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Evolutionary genetics of host-parasite relationships
Roscoff (Brittany), France, September 22-26 2007
Deadline for application: May 15, 2007
The Jacques Monod Conference “Evolutionary genetics of host-parasite relationships” aims to provide a state of the art assessment of what evolutionary thinking can contribute to an integrated understanding of the processes shaping host-parasite interactions. The conference is structured in three major topics, which are intimately linked with each other.
Topic 1. Understanding the genetic interactions between hosts and parasites.
Reciprocal selection during host - parasite coevolution is characterized by inverse fitness relationships between the two partners. An increase in fitness for one antagonist goes hand-in-hand with a loss of fitness for the opponent. The key point to understand how hosts evolve in response to the fitness loss caused by parasites and how parasites evolve in response to the fitness loss caused by hosts is the form of the genetic interactions between the opponents. Research in this question spans currently from strongly conceptually oriented studies using models and whole organism approaches to molecular aspects focussing on particular molecules. While the earlier use quantitative approaches from the population level to conclude on the underlying genetics, the later revealed a plethora of mechanisms without analysing the quantitative consequences of these details for the evolution of the system. Aiming to improve communication across scales is in the center of this section.
Topic 2. Host and parasite evolution and the maintenance of sexual reproduction
It has been suggested that sexual reproduction of hosts is a means to overcome the disadvantage of the low evolutionary rate that an asexual host would have in comparison with its rapidly evolving parasites. Combining current theory of the advantage of genetic recombination and outbreeding with the theory on the evolution of virulence, one would predict that hosts continuously evolve to reduce virulence, while their parasites evolve to keep virulence as close as possible to an optimal level for their own life histories. In this arms-race a high evolutionary rate would benefit both opponents. Parasites and hosts might be selected for increased evolutionary rates, even if this has costs. Genetic recombination could provide such an increase. Recent advances in the use of model systems to study the molecular details of host-parasite interactions, combined with experimental approaches to study host and parasite evolution have allowed us to provide first estimates of the possible benefits of genetic recombination. This has lead to considerable progress in our understanding of the possible advantage of sexual reproduction.
Topic 3. The evolutionary genetics of immune defence.
As any phenotypic trait, the immune response is the result of the interplay of a number of genetic and environmental factors. Understanding how selection acts on genes controlling immune defences and how environmental conditions modulate the response to selection can provide us with a better insight into the possible outcome of a host-parasite interaction. “Manipulation” of the immune response with vaccines and drugs is a major medical practice used to protect humans and animals against infectious diseases. Although the discovery of the role of the priming of the immune system on the subsequent risk of infection has represented one of the most important steps towards the control of pathogenic organisms, we should keep in mind that the immune system operates as a selective agent on parasites. As such, we expect parasites to evolve in response to selection exerted on them by the immune system. Recently, concerns have been raised on the use of vaccines that do not bloc, but only reduce, parasite transmission, on the evolution of virulence. This illustrates fairly well how evolutionary thinking can contribute not only to the understanding of the intimate association between hosts and parasites, but also to the decision taking process on the appropriate societal responses to the infectious disease threats.
Deadline for application: May 15, 2007
Registration fee (including board and lodging)
Application for registration
The total number of participants is limited to about 115 and all participants are expected to attend for the whole duration of the conference. Selection is made on the basis of the affinity of potential participants with the topics of the conference. Scientists and PhD Students interested in the meeting should send:
After it, the chairman will select the participants. Except in some particular cases approved by the chairperson, it is recommended that all selected participants present their work during the conference, either in poster form or by a brief in- session talk. The organizers choose the form in which the presentations are made. No payment will be sent with application. Information on how and when to pay will be mailed in due time to those selected.