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10th European Nitrogen Fixation Conference

April 21, 2012

On 2-5 September 2012, the tenth European Nitrogen Fixation Conference will be held in Munich, Germany.  This is always a big event for rhizobium researchers, and these days these conferences are not just for Europeans – people come from all over the world.  The rhizobium-legume symbiosis has always been an important theme at these meetings, but of course there are other nitrogen fixers, and there will be sessions on the biochemistry of nitrogenase and the regulation of nitrogen fixation in free-living fixers, and many other things.  Registration has recently opened on the conference web site: , where you will also find an outline of the session topics and a list of confirmed speakers.

The ENFC grew out of a series of earlier meetings that had been held in Eastern Europe.  There was a feeling that Europe needed a meeting in the years between the biennial international congresses, and the first Europe-wide meeting was held in 1994 in Szeged, Hungary.  For many of us, it was our first visit to the formerly communist countries of the East.  I remember being surprised by the wealth of elegant buildings in Budapest and Szeged, most sadly dilapidated at that time.  And then there was the food – it was so cheap.  Good ice cream cost just pennies, and the French force-fed themselves on bargain foie gras.  We went each night to a fine restaurant, and someone always ordered the special steak.  When the dish was ready, the lights were dimmed, the gypsy band struck up a special tune, and the chef emerged from the kitchen bearing the flaming meat impaled on a sword.  The Hungarians certainly have style!  I cannot promise such a spectacle in Munich, but I do know that the beer is very good.

For the record, here is the complete list of ENFC venues so far:

1          1994    Szeged, Hungary

2          1996    Poznan, Poland

3          1998    Lunteren, Netherlands

4          2000    Seville, Spain

5          2002    Norwich, England

6          2004    Toulouse, France

7          2006    Aarhus, Denmark

8          2008    Gent, Belgium

9          2010    Geneva, Switzerland

10        2012    Munich, Germany

For some reason, I missed Poznan, but I remember all the others.

 Genomics workshop

In Seville, before the 2000 meeting opened, there was a short workshop to discuss the genomics of rhizobia, though at that time there was no published genome of any rhizobium.  The best we had was the complete symbiosis plasmid of Sinorhizobium sp. NGR234 [1].  It was an exciting afternoon, though, because the genome of Sinorhizobium meliloti 1021 was almost complete and annotation and analysis was under way, along with preliminary transcriptomic and proteomic studies.  The following year, the genome was published in four papers [2-5].  Four papers for one bacterial genome!  These days, you are not guaranteed to get one publication even if you have four genomes.

That workshop was the beginning of a tradition.  At the following ENFC in Norwich, I organised another genomics workshop.  By then, there were other genome projects under way: NGR234, Rhizobium etli, R. leguminosarum, Bradyrhizobium japonicum and probably others. The S. meliloti people had started to exploit their genome and had transcriptomics data.  There was plenty to talk about.  The Toulouse people were major players in the S. meliloti genome, so of course they held a genomics workshop, too.  It was packed from wall to wall.  After that, I somehow found myself organising the Aarhus workshop, and I seem to have landed myself with a job for life.  At any rate, I am organising my fifth genomics workshop in Munich and it will be held, in accordance with time-honoured tradition, on the day that the ENFC opens. I use ‘organise’ loosely: I just invite anyone who is interested to offer a talk, and arrange them in the available time until the session is full.  That’s it.  No prestigious invitations, and no real selection unless the programme starts to look unbalanced.  If you would like to give a talk about your genomic project, just send me an email with the title and a few words of summary.  You do have to pay the registration fee even if you are speaking, so don’t forget to register.

There are two more satellite meetings attached to the ENFC, but these will take place at the end of the conference.  One is the  Symposium on Nitrogen Fixation with Non-Legumes, a venerable series of meetings that began in the 1970s and has now reached its 13th meeting.  The other meeting, by contrast, is brand new: the first Molecular Mycorrhiza Meeting. These two meetings run in parallel over two days, 6-7 September.  I’ll be at the mycorrhiza meeting, because that is what I’m usually working on when I’m not doing rhizobium.

See for details of all the satellite meetings.

I hope to see many of you in Munich. Don’t forget to register soon.




[1] Freiberg, C., Fellay, R., Bairoch, A., Broughton, W.J., Rosenthal, A., and Perret, X. (1997) Molecular basis of symbiosis between Rhizobium and legumes. Nature 387: 394-401.

[2] Galibert, F., Finan, T.M., Long, S.R., Pühler, A., Abola, P., Ampe, F. et al. (2001) The composite genome of the legume symbiont Sinorhizobium meliloti. Science 293: 668-672.

[3] Capela, D., Barloy-Hubler, F., Gouzy, J., Bothe, G., Ampe, F., Batut, J. et al. (2001) Analysis of the chromosome sequence of the legume symbiont Sinorhizobium meliloti strain 1021. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 98: 9877-9882.

[4] Barnett, M.J., Fisher, R.F., Jones, T., Komp, C., Abola, A.P., Barloy-Hubler, F. et al. (2001) Nucleotide sequence and predicted functions of the entire Sinorhizobium meliloti pSymA megaplasmid. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 98: 9883-9888.

[5] Finan, T.M., Weidner, S., Wong, K., Buhrmester, J., Chain, P., Vorhölter, F.J. et al. (2001) The complete sequence of the 1,683-kb pSymB megaplasmid from the N2-fixing endosymbiont Sinorhizobium meliloti. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 98: 9889-9894.


From → Genomics

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