Studies on ciliated protozoa have led to key discoveries about universal biological processes. These include self-splicing RNA10, telomerase5,8., chromatin remodeling by histone acetyl-transferases6., and post-translational tubulin modifications13,14,15.. Recent studies in ciliates have provided novel insights into the role of non-coding RNAs in programmed DNA deletion and chromatin remodeling, hallmarks of macronuclear development11,16.. Ciliates have recently been exploited to study conserved cellular processes associated with human disease4,12.. The availability of full genome sequences has greatly enhanced classical and molecular genetic approaches for gene discovery and the functional analysis of novel and conserved genes2,3,7. The continued development of molecular tools, such as RNA interference, provide greater opportunities to study numerous biological processes that are unique to this evolutionary clade or are conserved in a wide variety of eukaryotic organisms, including humans. Our biannual meetings bring together investigators from various fields, united by a common theme- the use of ciliated protozoa as an experimental model system. The 2013 FASEB conference will provide an important venue to promote the dissemination of unpublished research. It will also serve as a venue to share general technical advances of importance to all members of the ciliate molecular biology community, and to further organize the community for future tool and resource development. The use of Ciliates in the undergraduate laboratory classroom has also become a topic of growing interest to our research community. The 2013 conference will be held over six days at the Steamboat Springs, Colorado, FASEB retreat location. We anticipate attendance by 150- 200 participants, and seek funds to increase participation especially by scientists from under-represented backgrounds, as well as by our next generation of scientists (undergraduates, graduate students and post-docs).
Ciliate research exerts a disproportionate impact on the study of medicine in three ways: 1) as a model organism (one easily grown and studied in the laboratory exhibiting universal biological properties), ciliates have shed light on numerous pathways fundamental to cell biology (two Nobel prizes to date: one for self-splicing RNA-enzymes10. and the other for telomeres5,8.);2) Ciliates also serve as remarkably accessible models for studying human disease: e.g. defects in cilia cause a large number of diseases named ciliopathies (e.g. Bardet- Biedl syndrome, polycystic kidney disease, PKD, &primary ciliary dyskinesia: PCD) 4,13., while studies into telomeres are providing insight and possible treatments involving aging, stem cells and cancer5;3) Ciliates are currently being developed into living pharmaceutical factories: e.g. production platforms for malaria and influenza vaccine candidates9..