Neha Pandya

Understanding the role of Turnip Mosaic Virus (TuMV) in plant-insect interactions

Plants are susceptible to insect and pathogen attacks, including viral infections that spread from one plant to another through insect vectors, causing severe crop loss each year. Previous research has shown that green peach aphids, Myzus persicae, feeding on Turnip Mosaic Virus (TuMV)-infected plants produce a significantly increased number of progeny compared to aphids feeding on mock-infected plants. A few important virus proteins may account for higher reproduction of aphids due to increase nutrient content in the plants. Further experiments were performed with Agrobacterium-infiltrated Nicotiana benthamiana plants transiently expressing isolated TuMV protein compared to empty vector control plants. N. benthamiana with ten aphids were observed for three hours in the dark to assess aphid preference. Additional analyses of significant viral proteins were conducted by using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) to measure free amino acid contents in the plants. Investigating these plant-insect-virus interactions will enhance our understanding of the pathogenesis of the Turnip Mosaic Virus as well as the spread of the virus by insects. Eventually, this will allow us to improve plant development, endurance, and insect resistance, thereby increasing plant defenses, lessening the use of insecticides in the agriculture industry, and increasing global food crop.

My Experience

The Plant Genome Research Program (PGRP) internship was an amazing opportunity for me, opening doors for me to conduct research in a professional scientific environment at a vibrant active campus. By working with colleagues in the Jander lab, I gained a wide variety of ideas and techniques, including RNA extraction, cDNA synthesis, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), agarose gel electrophoresis, plant infiltration, and HPLC. Being mentored by an expert in the field, I have learned to think scientifically, deal with troubleshooting, work more efficiently, propose my own experiments, and improve my scientific writing ability. The summer spent at BTI has exposed me to a broad range of research areas in plant sciences via the PGRP seminar series. This internship has definitely prepared me for graduate school and a scientific research career. I am truly thankful to have been a part of the PGRP program.

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