4th International Conference on Analysis of the Microbial Cell at the Single Cell Level, 2008

The fourth International Conference on ‘Analysis of the Microbial Cell at the Single Cell Level’ was held in the old German city Bad Schandau, near Dresden, from 22nd to 25th May this year. The conference was part of an excellent series of European Meetings of the European Federation of Biotechnology (EFB), Microbial Physiology Section and was organised by Susann Müller on behalf of Jeff Cole, Vice President of the EFB Microbial Physiology Section. The past meetings took place in Como, Italia (1999), Veilje, Denmark(2002) and Semmering, Austria (2005).

In contrast to eukaryotic cell research, in microbiology cells are often considered to be uniform populations which can be adequately described by average values. Consequently, measurement of the physiology and biochemistry of these cells often relies upon analysing either the culture supernatant or a lysate of all the cells in the population. This is unfortunate since most of the microbial (bacterial) cells are still not yet cultivable (over about 98%) or even not determined phylogenetically. Nearly nothing is known about microbial community structure, let alone microbial community functioning. This is particular serious since we do know that microorganisms, especially bacteria are e.g. responsible for the main biogeochemical fluxes on the earth. They are the main part of nearly everything what touch actual scientific and politic policies and topics like climate change, biomass production to gain energy or white biotechnology.

Therefore, the meeting focussed on combining techniques like flow cytometry and cell sorting with new single cell cultivation approaches and Omics – technologies like transcriptom, proteom and fluxom analyses. The scientists provided and got deep insights into the structure and functioning of bacterial cell cycle and cell response of certain bacterial species to micro-environmental changes. Also community dynamics were followed and models presented for handling huge cytometric information.  Tools were provided to predict population behaviour and efficiency in product synthesis e.g. in biotechnologically relevant bioprocesses. The fourth meeting included a variety of oral and poster sessions: New instrumental developments and new fluorescent techniques Biotechnological applications Human health Screening and sorting Single cell approaches to cytomics, transcriptomics and proteomics Cell biology Multicellular organization Environmental applications Mathematical modelling of microbial life.

About 120 scientists from different research areas took the chance to present their results and discuss topics of the analysis of the microbial cell at the single cell level. The conference place, an old recreation hotel which was newly renovated only two years ago, provided every luxury for a convenient and exciting stay. More information about the topics of this highly regarded conference is available here. On the website there is also a list of the key note speakers. An abstract book is available. Hazel Davey, who is taking care of the website, was also careful to include pictures of the conference and the nice surroundings in the Elbsandsteingebirge. The fifth conference will take place in Marseille, France and will be organised by Gérald Gérardi from the Centre d’Oceanologie de Marseille, CNRS, Marseille, France in 2011.

Susann Müller, October 2008