Exploring natural and engineered resistance to potyviruses
Pyott, Douglas Euan
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Viruses are ubiquitous in natural growth environments and cause severe losses to crop yields, globally. Approximately 30% of plant viruses described to date are grouped within the family Potyviridae, making it one of the largest plant virus families. Furthermore, certain potyvirus species can cause devastating diseases in several agriculturally and economically important crops. Hence, gaining insight into potyvirus resistance and recovery mechanisms in plants is an important research focus. This thesis firstly explores how environmental cues can modulate the activity of a central form of viral defence, namely RNA silencing. Specifically, high temperatures and low light intensities were found to increase the efficacy of viral RNA silencing in Arabidopsis, resulting in recovery from infection by Turnip Mosaic Virus. The biological context and potential for agricultural exploitation of these phenomena are discussed. Secondly, this thesis explores the ability to engineer resistance alleles using the latest genome editing techniques. Specifically, resistance to Turnip Mosaic Virus was successfully engineered in Arabidopsis by CRISPR/Cas9-induced deletion of a known susceptibility factor eIF(iso)4E. Biotechnological methods to implement this proof of concept research in crop species were also investigated.