Smelly Cucumbers Anyone?

Somewhat to my surprise, I have recently found myself very interested in plant viruses. This started a few years ago when I ate a most delicious variety of hot pepper that apparently is infected with a virus that gives the peppers white stripes. I’ve never really given much thought to plants and plant viruses before but as I began to look into their biology it seems that plant viruses have some terrific tricks up their sleeves (if you will) to aid in their transmission.
Plants aren’t walking around coughing on each other, so most of them depend on insects to come and bite the infected plant and carry the virus to the next host. But a plant that is infected isn’t very attractive to insects, since unhealthy plants aren’t as likely to be a valuable source of food. But viruses are masters of host manipulation. A recent study looked at Cucumber mosaic virus, and its ability to attract aphids to infected leaves. It seems that aphids dont like to spend much time on infected leaves, and they dont have to. The virus sticks to the aphid mouthparts quickly and easily and the aphid can then bring it to the next plant. But the aphids still have to be attracted to the leaves, even if they dont stay for long. So how does the virus attract the aphid to the plant? Researchers set up a special chamber with a leaf from an infected and a leaf from an uninfected plant. The leaves were not visible, but could be smelled by the aphids through wire mesh. Aphids released into the chamber were more attracted to the uninfected leaf. Analysis of volitile organic compounds being released from leaves showed that both infected and uninfected leaves release compounds that aphids can smell but infected leaves release much more. So even though the meal may not be as good, the strong smell brings the aphids to the table.


2 thoughts on “Smelly Cucumbers Anyone?”

  1. No, the virus is not transmittable to humans. Due to the differences between animal and plant cells, its unlikely a virus could replicate effectively in both…I’ve never seen a report of a plant virus replicating in animals.

Comments are closed.