Navigation Links
How parasites modify plants to attract insects

Pathogens can alter their hosts, for example malaria parasites can make humans more attractive to mosquitoes, but how they do it has remained a mystery. Scientists from the John Innes Centre on Norwich Research Park have identified for the first time a specific molecule from a parasite that manipulates plant development to the advantage of the insect host.

"Our findings show how this pathogen molecule can reach beyond its host to alter a third organism," said Dr Saskia Hogenhout from JIC.

Leaf hoppers are tiny sap-sucking, highly mobile and opportunistic agricultural pests. Certain species can acquire and transmit plant pathogens including viruses and phytoplasmas, which are small bacteria. Dr Hogenhout and her team focused on a phytoplasma strain called Aster Yellows Witches' Broom, which causes deformity in a diverse range of plants.

"It is timely to better understand phytoplasmas as they are sensitive to cold and could spread to new areas as temperatures rise through climate change," said Dr Hogenhout.

Infected plants grow clusters of multiple stems which can look like a witches' broom or in trees like a bird's nest. The strain was originally isolated from infected lettuce fields in North America.

The phytoplasma depends on both the leafhopper and the plant host for survival, replication and dispersal. The new findings show how it manipulates the interaction of the plant host and insect vector to its advantage.

The scientists sequenced and examined the genome of the witches broom phytoplasma and identified 56 candidate molecules, called effector proteins, which could be key to this complex biological interaction.

They found that a protein effector SAP11 reduces the production of a defence hormone in the plant that is used against the leafhopper. As a consequence, leafhoppers reared on plants infected with witches broom laid more eggs and produced more offspring. The leafhoppers may also be attracted to lay eggs in the bunched branches and stems.

The higher fecundity rate is probably matched by a similar increased rate in transmission of the witches broom phytoplasma by leafhoppers to other plants.

"Phytoplasmas that can enhance egg-laying and offspring numbers in leafhoppers are likely to have a competitive advantage," said Dr Hogenhout.

Given their opportunistic nature, the leafhoppers are likely to migrate to uninfected plants and spread the pathogen.

"This is a vivid example of the extended phenotype, a concept put forward by Richard Dawkins, where an organism's phenotype is based not only on the biological processes within it but also on its impact on its environment," said Dr Hogenhout.

The research was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and The Gatsby Charitable Foundation. It will be published in PNAS.


Contact: Zoe Dunford
Norwich BioScience Institutes

Related biology news :

1. Scripps Florida scientists awarded $1.5M to fight major water and food parasites
2. Locking parasites in host cell could be new way to fight malaria
3. Immune genes adapt to parasites
4. Study finds role for parasites in evolution of sex
5. Discovery to aid in future treatments of third-world parasites
6. Parasites ready to jump
7. Penn researchers identify immune cells that fight parasites may promote allergies and asthma
8. Immune evasion common in many viruses, bacteria and parasites is uncommon in M. tuberculosis
9. Discovery offers hope of saving sub-Saharan crops from devastating parasites
10. MIT researchers study the danger of toxoplasma parasites
11. Comparison of genomes of plant parasites provides solid clues for response
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
How parasites modify plants to attract insects
(Date:11/12/2015)... , Nov. 12, 2015  Arxspan has ... of MIT and Harvard for use of its ... information management tools. The partnership will support the ... biological and chemical research information internally and with ... be used for managing the Institute,s electronic laboratory ...
(Date:11/9/2015)... ) ... "Global Law Enforcement Biometrics Market 2015-2019" ... ) has announced the addition of ... 2015-2019" report to their offering. ... ) has announced the addition of the ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... 2015  The J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) policy ... and Biosecurity: Lessons Learned and Options for the Future," ... Human Services guidance for synthetic biology providers has worked ... --> --> Synthetic biology promises ... to pose unique biosecurity threats. It now is easier ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/26/2015)... , England , November 26, 2015 ... Lightpoint Medical, an innovative medical device company specializing in imaging ... grant from the European Commission as part of the Horizon ... the company to carry out a large-scale clinical trial in ... -->      (Logo: , --> ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... HOLLISTON, Mass. , Nov. 25, 2015 ... a biotechnology company developing bioengineered organ implants for life-threatening ... will present at the LD Micro "Main Event" investor ... PT. The presentation will be webcast live and posted ... also be available at the conference for one-on-one meetings ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... 25, 2015 The Global ... a professional and in-depth study on the current ... (Logo: ) , The ... including definitions, classifications, applications and industry chain structure. ... international markets including development trends, competitive landscape analysis, ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: HALO ) will be presenting at the ... on Wednesday, December 2 at 9:30 a.m. ET/6:30 a.m. PT . ... a corporate overview. th Annual Oppenheimer Healthcare Conference ... a.m. PT . Jim Mazzola , vice president of ... --> th Annual Oppenheimer Healthcare Conference in ...
Breaking Biology Technology: