First online CiLST seminar: Prof. Neil Gow from Exeter University, UK, talked about “The Taste of a Fungus”

In preparation for a planned DFG Priority Program (Schwerpunktprogramm, SPP) on Chito-Materials in Life Sciences and Technologies - CiLST”, we had today the first online CiLST seminar, organized by the designated CiLST Speaker Prof. Dr. Hans Merzendorfer from the University of Siegen. Prof. Alexander Weber from the University of Tübingen had invited Prof. Neil Gow from Exeter University in the UK to talk about his work on fungal cell walls in the triggering of immune responses in human patients. In spite of the difficulties of a virtual seminar offered to an online audience, more than 40 participants from all over Germany listened to his inspiring talk. Given the rather divergent expertise of the participants, Prof. Gow started with a general introduction into the importance of fungal pathogens for human health, followed by a comparative description of the complexity of fungal cell walls. Being at the surface of fungal cells, and being unique and typical for fungi, cell wall components are ideal tell-tale markers to trigger the immune system. Prof. Gow guided us through the fascinating diversity of fungal cell wall mannoproteins and ß-glucans before finally mentioning our chitin, also sharing unpublished results (which thus, unfortunately, I am not allowed to talk about here). During the discussion, he emphasized that immune signaling by cell wall components is to some extent better understood in plants than in humans and animals, but his presentation had made it entirely clear that plant biologists can equally learn from immunologists. And I trust we will!