Virus may chauffeur useful 'packages' into plants

Jan 04, 2010

This time of year, the word "virus" conjures up a bedridden stint with coughs and chills - something everyone goes to great lengths to avoid.

But scientists for Texas AgriLife Research have gone the distance to show that at least some viruses can be put to work to help us.

A new study by Dr. Karen-Beth Scholthof and her husband Dr. Herman Scholthof, to be published in the January issue of , shows that plant viruses may work like a trucking service loaded to carry freight to its destination.

"The idea is to have a virus do something good for us, like express a foreign protein and carry into a cell," said Herman Scholthof. The Scholthofs are plant virologists with AgriLife Research.

"The use of viral vectors to produce proteins in is attractive because of the potential high-protein output, the transient nature, the rapid applicability and active expression and the relative cost-effectiveness of the system," the Scholthofs wrote.

A problem with this type of system, however, has been that during transport a virus loses the gene or whatever it is intended to express.

"We're trying to outsmart the virus and make it stable for the job," Karen-Beth Scholthof said.

Herman Scholthof noted that "a virus recognizes a foreign object and does away with it."

In the lab, however, the Scholthofs were able to prove that the coat or particle protein of satellite panicum could be used as a tool to help stabilize viral vector genes introduced in Nicotiana bethamiana, a relative of tobacco and a for research.

Satellite panicum mosaic virus only infects grass that is already infected with panicum mosaic virus, the pathogen that causes St. Augustine decline. If the virus particle protein were able to transport a gene into a non-grass species, this is an indication that with further research it could be used in a positive way to help plant breeders who want to carry good traits into the crops they are developing, the Scholthofs noted.

Explore further: World's first microbe 'zoo' opens in Amsterdam

Provided by Texas A&M AgriLife Communications

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

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, ...

Wheat curl mite might require non-chemical control

Mar 31, 2009

The wheat curl mite is a minute menace that wreaks havoc on the region's wheat crop; but it has no enemies currently that can take it out. That doesn't mean Texas AgriLife Research scientists aren't trying to find ways to ...

Recommended for you

World's first microbe 'zoo' opens in Amsterdam

2 hours ago

The world's first "interactive microbe zoo" opened in Amsterdam on Tuesday, shining new light on the tiny creatures that make up two-thirds of all living matter and are vital for our planet's future.

Study shows how chimpanzees share skills

4 hours ago

Evidence of new behaviour being adopted and transmitted socially from one individual to another within a wild chimpanzee community is publishing on September 30 in the open access journal PLOS Biology. This i ...

Little blue penguin back at sea after hospital stint

9 hours ago

Wildbase Recovery Community Trust ambassador and Rangitikei MP Ian McKelvie joined Massey University veterinary staff to release a little blue penguin back into the sea at Himatangi Beach this morning.

User comments : 0