ERATO Evolving Symbiosis Project International Seminar Series #31

Prof. Saskia Hogenhout (John Innes Centre, UK)
“Unveiling the Influence of Phytoplasmas: Insights into Extended Phenotypes and Biotechnological Implications”

Abstract: Parasites possess remarkable abilities to influence host development and behaviour, crucial for their survival and dissemination. This manipulation, especially evident in obligate parasites, showcases extended phenotypes, where an organism's genetic impact extends beyond itself, affecting others in the ecosystem. The Hogenhout lab focuses on phytoplasmas, obligate bacterial parasites relying on insect vectors for transmission. Phytoplasmas not only alter their immediate hosts but also have far-reaching effects. They induce significant plant developmental changes, like witches' brooms and phyllody, facilitated by effector proteins targeting critical plant transcription factors, disrupting growth pathways. Our research finds that symptomatic plants are more attractive to insect vectors, although specific symptoms aren't always necessary. These effectors occur in diverse phytoplasmas, including those affecting economically vital crops, underscoring their pathogenic significance. We identify susceptibility factors crucial for symptom induction, offering avenues to bolster resistance in agricultural systems. Additionally, phytoplasma effector mechanisms reveal novel strategies for targeted protein degradation, with broader implications for biotechnological applications. Our findings illuminate the intricate relationships among phytoplasmas, plants, and insect vectors, providing insights into the long reach of single parasite genes in extended phenotypes. Moreover, they promise effective management of economically significant pathogens and advancements in biotechnology.

ERATO Evolving Symbiosis Project International Seminar Series #31
Sponsored by ERATO FUKATSU Evolving Symbiosis Project

Co-sponsored by Microbiology Research Center for Sustainability (MiCS), University of Tsukuba