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Phytopathology. 2009 Apr;99(4):404-10. doi: 10.1094/PHYTO-99-4-0404.

Variation in Tomato spotted wilt virus titer in Frankliniella occidentalis and its association with frequency of transmission.

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  • 1Department of Plant Pathology, Kansas State University, Manhattan 66506, USA.


Tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) is transmitted in a persistent propagative manner by Frankliniella occidentalis, the western flower thrips. While it is well established that vector competence depends on TSWV acquisition by young larvae and virus replication within the insect, the biological factors associated with frequency of transmission have not been well characterized. We hypothesized that the number of transmission events by a single adult thrips is determined, in part, by the amount of virus harbored (titer) by the insect. Transmission time-course experiments were conducted using a leaf disk assay to determine the efficiency and frequency of TSWV transmission following 2-day inoculation access periods (IAPs). Virus titer in individual adult thrips was determined by real-time quantitative reverse transcriptase-PCR (qRT-PCR) at the end of the experiments. On average, 59% of adults transmitted the virus during the first IAP (2 to 3 days post adult-eclosion). Male thrips were more efficient at transmitting TSWV multiple times compared with female thrips of the same cohort. However, females harbored two to three times more copies of TSWV-N RNA per insect, indicating that factors other than absolute virus titer in the insect contribute to a successful transmission event. Examination of virus titer in individual insects at the end of the third IAP (7 days post adult-eclosion) revealed significant and consistent positive associations between frequency of transmission and virus titer. Our data support the hypothesis that a viruliferous thrips is more likely to transmit multiple times if it harbors a high titer of virus. This quantitative relationship provides new insights into the biological parameters that may influence the spread of TSWV by thrips.

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