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Virology & Molecular Plant Pathology

Head of Group: Dr John Carr

john carrThe group is interested in the interactions of plants with pathogens and pests, why some plants actively resist their attackers, and how some pathogens manipulate the resistance responses of plants.

Topics of interest include:

  • Do viruses manipulate plant-aphid interactions to facilitate insect-mediated transmission?
  • Does virus infection affect interactions with other organisms in the environment including beneficial ones?

How do signaling pathways mediated by salicylic acid, jasmonic acid and inositol phosphates work together to maintain resistance to pathogens and how are they sometimes subverted by pathogens (in particular viruses)?

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Figure 1
Understanding how viruses cause disease symptoms

Figure 1. Three tobacco plants infected with cucumber mosaic virus (CMV), a mutant of the virus (CMV∆2b), or treated with a control solution (‘mock’ inoculation). CMV infection causes severe stunting of plants but disease is absent in the plant infected with the mutant virus CMV∆2b. This mutant is unable to express an important CMV factor called the 2b protein, which among other things, is an important determinant of disease symptoms.

Figure 2Probing the behaviour of virus-transmitting insects

Figure 2. An aphid (Myzus persicae) feeds on the surface of an Arabidopsis thaliana leaf. The insect is attached to a fine gold wire to allow its feeding behaviour to be monitored electronically in real time. Studies like this allow us to understand how virus infection alters the feeding behaviour of these insects. This is important because aphids transmit many plant viruses. (Image credit: Dr. Jack Westwood).