6th Great Wall Symposium – Institut Pasteur (Pasteur Institute), Paris, 2019

By Nathanael Caveney, PhD Candidate, Strynadka Lab 

Outside the Pasteur Institute

In late September, I had the opportunity to attend the 6th Great Wall Symposium at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France. This biennial symposium focuses on the study of the bacterial outer envelope, specifically the cell wall. The conference focuses on all aspects of research that study this system, including microbiology, glycobiology, immunology, and structural biology, and draws a diverse crowd of researchers from across the globe.

The Great Wall Symposium has been expanding ever since its inception in 2009, and the 2019 symposium was the biggest one to date, with around 250 participants. The conference was split into six key sessions focusing on building, modifying, interacting, inhibiting, regulating, and coordinating the bacterial cell wall. The symposium placed great emphasis on bringing researchers together across all aspects of bacterial envelope study to foster interdisciplinary relationships and highlight the interconnected nature of our research.

Louis Pasteur’s Tomb

I presented a poster of our recent work in Dr. Natalie Strynadka’s lab. The focus of this work is on the protein YcbB (also known as LdtD), which is an L,D-transpeptidase involved in beta-lactam resistance and typhoid toxin release. We have structurally characterized the E. coli YcbB (Caveney, Caballero, et al., Nature Communications, 2019) and I have followed this up recently with the structures of the Salmonella Typhi and Citrobacter rodentium YcbB proteins. It was exciting to share these new structures with the researchers who share the same level of interest in these proteins as I do! Two of the invited speakers at the symposium talked about the role of YcbB from a microbiological standpoint, and it was wonderful to see that people have benefitted from the structures we have provided in this field.

6th Great Wall Symposium Participants

Of course, since I was travelling to Paris, one of the cultural epicentres of the world, I had to spend some time outside of the symposium exploring. Despite the fact that I happened to bring the Vancouver rain to Paris with me when I went, I managed to have an excellent time touring around the city and ducking into cafés when the rain picked up. I spent time in some less touristy areas of the city that some collaborators of ours from the Sorbonne had recommended. One of our collaborators in particular is a “foodie” and suggested multiple restaurants to visit in order to immerse myself in the French food culture. All in all, my visit to Paris was a very enriching cultural and scientific experience!