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Scientists Discover Possible End To Arthropod-Transmitted Viruses

Update Date: Jan 10, 2017 10:10 AM EST

The molecular mechanisms of the cucumber mosaic virus that force the infected plant to release an odor that attracts arthropods, which then spreads the viruses have been discovered. By further understanding and using this knowledge to our advantage, there is a possibility of ending arthropod-transmitted viruses.

Most diseases in plants and humans are caused by pathogens or disease-producing agents like the cucumber mosaic virus or the Zika virus. These pathogens are most likely transmitted and spread by arthropods like mosquitoes and aphids. According to the scientists, the success of the pathogens is shaped and dependent on its molecular interactions with their host and their corresponding arthropods.

A previous study conducted by Shou-Wei Ding at UC Riverside found out that the primary defense of plants against the cucumber mosaic virus and other viruses is by launching an RNA interference (iRNA). However, Ding also discovered that the cucumber mosaic virus has the 2b protein that blocks the plant from launching an iRNA.

Building on Ding's research, another team of scientists also from UC Riverside found that some pathogens can manipulate plants and animals to release an odor to attract arthropods. These arthropods then become the vehicles for the transmission of the viruses. Even though the concept is clear, its underlying molecular mechanisms for host manipulations are still unknown.

The current study, published in Cell Research, was able to find the underlying molecular mechanisms in host manipulations through the use of another research on a plant hormone called Jasmonic Acid. According to the researchers, the 2b protein of the cucumber mosaic virus not only blocks the iRNA of the plant but also the plant hormone (jasmonic acid) pathway.

This is the first time scientists knew about a viral effector protein (2b protein) that manipulates plants to release an odor that attracts arthropods. This is also the first time a plant hormone (jasmonic acid) or a viral inducer of host attractiveness has been uncovered as a major host factor that acts as the middleman between the attracted arthropods and the infected plant.

From the result of their study, the scientists are looking into targeting either the viral effector protein or the viral inducer of host attractiveness to control the virus. If is successful, controlling the spread of the cucumber mosaic virus will lead to less damage to vegetable crops or the development of virus-resistant crops.

The scientists are also hoping that these molecular mechanisms can be also found in other arthropod-transmitted viruses like dengue and Zika virus.

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