84th Harden Conference: Single-molecule bacteriology

Single-molecule imaging has revolutionised our ability to study molecular processes underlying bacterial cell function. Using single fluorescent molecules to break the optical microscopy limit (~200 nm), we can achieve resolutions of ~20 nm in living cells, a scale previously accessible only by electron microscopy. New fluorescent proteins and dyes, ultrasensitive microscopy, and image-analysis software have also helped us visualise reactions, interactions and motions inside single bacteria; we can follow single protein machines as they function, and observe fine cellular structures transforming during the cell cycle. In a sense, we are “re-discovering” bacteria with a new set of eyes.

This toolbox is ideal for quantitative biology; we can count molecules, and monitor their intracellular location, mobility and kinetics inside cell populations. Combined with powerful modelling, imaging transforms our understanding of bacteria as complex systems and synthetic-biology vectors.

With this interdisciplinary meeting, we showcased the most exciting developments in this young field to a UK and European audience. In selecting speakers, we aimed at scientists using cutting-edge single-molecule imaging to study mechanisms inside single cells. We also aspired to connect world-leading physicists/engineers driving rapid progress in methods with microbiologists applying advanced imaging to long-standing questions in bacteriology. Overall, the meeting helped to build a multidisciplinary community working on key mechanisms of bacteria life.

The meeting covered structural/mechanistic studies of processes using super-resolution imaging and single-molecule methods (tracking, bleaching, co-localisation, FRET). Many processes involve nucleic acids (chromosome organization, DNA replication, repair, recombination, and segregation, gene expression, CRISPR mechanisms), whereas others relate to signal transduction, cell division, cell-wall biosynthesis, and motility. The meeting also explored new quantitative in vivo techniques applicable to bacteria: theoretical approaches (modelling stochastic gene expression), microfluidics, site-specific labelling, cytological profiling, high-throughput approaches). A third theme involved studies of clinical/commercial significance (biofilms, pathogenic bacteria, bacterial persistence, antibiotic resistance).

Programme coordinators

  • Achillefs Kapanidis, University of Oxford, UK
  • Meriem El Karoui, University of Edinburgh, UK
  • Stephan Uphoff, University of Oxford, UK
  • Jie Xiao, John Hopkins University, USA

Unique to the Biochemical Society, Harden Conferences are residential research conferences covering a specialist topic.

The conferences bring together scientists from various backgrounds with a common interest in – but varying approaches to – the topic of the conference.

To maintain a suitably high level of discussion and presentation at the conference, it is desirable that participants be experienced in the field covered; most of the participants will be expected to have postdoctoral or equivalent experience, although Ph.D. students will also be welcome.

View full programme here.

The planned scientific sessions feature speakers invited by the Organizers and, in addition, time is left for extensive discussion and for short contributions, including posters, by other conference participants.

We offer a limited number of bursaries to assist younger members of the Biochemical Society to attend the conferences.


Sep 09 2018 - Sep 12 2018

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Lady Margaret Hall
Oxford, UK
Biochemical Society


Biochemical Society
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