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Sci Rep. 2012;2:578. doi: 10.1038/srep00578. Epub 2012 Aug 15.

Plant viruses alter insect behavior to enhance their spread.

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Department of Plant, Soil, and Entomological Sciences, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID 83844-2339, USA.


Pathogens and parasites can induce changes in host or vector behavior that enhance their transmission. In plant systems, such effects are largely restricted to vectors, because they are mobile and may exhibit preferences dependent upon plant host infection status. Here we report the first evidence that acquisition of a plant virus directly alters host selection behavior by its insect vector. We show that the aphid Rhopalosiphum padi, after acquiring Barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) during in vitro feeding, prefers noninfected wheat plants, while noninfective aphids also fed in vitro prefer BYDV-infected plants. This behavioral change should promote pathogen spread since noninfective vector preference for infected plants will promote acquisition, while infective vector preference for noninfected hosts will promote transmission. We propose the "Vector Manipulation Hypothesis" to explain the evolution of strategies in plant pathogens to enhance their spread to new hosts. Our findings have implications for disease and vector management.

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