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July 20th, 2017 / EurekAlert, AAAS

Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Zoology have discovered how a severe rice virus reproduces inside the small brown planthopper, a major carrier of the virus.

Rice stripe virus (RSV) causes major damage to rice crops each year. The study could inform future strategies for controlling the spread of this and other viruses that can lead to devastating effects on rice, wheat, cotton and other crops.

“Most plant viruses depend on insects to carry them between plants, and many can reproduce inside the cells of these carrier insects, or ‘vectors’, without actually harming them,” says Feng Cui, Professor of Zoology. “RSV, one of the most notorious plant viruses, is carried by the small brown planthopper and, once inside the cells, manages to achieve a balance with the insect’s immune system.”

Viral infections in animal hosts activate a pathway by which a type of enzyme, called c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), is signalled to respond. But how exactly viruses regulate this pathway in vectors remains an open question, and Cui says the answer would provide important clues for intervening in the spread of plant viruses. Read more