Helping Each Other

Helping Each Other

New plant viruses are being reported all over the world on a regular basis, and their origins have been a mystery until now. WSU researchers have found that this new diversity in plant viruses could be because they’re joining forces to wear down a plant’s defenses, resulting in more severe infections, and in turn generating new viruses. Hanu Pappu, plant virologist and chair of WSU’s Department of Plant Pathology explains.

PAPPU: We picked two viruses, they are somewhat related, but at the same time very different in certain features. One is called tomato spotted wilt virus, which causes serious damage on a lot of crops - it has a very wide host range, so it’s considered one of the most economically important plant viruses on a worldwide basis. And iris yellow spot virus - it is a serious problem on onion in the Northwest and in many parts of the world. So it gave us a nice model system to study the interactions between these two viruses, and in turn their interactions with the host plant.

Pappu says typically if a plant is infected by two viruses one becomes dominant and excludes the second.

PAPPU: But what we’re finding out is that in a case of a mixed infection the virus that is restricted when it’s infected alone now it is able to move to other parts of the plant and make the disease even more serious. The dominant virus is helping the second virus to become more established in the plant.

Pappu says that with this model system study researchers should be able to come up with ways to interfere in this phenomenon and create control strategies.

I’m Lacy Gray and that’s Washington Ag Today on the Ag Information Network. 

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