Study will determine whether viruses can help orchids

Jul 04, 2011
Study will determine whether viruses can help orchids

Plant scientists from Murdoch University will be investigating whether the viruses hosted by orchids in Western Australia are actually benefitting them under the changing climatic conditions.

Professor Michael Jones, Dr Stephen Wylie and their team from the School of and say that in some natural ecosystems, ancient associations between viruses and help to protect their hosts from physical stresses.

“Plant viruses have traditionally been blamed for causing disease and death in plants,” explained Professor Jones, whose study has been made possible by an ARC Linkage Grant. “But we think there may also be benefits.

“An exciting part of this research will be to investigate the physiological responses of native orchids under heat and drought stresses and determine the roles viruses have in mediating that response.

“We will test whether the ancient associations between plants and viruses are maintained where both parties benefit in some way. For example, in the plant Arabidopsis, the Cauliflower mosaic virus infection induces the expression of some protective proteins which are also expressed when plants are stressed, such as by high and low temperatures and drought.”

The research team will employ new genome sequencing techniques, which can generate up to 30 gigabases of sequence data per run, to identify and understand the true diversity of viruses and virus-like elements in the orchids.

The team will then use special software to assemble virus genome sequences and determine the host plant’s response to the virus at the gene level.

Dr Wylie said: “This work will open the floodgates on new virus discovery in our region, with the techniques developed being applicable to a wide range of other biological systems worldwide.

“The results will also be of critical importance in informing conservation strategies for terrestrial orchids and other flora within WA.”

The Australian Orchid Foundation and Kings Park and Botanic Gardens in Perth will together contribute $90,000 towards the project over the next three years.

Professor Jones and Dr Wylie will also be collaborating with Professor Kingsley Dixon, Science Director at Kings Park and Botanic Gardens in Perth, and Professor Marilyn Roossinck at the American-based Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation on the research.

Professor Roossinck’s previous investigations stimulated the idea for the orchid project, said Professor Jones.

“She found that the mutualistic association between a virus, a fungus and a grass allowed the grass to grow at much higher soil temperatures.”

The research will use the sequencing techniques developed during Dr Wylie’s previous study with Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia (DAFWA) researchers into the movement of from plants grown in nurseries for rehabilitation projects, and between crops and native plants. As a result of his work, Dr Wylie discovered virus infections in critically endangered spider and donkey in south-western Australia.

Explore further: Boy moms more social in chimpanzees

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Key to controlling deadly viruses in bat community

Feb 15, 2011

CSIRO research into how bats can host some of the world’s deadliest viruses without suffering any ill-effects themselves will lead to improved strategies for controlling the spread of bat-borne diseases.

Western Australia's incredible underground orchid

Feb 08, 2011

Rhizanthella gardneri is a cute, quirky and critically endangered orchid that lives all its life underground. It even blooms underground, making it virtually unique amongst plants.

Introduced plants 'becoming Australian'

Jan 31, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- A number of introduced plant species have become more like natives, suggesting rapid evolution could happen far more frequently than previously thought, according to new research from UNSW.

The evolution of orchids

Nov 19, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Charles Darwin and many other scientists have long been puzzled by the evolution of orchids, the largest and most diverse family of flowering plants on Earth. Now genetic sequencing is giving ...

Genes identified to protect brassicas from damaging disease

Nov 01, 2007

Scientists have identified a new way to breed brassicas, which include broccoli, cabbage and oilseed rape, resistant to a damaging virus. Their discovery has characterised a form of resistance that appears to be durable, ...

Recommended for you

Boy moms more social in chimpanzees

Nov 24, 2014

Nearly four decades of observations of Tanzanian chimpanzees has revealed that the mothers of sons are about 25 percent more social than the mothers of daughters. Boy moms were found to spend about two hours ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.