February 2010 Newsletter:

International Conference Travel Fund: Reports

Money from BSN was used to attend SfN in Chicago where I was able to present my own work paired with additional data from others in the group. The presented poster (667.17/EE37) was entitled “Pulse application of endogenous corticosteroid ligands generates distinct waves of glucocorticoid receptor recruitment to responsive gene promoters in vitro and in vivo. The poster also extended this observation to include data demonstrating the effect of pulses of glucocorticoid receptor binding on nascent RNA and mRNA for the glucocorticoid-regulated gene Per1, in rat liver and hippocampus.

The work was received well by the international community and questions were thoughtful and highlighted new lines of investigation. A new collaboration may also have become possible as a result of attendance.

I took the opportunity to see as much as possible of other work both inside and outside the field, and met new scientists among old friends. Highlights included work on intrinsic hippocampal neuronal oscillations, new animal models for mood and anxiety disorders, the effects of stress on the brain and immune system and finally, work on endocannabinoids in the stress axis.

Thank you to BSN for this contribution and their valued support of our work.

John R. Pooley University of Bristol

Neuroscience 2008, 38th annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, Walter E. Washington Convention Centre, Washington DC, MA, USA, 15-19th November 2008

The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) meets annually in a number of locations in the United States to discuss all areas of the thriving and up-and-coming field of neuroscience. The subject areas range from degenerative diseases all the way to plasticity and neuroprotection. This year it was Washington's turn. The annual meeting attracts attendees from all over the globe and a huge number of scientists from all walks of neuroscience, so I knew I was in for an exciting yet exhausting week of presentations and poster sessions. People had warned me before I went that SfN that it would be a major shock to the system when I saw the number of people and the vastness of such a conference but, until you actually get there, you cannot really understand their comments. It was by far the biggest conference I have ever attended.

I had been to Washington once before I attended SfN, but that had been during the summer, so it was a lovely new experience to visit the city in the winter. In the short time I spent there we experienced everything from sun and wind to rain, and even snow at one point, which just added to the experience. The conference was held at the Washington conference centre and I was pre-warned by members of my lab that this was situated right on the cusp of the 'good' and the 'bad' bits of the city. I found this to be a very fair statement when I went for a bit of sight-seeing during a break in the day's schedule and found myself in the very distinctly 'bad' part of town. However, I soon found myself near the conference centre again after a little more wandering in no time at all.

As this was my first SfN I was not sure what to expect and was much more used to infinitely smaller, more intimate conferences. It was obvious from the off that SfN was on a completely different scale to this. I think every nine out of ten people on the streets of Washington were here for the neuroscience conference and the good local people of D.C. did not quite know what had hit the. Fitting everything in was the hardest task during my week in Washington as the program was very dense and there were so many related areas and interesting work that I wanted to get a chance to check out. But what with lectures, symposia, minisymposia, workshops, meetings, events and poster sessions it was essential to organise what you could fit in and what you could unfortunately miss off your packed agenda. Although the program was very dense this didn’t stop the talk and poster sessions all being very well attended which I was very pleased to see.

I had an oral presentation to give on the final day so I have to admit I had butterflies in the pit of my stomach for most of the week-long conference. I was worried that as it was the last day it might be poorly attended as everyone would have begun to wind down and leave the area. To my surprise, although a little lighter than before, the 'people traffic' and general interest in the final days research was still really very good. The symposium that I presented in was within the 'regulation of food intake and body weight' slide session which was very appropriate for my area of research and thus a excellent opportunity for me to illustrate my data to others in my field of work. Even though the symposium was very specialised it still had a excellent variety of talks about all the different aspects of food intake and energy control. One talk by E.D. London was of particular interest as the groups focus was on leptin and how deficiency in such a hormone can affect body weight and neuronal plasticity within the brain.

The overall conference was of a very high quality and superbly organised and I would like to take this opportunity to thank BSN for funding my attendance at SfN and allowing me to present my work and my data to such a widespread audience at such a prestigious international conference.

Rachel Clapp University of Manchester

ENDO 09: 91st Annual Meeting of the Endocrine Society, 10-13th June 2009, Washington, DC

As anticipated, the Annual Meeting of the Endocrine Society was once again nothing short than breathtaking. Unfortunately, for some of us the meeting normally clashes with final exams that require our presence and, in addition, it has become more and more expensive over the years. Nevertheless, I have always believed that, for anyone working in neuroendocrinology, attendance to these meetings is a must do. Importantly, as Donal Skinner mentioned in his report last year, the meetings are becoming progressively more relevant to neuroendocrinologists, something that was clearly apparent also this year. Before going into some of the highlights, perhaps I should mention here that, for those of you who did not know, the rat has now become a large vertebrate. A large proportion of the data presented were derived from knock out mice models. The other big player at this meeting was imaging. The conference started with a fantastic plenary session by Nobel Laureates Joseph Goldstein and Michael Brown entitled 'The Cholesterol Feedback Story: How Genes Control Cholesterol' where they explained that the vital and lethal actions of cholesterol are dependent on the ability of cells to control cholesterol synthesis and uptake through a feedback mechanism mediated by LDL receptors in which membrane-bound transcription factors known as SREBPs (sterol regulatory element-binding proteins) play a crucial role. Later on, in the same morning, there was an outstanding symposium on GnRH. From a personal point of view, the talk by Vincent Prevot on the glial / endothelial regulation of GnRH release was one of the highlights of the whole conference. Right after the symposium I attended a 'Conversation with Basic Researchers' session where Sergio Ojeda presented an inspirational (as always) overview of the neuroendocrine mechanisms underlying sexual maturation; he said that in his opinion puberty is primarily dependent on the maturation of a stimulatory process within the brain, rather than on the suppression of an inhibitory one, even though the latter could also be implicated. In response to my question, he also was of the view that one of the signals the brain is waiting for to trigger the initiation of puberty is likely to come from the pituitary. Although now everybody is in love with kisspeptin, Ojeda's views are not new, and it is pertinent to remember that during the late '70, '80 and '90, when the general consensus was that the primary determinant for the attainment of puberty was the reduction of an inhibitory mechanism (of course I am referring to the decrease in sensitivity to oestradiol negative feedback), Ojeda was already proposing something different. The subsequent days of the meeting were as exciting as the first one. The symposium on the 'Functional Significance of Rapid Steroid Hormone Action in the Brain' provided novel insights on the central effects of both oestrogen and progesterone and their impact on reproduction and behaviour. Equally interesting was the afternoon session on the 'Programming and Maturation of the HPA Axis' and a plenary session on the 'Sexual Differentiation of the Brain'. Our paper on that day was very well attended, more so than in previous ENDO meetings, and we were fortunate to be able to engage in several in depth discussions with both senior and young scientists working in similar and related areas. The poster sessions were among the most exciting ones due to the large number of high calibre papers. The problem was that, inevitably, not all selected posters could be covered within the allocated time, which is something characteristic of large meetings. For those of you interested in clinical neuroendocrinology, the symposium entitled 'Puberty: It's All About Timing' provided both intriguing and perturbing information. J. Toppari showed that whereas genetic variation can account for a difference of 15 days in the age at puberty in humans, a traumatic divorce could advance puberty for up to 11 months in both boys and girls. Worse, not only is this correlated to an earlier start in sexual activity, but also to a significant increase in the incidence of drug abuse and depression. All worries caused by the information shown in the morning were dissipated by the presentations attended in the afternoon. The sessions on 'Hypothalamic Dopamine and Prolactin Signaling' and 'Biology of the Gonadotroph' were packed with outstanding papers from labs from all over the world that kept us busy discussing the new information until the end of the session and beyond. It had crossed my mind that on a Saturday the quality and quantity of presentations would perhaps diminish. How wrong I was. The symposium that morning entitled 'Insights from Animal Models of Gonadotrope Biology' would have justified the trip. Personally, the paper by U. Boehm, 'Functional Characterization of Genetically Labeled Gonadotropes' was the highlight of the conference. Among the many interesting things presented, Boehm showed that 20% of gonadotropes are FSH monohormonal cells unable to synthesize LH due to lack of GnRH receptor expression. The afternoon sessions were equally impressive with good papers in 'GnRH Neurosecretion and Actions' and 'Plasticity and Signaling in Neuroendocrine Function'. The last session on 'Pituitary GH Development and Pathology' closed the meeting with outstanding presentations by all speakers. Attendance to this meeting was an injection of hope and enthusiasm which not only allowed me learn the current state of affairs in my field of research and others, but to discuss my own data in a one to one, face to face scenario and make connections for collaborative work which are already proving fruitful. Our Society was well represented, with a substantial number of its members giving oral and poster presentations in most sessions. I am indebted to BSN for contributing to make my participation in this meeting possible.

Domingo Tortonese University of Bristol

Turkish Neuroendocrine Society Meeting, Yeditepe University, Istanbul, Turkey, 23-25 April 2009

A Turkish Delight: I had the immense privilege of being invited to participate in the first meeting of the Turkish Neuroendocrine Society held at Yeditepe University in Istanbul, April 23-25 2009. The Society, Nöroendokrinoloji Derneği (TNED), was founded on April 22, 2008 in Istanbul and is a member of the INF. The President, Professor Bayram Yilmaz, and other executive members of the Society hosted an immensely welcoming Opening Reception followed by a splendid dinner at the Yeditepe University campus with fantastic views over the Bosphorus and surrounding hills. The meeting focused on experimental models for studying neuroendocrine disorders and the speakers were both basic and clinical scientists. The first day consisted of a serial of lectures and short oral presentation and day two was devoted to workshops, where we had the opportunity to concentrate more on experimental detail and technique and these turned out to be very interactive. Tony Plant kicked off with a magnificent Tour de Puberty in his favourite animal and I discussed our latest finding of CRF-kisspeptin interaction in control of the GnRH pulse generator in the more mundane rat. Haluk Keleştimur broadened my horizons on interaction between leptin, the pineal gland and pubertal timing in the rat. Kemal Topaloğlu gave a fantastic story on the loss of function mutations in neurokinin B and its receptor in idiopathic hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism, which he and his colleagues recently published in Nature Genetics; the second 'kisspeptin' but with a twist! Eva Redei gave an excellent lecture on genetic animal models of stress and psychiatric disorders, followed by a short communication on leptin and ghrelin actions in the paraventricular nucleus controlling noradrenaline and oxytocin release by Selim Kutlu. After a leisurely lunch Leo Hofland enlightened us on somatostatin analogues and growth hormone secretion, followed by the most amazing story by Sen Pathak, from hot and steamy Houston, Texas (one doesn't forget!), in telomere dynamics in aneuploidy. We had another cancer theme, gene therapy in prostate cancer by Mustafa Özen before coffee. For the rest of the afternoon, we had a neurodegenerative theme. Firstly, an interesting role for gonadotrophins in cognition and Alzheimer's disease by Gemma Casadesus, followed by cell cycle activity in astrocytes and neurones and its link to neurodegeneration, by Adnan Erol, and finally Ertugrul Kilic discussed oestrogen, VEGF, and neuroprotection after stroke. At the conference dinner we had a taste of the exquisite Turkish cuisine and traditional dancing from the Black Sea region, which one had to participate in and was just another reminder of my total lack of hand and foot coordination! I hope that in the not too distant future there will be an opportunity for a joint meeting between BSN and TNED.

Kevin O'Bryne King's College London

5th International Conference on Annexins Report

At the end of September 2009, and thanks to the generosity of the British Society for Neuroendocrinology, I had the privilege of attending the Fifth International Conference on Annexins held in the beautiful forest resort of Vitalparc, just outside Lacanau-Océan in Aquitaine, France. This meeting is the premier international gathering of experts in the field of annexin biology, representing an global and incredibly diverse range of scientists, from biophysicists to physiologists, molecular biologists to clinicians, and covering all aspects of this large and varied family of proteins. My work in particular over the last couple of years has focussed on annexin A1, a protein familiar to neuroendocrinologists through its central role in controlling the stress response, where it acts as one of the prime negative feedback regulators of glucocorticoids in the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis.

Annexin A1 has many other physiological functions however, chief amongst which is its role in the innate immune response, where again it is one of the main mediators of glucocorticoid action, limiting leukocyte recruitment and promoting inflammatory resolution. The protein is also expressed in microglia and subsets of neurones within the brain, but aside from the structures responsible for the control of the HPA axis, little is known about its actual function. Following our group’s interest in how hormones affect neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson's disease, and in particular how steroid hormones can regulate CNS-immune system interactions, this conference was an ideal opportunity to present our novel findings on the role of annexin A1 in non-HPA parts of the brain, and to receive expert feedback and suggestions, which I am glad to say was very forthcoming.

This meeting was broader in scope than just the brain however, and many original findings were presented. In terms of the endocrine systems alone, data was presented revealing, for example, the necessity of annexins A2 and A5 in bone calcification and growth, a novel tumour suppressor function of annexin A7 in cancers of the breast and prostate, and a hitherto unconsidered action of annexin A1 in the stress response of the adrenal gland. As stimulating as these, however, was the extensive array of biochemical and biophysical presentations, revealing the incredible complexity of interactions between annexins and other cellular components, and particularly their role in bridging two biological membranes. This is a side of biology with which I am less familiar, but the presentations were both fascinating and highly valuable, stimulating several new lines of investigation into the molecular mechanisms of annexin A1 action in both its neuroendocrine and neuroimmune contexts. In particular, the role of cellular microparticles as vessels for annexin A1 transport and delivery suggested new ways of interpreting our data on the role of annexin A1 in the CNS immune response.

Overall, this was an extremely stimulating meeting, set in beautiful surroundings, with, as you would expect from the French, superb hospitality, food and wine (even if the concept of being vegetarian was a bit tricky to get the hang of!), and I am extremely grateful to the BSN for providing the support to allow me to attend.

Simon McArthur Imperial College, London