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A novel finding on vector-virus-plant interactions reported by the research team led by Professor LIU Shusheng

Editor:admin Date:2017-04-21 Hits:123

Of all the plant viruses known to date, more than 65% are vectored by insects. The interactions between insect vectors, plants and vector-borne viruses have important ecological and evolutionary implications. A growing body of evidence has shown that virus infection of the plant can influence vector physiology and behavior to increase virus transmission. In contrast, little is known about whether vector infestation would affect subsequent plant susceptibility to viral transmission, infection and evolution. Working with begomoviruses, a group of single-stranded plant DNA viruses, which are exclusively transmitted by the whitefly Bemisia tabaci and have caused extensive damage to many crops worldwide, and tobacco/tomato, Professor LIU Shusheng’s research group in the Institute of Insect Sciences, College of Agriculture and Biotechnology, Zhejiang University, recently discovered that vector and non-vector insect feeding may reduce subsequent plant susceptibility to virus transmission.

The three-year study showed that when plants were first attacked by non-viruliferous whiteflies, their susceptibility to subsequent virus transmission and infection was reduced. Pre-infestation by the cotton bollworm, a non-vector of the virus, likewise repressed subsequent viral transmission. The two types of insects, with piercing and chewing mouthparts respectively, activate different plant signaling pathways in the interactions. Whitefly pre-infestation activates salicylic acid signaling pathway, leading to deposition of callose that inhibits begomovirus replication/movement. Although cotton bollworm infestation elicits jasmonic acid defense pathway and is beneficial to virus replication, the pre-infested plants repelled whiteflies from feeding and so decrease virus transmission. Experiments using a pharmaceutical approach with plant hormones or a genetic approach using hormone transgenic or mutant plants further showed that salicylic acid plays a negative but jasmonic acid plays a positive role in begomovirus infection. These novel findings add a new dimension to the understanding of vector-virus-plant interactions and may stimulate thinking about our current strategy for the management of plant diseases caused by viruses vectored by insects.

   This work was recently published in New Phytologist, a prestigious journal in the field of plant sciences ( ). The study was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (project number: 31390421).