant proteomic approach to monitor the proteolysis of distinct MMPs and how this can lead to the identification of new MMP substrates. In the same section Mattia Botto (Boston), described the exciting role of secreted kinases in the extracellular environment. How these kinases are able to phosphorylate extracellular matrix components was extensively discussed at the meeting.

In the inflammation and fibrosis section it was interesting to see the multiple ways in which immune cells influence and modulate the extracellular matrix. For example Sabine Eming (Cologne) presented how macrophages α signalling are able to modulate endothelial cell matrix interactions and collagen fibril assembly via Interleukin-4 Receptor during wound healing.

Further, in the Musculoskeletal biology section, I was impressed by the work of Gerard Kasenty (New York) who has uncovered a central role of glucose, the main osteoblast nutrient in the initiation of osteoblast differentiation. They were able to show that glucose is taken up via Glut1 receptor in an insulin independent manner and modulates AMPK activity in osteoblasts, which prevents Runx2 degradation (marker for osteoclast differentiation) and promotes bone formation.

This direct interplay of bone development and glucose metabolism fascinated me. In the basement membrane and kidney function section it was interesting to see the advances achieved by Jeff Miner (St Louis) and Tobias Huber (Freiburg) using super-resolution and scanning electron microscopy to dissect the molecular composition of kidney filtering barrier at the basement membrane cell interface with an incredible resolution.

Finally the Young Investigator Award session was very exciting for me because the travel grant allowed me to be part of the committee and to actively participate in the decision-making process. In summary I was very impressed by the conference, the high level of science and the many stimulating talks. I am sure I will be able to translate this experience and the many inspirations into my own science at King's.

 

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