student projects

Examining the factors behind maize virus transmission by insects
doctoral project Yuting chen, entomology andrew Michel, entomology, advisor

Rhabdoviruses infect humans, livestock, and crops, and plant rhabdoviruses infect both their plant hosts and insects. Maize fine streak virus (MFSV) is transmitted by the black-faced leafhopper, Graminella nigrifrons, and has devastated corn crops, but it has not arrived in Ohio yet. G. nigrifrons can be separated into three classes: transmitters, which can transmit MFSV to new plant hosts; acquirers, which become infected but cannot transmit MFSV; and non-acquirers, which do not acquire MFSV. Although information on the biological characteristics of G. nigrifrons is available, nothing is known about the insect’s genome. In addition, the transmission mechanism of MFSV by G. nigrifrons is still poorly understood. This project aimed to better understand the molecular factors required for rhabdovirus transmission by insects and to help prevent MFSV from spreading to Ohio. Moreover, G. nigrifrons transmits many other viruses, such as Maize chlorotic dwarf virus (MCDV), which causes significant crop losses in Ohio. The sequencing data provide by this study could help to shed light on the interaction between G. nigrifrons and MCDV and contribute to controlling the spread of MCDV in Ohio. The team first used G. nigrifrons transmitters and acquirers to construct two complementary DNA (cDNA) libraries. Researchers found significant down-regulation of three peptidoglycan recognition proteins (PGRP-SB1, SD, and LC) in transmitters as compared to unexposed insects (used as control). However, other genes involved in immune response and RNA interference pathway, such as gramnegative bacteria binding proteins (GNBPs) and Dicer-2 did not show significant difference among transmitters

and control leafhoppers. The down-regulation of PGRPs in MFSV transmitters suggests a possible interaction with rhabdovirus transmission by vectors. The team will use these new molecular markers to characterize genetic variance among G. nigrifrons in Ohio, as well as test for variance among different populations from other states. In addition, G. nigrifrons’ genomic resources will be used for testing their fitness and mating preferences, which may explain the MFSV transmission constraints from an ecological perspective. Furthermore, researchers will test more gene expression level differences among the three classes of G. nigrifrons to explain their defense mechanism against MFSV, as well as the viral transmission mechanism.
Yuting chen

G. nigrifrons transmits many other viruses, such as Maize chlorotic dwarf virus (MCDV), which causes significant crop losses in Ohio.


SEEDS: The OARDC Research Enhancement Competitive Grants Program

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