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Opening a window into vector-borne plant viruses

| June 18, 2013
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Michelle Cilia, a molecular biologist in the Biological Integrated Pest Management Research Unit in Ithaca, New York, examines infected potato plants in the greenhouse for symptoms of virus infection.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in Ithaca, N.Y., are collaborating on development of a technology that could lead to new ways of disrupting how insects transmit viruses to crops.

Michelle Cilia and Stewart Gray at the ARS Robert W. Holley Center for Agriculture and Health in Ithaca, and colleagues James Bruce and Juan Chavez at the University of Washington, have mapped out the structure of an elusive protein that gives certain plant viruses the ability to travel from plants to insects, through the insects, and back into plants.

To move from plant to plant, some viruses, such as potato leafroll virus, need to stay in the infected plant’s phloem tissues so they can be ingested by a feeding aphid. Once inside the aphid, the virus must pass through the insect’s gut and salivary tissues before it can be passed into another plant by the aphid.

To complete the journey, viruses need to assemble into larger packages known as virions. Each virus species is very particular and can only be transmitted by a few species of aphids. ARS researchers believe the outside shape or topology of the virion plays a major role in that specificity, determining whether a virus will move through the aphid and infect a plant.

This is a preview of a full article published in International Pest Control – May/June 2013 issue.

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Author: Michelle Cilia.

ARS Robert W. Holley Center for Agriculture and Health, Ithaca, N.Y.

 

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Category: Agriculture

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