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Carr Group: Plant Virology: Effects on plant-pollinator interactions


Supervisor: John Carr (Plant Sciences

Project Summary

An increasing body of evidence suggests that under some conditions viruses act as mutualists. For example, cucumber mosaic virus makes infected tomato plants more attractive to bumblebee pollinators. These phenomena may favour reproduction of virus‐susceptible plants over that of resistant or uninfected plants; increasing inheritance of genes for susceptibility, and inhibiting inheritance of resistance. Mathematical modelling supports this, raising the possibility that viruses influence plant evolution by decreasing the selective advantage of resistance (Groen et al., 2016). The key objective is to experimentally test this 'payback' hypothesis by determining if it occurs in other plant-virus interactions, with and other pollinations syndromes (i.e. where the reward for the bee is protein in the form of pollen versus carbohydrate in the form of nectar). The payback hypothesis will be further tested by examining whether or not virus infection improves reward (pollen or nectar) quality or quantity, i.e. is there a payback for the pollinator? Bee responses to visual and olfactory cues emitted by healthy versus diseased plants will be investigated using free choice and conditioning assays. Insect responses will be correlated with changes in plant volatile emission (using GC-MS) and in plant soluble factors e.g. in nectar sucrose will be assessed for sucrose concentration by refractometry or for other compounds if needed using LC-MS.


  • Carr, J.P., Donnelly, R., Tungadi, T., Murphy, A.M., Jiang, S., Bravo-Cazar, A., Yoon, J.Y., Cunniffe, N.J., Glover, B.J., and
  • Gilligan, C.A.G. 2018. Viral manipulation of plant stress responses and host interactions with insects. Advances in Virus Research 102: 177-197. doi: 10.1016/bs.aivir.2018.06.004.
  • Groen, S.C., et al. 2016. Virus infection of plants alters pollinator preference: A payback for susceptible hosts? PLoS Pathogens 12(8): e1005790., doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1005790


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