. Energy News .

How parasites modify plants to attract insects
by Staff Writers
Norwich UK (SPX) Nov 11, 2011

A leaf hopper on a finger, watched by Dr. Akiko Sugio and Dr. Saskia Hogenhout. Credit: John Innes Centre.

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.

Related Links
Norwich BioScience Institutes
Farming Today - Suppliers and Technology

Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
Buy Advertising Editorial Enquiries


. Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

China food chain shares up after buyout gets OK
Hong Kong (AFP) Nov 9, 2011
Shares in a Chinese restaurant chain extended its gains further Wednesday after a buy-out bid by the owners of US fast-food giants KFC and Pizza Hut was given regulatory approval. The takeover of hot pot chain Little Sheep by Yum! was given the go-ahead by by China's commerce ministry to buy the chain, the firms said in a statement to the Hong Kong bourse, where the Chinese firm is listed. ... read more

TerraSAR-X image of the month - Tents in the desert

Castles in the desert - satellites reveal lost cities of Libya

Stalled Weather Systems More Frequent in Decades of Warmer Atlantic

Thousand-Color Sensor Reveals Contaminants in Earth and Sea

In GPS case, US court debates '1984' scenario

Galileo satellites handed over to control centre in Germany

Map mischief creates furore in India

Russia launches navigation satellites

'Father of Mangroves' fights for Pakistan's forests

Holm oaks will gain ground in northern forests due to climate change

Climate change causing massive movement of tree species across the West

Tropical forests are fertilized by air pollution

Generating Ethanol from Lignocellulose Possible, But Large Cost Reductions Still Needed

Solazyme Announces First US Commercial Passenger Flight on Advanced Biofuel

A Stable Renewable Fuel Standard Is Needed to Meet Biofuel Production Goals

Mission Increases Jatropha Oil Supply Completing the 2011 Planting Season

Tenesol gets tough on PV security

PV in China to reach US levels

A Light Wave of Innovation to Advance Solar Energy

Sustainable, Solar Light Solutions To Disadvantaged Zambian Communities

Mortenson Construction Builds Its Fifth Wind Facility In Illinois

Chinese Wind Market To Overtake Germany by 2018, Second Only to the UK

Huhne slams green energy 'naysayers'

Wind farm development can be powerful, as long as proper design is implemented

Battle to save 23 miners trapped in China

China coal mine accident traps at least 43

Death toll in China mine blast rises to 10

45 saved in major Chinese mine rescue: state media

Clinton presses China on Tibet, blind lawyer

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei vows to fight tax bill

Tibet protester sets himself alight in Nepal: police

China's 'soft power' push stumbles at the movies


The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2011 - Space Media Network. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement