Miguel Barrera
Miguel Barrera
Faculty Advisor: Georg Jander
Year: 2021

Functional Characterization of a Novel Aphid Effector in Nicotiana benthamiana Utilizing a Heritable Gene Editing System”

 Project Summary:

Aphids are a common pest that can reproduce quickly and infest a plant, all while infiltrating the plant and sucking the nutrient rich liquid in the plant’s phloem. This research project focused on examining the Sp15 aphid effector protein, which is utilized in the aphid’s salivary secretions to puncture and enter the plant’s tissue. This effector protein is speculated to manipulate plant gene expression of plant defenses, meaning this effector may be silencing or activating plant genes to allow the insect to better feed on the plant. To better understand how this effector is influencing plant gene expression, I utilized a heritable gene editing system that would knockdown two transcription factors, hypothesized to bind to the Sp15 effector, in Nicotiana benthamiana. Through this editing system, I infiltrated several N.benthamiana with my construct that would knockout the desired transcription factor and allowed them to produce seed. I then sowed the progeny and sequenced several samples, looking for any changes in the sequences that may suggest a mutation. The results from the sequencing seem promising and indicate a mutation occurred. Moving forward, I plan to perform aphid bioassays on the mutant progeny to see if there are changes in aphid survivorship and fecundity.  

My Experience:

I have gained not only new insight into the world of scientific research and plant biology, but also practical skills that I can apply moving forward in my academic career. During this experience, I had the opportunity to attend workshops and seminars that I felt have had the most profound impact during my internship. These events gave me opportunities to ask questions about new topics and explore the various areas of study within the field of plant biology. Additionally, these events served as a great resource to network with Cornell faculty and staff, which is a skill I was able to practice more during this experience. This internship has been beneficial for me as a student, as I improved my time management and organizational skills while conducting my research project. I plan to utilize everything I learned this summer when I return to class and research in the fall.