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How do plant viruses affect plant-pollinator interactions?

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Plant viruses are a major source of inefficiency in agriculture, causing the industry billions of dollars each year. Because of the devastation they cause, the positive effects of viruses are often largely ignored. The discovery that tomatoes infected with cucumber mosaic virus are more attractive to pollinators may be of significance due to the global decline in pollinator services, which continuously threatens agriculture. Two major research routes are taken here: a close look into the molecular mechanism of increased attraction; and predicting its effects on the plant population over evolutionary time. The molecular mechanisms are studied with a reverse genetics approach whereby mutant and transgenic plants are offered to bees in dichotomous choice tests. An evolutionary model is proposed to determine the success of susceptible and resistant plant populations. In this way it is hoped that we will come closer to addressing the question of whether or not the increased pollinator attraction is adaptive for the virus in selecting against viral resistance in plants by increasing the reproductive fitness of infected plants.

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

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