The purpose of this meeting is to provide a forum for researchers to discuss how genomes are organised by protein complexes containing Structural Maintenance of Chromosomes (SMC) proteins
The organisation of genomes into loop structures was first proposed more than 40 years ago, and SMC complexes have emerged as the primary drivers of this process. SMC complexes are conserved in all domains of life, where they mediate diverse chromosomal functions including gene expression, chromosome condensation, regulation of DNA entanglement, sister chromatid cohesion and DNA repair. They have been proposed to function via a ‘loop extrusion' mechanism, which, despite being able to account for diverse experimental observations, remains poorly defined at the molecular level.
Exciting breakthroughs in the past few years mean that this field is advancing more rapidly than ever before. In particular, the in vitro reconstitution of different SMC complexes from bacteria, yeast and humans has energised the field, enabling single molecule assessment of their function on DNA, and structural studies that provide mechanistic insight at unprecedented resolution. Concurrently, SMC complex dysfunction has been implicated in numerous pathological states in humans, including cancer, constitutional aneuploidy syndromes and neurodevelopmental disease.
The field is thus at a pivotal moment at which interdisciplinary collaboration is key. Insights from structural biology, single molecule approaches and polymer biophysics are revolutionising our understanding of chromosome biology and genomics. In the coming years, there is strong potential to leverage this fundamental knowledge to extend our understanding of how SMC complexes function in “higher order” biological processes such as cellular differentiation and disease.
A major goal of this meeting is to facilitate such interdisciplinary collaboration. The speaker list includes experts in single molecule and polymer biophysics, structural biology, biochemistry and disease modelling, as well as cell biologists working with diverse bacterial and eukaryotic model systems.