Biotech Updates

Family of Crop Viruses Shown at High Resolution for the First Time

October 16, 2019

Luteo virus. Photo Source: University of Leeds

For the first time, the world's deadliest crop killers are revealed at a molecular level. The Luteoviridae are pathogenic viruses that cause major crop losses worldwide. However, researchers have been unable to generate the quantities of these viruses needed to study them in high resolution. Now a group of researchers at John Innes Centre and the Astbury Biostructure Laboratory at the University of Leeds used recent advances in plant expression technology to derive sufficient quantities of the pathogen to create a more detailed scrutiny with state of the art microscopy techniques.

The method the researchers used involves infiltrating a tobacco plant with the genes necessary to create virus-like particles (VLPs). Using the VLPs, the team observed the viral structures to high resolution by cryo-electron microscopy. This provided, for the first time, a molecular-level insight into how the luteovirid capsid forms and suggests how it is transmitted by aphids.

The Luteoviridae are transmitted by aphids, and infect a wide range of food crops including cereals, legumes, cucurbits, sugar beets, sugarcane, and potato. These viruses attack the plant vasculature which causes severe stunting leading to crop loss. The family includes barley yellow dwarf virus and potato leafroll virus.

For more details, read the article in John Innes Centre website.

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