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Disruption of Vector Transmission by a Plant-Expressed Viral Glycoprotein

March 2014 , Volume 27 , Number  3
Pages  296 - 304

Mauricio Montero-Astúa,1 Dorith Rotenberg,1 Alexandria Leach-Kieffaber,1 Brandi A. Schneweis,1 Sunghun Park,2 Jungeun K. Park,2 Thomas L. German,3 and Anna E. Whitfield1

1Department of Plant Pathology and 2Department of Horticulture, Forestry and Recreation Resources, Kansas State University, Manhattan 66506-5502 U.S.A.; 3Department of Entomology, University of Wisconsin, Madison 53706-1598 U.S.A.

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Accepted 13 December 2013.

Vector-borne viruses are a threat to human, animal, and plant health worldwide, requiring the development of novel strategies for their control. Tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) is one of the 10 most economically significant plant viruses and, together with other tospoviruses, is a threat to global food security. TSWV is transmitted by thrips, including the western flower thrips, Frankliniella occidentalis. Previously, we demonstrated that the TSWV glycoprotein GN binds to thrips vector midguts. We report here the development of transgenic plants that interfere with TSWV acquisition and transmission by the insect vector. Tomato plants expressing GN-S protein supported virus accumulation and symptom expression comparable with nontransgenic plants. However, virus titers in larval insects exposed to the infected transgenic plants were three-log lower than insects exposed to infected nontransgenic control plants. The negative effect of the GN-S transgenics on insect virus titers persisted to adulthood, as shown by four-log lower virus titers in adults and an average reduction of 87% in transmission efficiencies. These results demonstrate that an initial reduction in virus infection of the insect can result in a significant decrease in virus titer and transmission over the lifespan of the vector, supportive of a dose-dependent relationship in the virus–vector interaction. These findings demonstrate that plant expression of a viral protein can be an effective way to block virus transmission by insect vectors.

© 2014 The American Phytopathological Society