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The extended phenotype of the cucumber mosaic virus genome in insect transmission

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Pathogen genomes encode proteins that manipulate hosts to create a favourable niche for pathogen reproduction. For animal-transmitted pathogens the effects of some of their genes are often not just restricted to their primary hosts. Indeed, these genes give rise to a phenotype that may extend to the pathogen’s animal vectors changing their performance or behaviour and often benefitting pathogen transmission. This idea was captured by Richard Dawkins in his book “The extended phenotype: The long reach of the gene” (Oxford Univ. Press, 1982). For most pathogen-host-vector interactions it is currently not feasible to elucidate the genetic basis underlying the extended phenotype of the pathogen. During my PhD project I used a model system comprised of cucumber mosaic virus, its main insect vectors, aphids, and their shared plant host Arabidopsis for which this should be possible. Using a whole genome approach I harnessed the natural variation in viral transmission phenotypes to identify the genes with extended effects in insect-mediated dispersal. Here, I will present evidence of the interactive effects of three viral genes that are all needed to ensure efficient spread of this virus.

This talk is part of the Plant Sciences Research Seminars series.

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