Plant Virus Transmission by Insects


Most plant viruses depend on insect vectors for their survival, transmission and spread. They transmit plant viruses by two principal modes, circulative (circulating through the insect's haemocoel, CV) and non‐circulative (carried on the cuticle lining of mouthparts or foregut, NC). Transmissibility and specificity between NC viruses and their vectors depends on the coat protein (CP) of the virus in addition to virus‐encoded helper proteins. Circulative viruses cross the gut, circulate in the haemocoel and cross the salivary glands to render the insect infective. Circulative luteoviruses depend on small CP and the read‐through protein (RTD) for transmission. Electrical penetration graphs have provided evidence on insect feeding behaviour and virus transmission. Recently, studies have shown that viruses can modify vector behaviour in a way that transmission is enhanced. Cultural, physical and novel biotechnological tools can provide virus control by interfering with vector landing and the retention of viruses in their vectors.

Key Concepts

  • Most plant viruses rely on insect vectors for survival, transmission and spread.
  • Aphids and whiteflies are by far the most important insects transmitting plant viruses.
  • Some plant viruses are associated to the cuticle of the insect mouthparts (non‐circulative), whereas others are retained in the salivary glands after they circulate through the insect's body (circulative).
  • Some non‐circulative viruses are retained in the common duct of the aphid's maxillary stylets and are inoculated by salivation during brief superficial intracellular probes.
  • Circulative viruses are inoculated during salivation stylet activities in phloem sieve elements.
  • Recent findings in the nature of insect proteins involved in the retention of virus or virus‐encoded helper proteins will help to develop new molecules to interfere with the transmission process.

Keywords: virus transmission; molecular mechanism; helper component; aphids; whiteflies; barriers; nets; virus control; vector control; vector behaviour; electrical penetration graph

Figure 1. Model describing the different strategies for virus–vector interaction in non‐circulative transmission by aphids. These strategies enable retention of virus particles on the common canal of the maxillary stylets at the surface of the cuticular lining. In the capsid strategy, CMV, a motif of the coat protein directly binds to the vector's receptor. In the helper strategy used by potyviruses, virus–vector binding is mediated by the helper component (HC‐Pro), which creates a ‘molecular bridge’ between the two. HC‐Pro can be acquired alone or together with the virion. Caulimoviruses (CaMV) also use the helper strategy, but a different protein (P2) acts as a bridge between the virus and the vector.
Figure 2. Schematic diagram of an aphid feeding and luteovirus transmission. Arrows indicate the circulative route for virus transmission through the insect's body. Virus particles circulate up through the food canal and cross the midgut and hindgut reaching the haemocoel. Then virus particles cross the accessory salivary glands and return to the plant via the salivary canal (from Gray et al., ). Reproduced with permission form from Gray et al., © Elsevier.
Figure 3. Electrical penetration graphs (EPGs) associated to the transmission of plant viruses by aphids.
Figure 4. Non‐woven agrotextiles are commonly used as a physical barrier to protect vegetables from insect landing and preventing virus epidemics.
Figure 5. Tomato plants grown under UV‐absorbing nets (a) protect from TYL. The control plot at the (b) (standard net) shows tomato plants with severe symptoms.


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Further Reading

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How to Cite close
Fereres, Alberto, and Raccah, Benjamin(Apr 2015) Plant Virus Transmission by Insects. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0000760.pub3]