Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Crop-Infecting Virus Forces Aphids to Spread Disease

Published: Friday, December 06, 2013
Last Updated: Friday, December 06, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Viruses alter plant biochemistry in order to manipulate visiting aphids into spreading infection.

BBSRC-funded researchers at the University of Cambridge have shown that viruses use aphids as pawns, discouraging the insects from permanently settling on already-infected crops and using this forced migration to spread infection to healthy vegetation.

Aphids are sap-sucking insects that attack many different types of plants and are major transmitters of crop-infecting viruses. By altering plant biochemistry, crop-infecting viruses cause vegetation to smell and taste unpleasant to visiting aphids. This repels the insects, causing them to move swiftly away to healthier plants, unwittingly transporting and spreading the virus.

This research could have significant impact on African agriculture. Working with various agencies, Dr John Carr and colleagues aim to help resource-poor farmers by deploying plants to act as aphid-decoys, drawing the insects away from crucial crops and halting the spread of infection through these farmers' livelihoods.

About this research, Dr Carr said: "The work started almost accidentally when about five years ago a student and I noticed that aphids became sick or died when confined on a virus-infected plant. It's an illustration of how research driven by curiosity can lead to findings that could have a positive impact in the real world – in this case in combating crop-damaging insects and the viruses they transmit."

The Cambridge team collaborated with researchers at Imperial College, London, using Arabidopsis plants as hosts and monitoring the effect that the crop-infecting cucumber mosaic virus had. It was observed that the virus launched a concerted attack on the plant's immune system whilst concurrently altering its biochemistry; in this way, the weakened Arabidopsis plant was unable to fight off either its attacker or visiting aphids. The aphids, instantly repelled by the smell and taste of the plant, left for healthier plants, but not before landing on the plant and contracting the virus. In this way, the mosaic virus ensured that the spread of the infection would be self-sustaining and highly efficient.

This research focuses on an example of what evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins has called the 'extended phenotype'. For Dawkins, the word 'phenotype' (the traits of an organism) should not be limited solely to biological processes, but should also be used to describe all effects that a gene has on the organism or environment in which it exists, or other organisms nearby. In this case, it was discovered that a virus influences the infected host, the Arabidopsis plant, and forces the host to change in a way that is beneficial to the parasite.

This revolutionary research has been done as part of a £16M Sustainable Crop Production Research for International Development (SCPRID) initiative to use bioscience in the improvement of food security in developing countries. Bioscience is playing an increasingly crucial part in meeting the challenges of feeding an ever-expanding population, projected to increase to 9 billion people by 2050. By developing ways to mitigate pest impact and reduce the spread of parasites, scientists are working to ensure successful harvests, now and in the future.

Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 3,500+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 5,100+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

£9M Funding to Optimise UK Food Supply
Five research prjects have been awarded a portion of £9M to help increase resilience in UK food systems.
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
£4.5M Newton Fund to Tackle Antimicrobial Resistance
Six research partnerships tackling the rise of anti-microbial resistance (AMR) have been created with £4.5M investment by the UK Research Councils.
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Major Pathogen of Barley Decoded
A team of scientists studying the fungus that causes Ramularia leaf spot have sequenced and explored its genome.
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
UK-Brazil Wheat Research Projects Awarded £4M
£4M investment from BBSRC and Embrapa has been awarded to four Brazil-UK partnerships.
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Protein Boosts Rice Yield by 54%
Over-expression of a natural protein in rice plants led to a 54% increase in crop yield and 40% increase in nitrogen-use efficiency.
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Expanding the DNA Alphabet: 'Extra' DNA Base Found to be Stable in Mammals
A rare DNA base, previously thought to be a temporary modification, has been shown to be stable in mammalian DNA, suggesting that it plays a key role in cellular function.
Thursday, June 25, 2015
Controlling Leaf Blotch Disease In Wheat
Scientists have found a genetic mechanism that could stop the spread of a "devastating" disease threatening wheat crops.
Thursday, February 05, 2015
Rising Temperatures Predicted to Lower Wheat Yields
An international consortium of researchers has used big data sets to predict the effects climate change on global wheat yields.
Friday, December 26, 2014
UK And India Collaborate On Future-Proof Crops
Drought-tolerant tomatoes, improved wheat and grass pea could provide crops for the future.
Friday, November 28, 2014
Better Understanding of Disease Resistance Genes in Crops
Effector-triggered defence concept describes how plants protect themselves against the apoplast.
Friday, June 06, 2014
Public-private Research Partnership to Support Sustainable Agricultural Systems
The partnership will support projects that will help provide solutions to key challenges affecting the sustainability of the UK crop and livestock sectors.
Friday, May 23, 2014
A Synthetic Biology Approach to Improve Photosynthesis
Assembling a compartment inside chloroplasts of flowering plants has the potential to improve the efficiency of photosynthesis.
Friday, May 16, 2014
Green Vaccination: Boosting Plant Immunity Without Side Effects
A team of international researchers has uncovered a mechanism by which plants are able to better defend themselves against disease causing pathogens.
Tuesday, May 06, 2014
Rothamsted Research Granted Permission for new GM Field Trial
Permission granted by Defra for Rothamsted to carry out a field trial with GM Camelina plants that produce omega-3 fish oils in their seeds.
Monday, April 28, 2014
BBSRC, NSF Co-Fund International Arabidopsis Resource

Friday, March 14, 2014
Scientific News
Integrated Omics Analysis
Studying multi-omics promises to give a more holistic picture of the organism and its place in its ecosystem, however despite the complexities involved those within the field are optimistic.
New Mechanism of Plant RNA Degradation Identified
Researchers have identified a novel mechanism by which RNA is degraded.
Enlisting Insects to Protect Agriculture
New program aims for insect delivery of protective genes to modify mature plants within a single growing season.
New Model for Understanding Human Myeloma
Researchers develop mouse model where mice carry six human genes involved in human tumour growth.
3D-Printing in Science: Conference Co-Staged with LABVOLUTION
LABVOLUTION 2017 will have an added highlight of a simultaneous conference, "3D-Printing in Science".
Ethical Challenges of Genome Editing
A review of bioethics idnetifies two top challenges for genome editing.
Genetically Engineered Crops Are Safe
Study finds genetically engineered crop's risk to human health and the environment are no different than conventional crops.
Nimbolide Could Suppress Prostate Cancer Development
Oral administration of nimbolide over 12 weeks shows reduction of prostate tumour size and decrease in tumour metastasis.
Modified Yeast Shows Plant Response to Key Hormone
Researchers have developed a toolkit based on modified yeast to determine plant responses to auxin.
New Discovery May Benefit Farmers Worldwide
Scientists have shown how a crop-microbe 'team' protect against fungal infection.

SELECTBIO Market Reports
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
3,500+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
5,100+ scientific videos