Pros and cons of virus infections in plants : an ecological perspective
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[S.l. : s.n.]
Number of pages
Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, 28 mei 2009
Promotor : Kroon, J.C.J.M. de
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Experimental Plant Ecology
Ecological aspects and evolutionary implications of virus infections in plants have not been studied intensively in the past. This thesis provides novel insight into complex and intriguing ecological features associated with plant virus interactions. The results show that White clover mosaic virus (WClMV) is able to infect all the young, developing plant parts of white clover (Trifolium repens), thereby supporting the suggestion that vascular integration in clonal plants can facilitate internal pathogen spread. Leaf ontogeny strongly affects disease development, resulting in a heterogeneous disease pattern within the clonal plant. It is clear that such virus infections can pose a threat to clonal plants, since infection with WClMV results in an overall negative effect on plant performance. Because these effects can differ greatly between host genotypes, the relative fitness and associated ranking of genotypes can change significantly between virus-free and virus-prone environments. This emphasizes the potential importance of plant viruses for shaping ecological and micro-evolutionary processes in host populations by promoting genotypic diversity. Plants which grow in natural conditions are prone to be simultaneously challenged by multiple stresses such as light limitation and herbivory. The findings in this thesis show that the negative effects of virus infection on plant performance, as well as genotypic variation in these effects are less pronounced in light-limiting than in high light conditions. Besides abiotic stresses, virus-infected plants may be subjected to biotic stresses as well. Their ability to cope with them is of major importance for their growth and survival. In contrast to the paradigm of viruses having predominantly negative effects, this thesis shows that virus infections can positively affect plant performance by protecting host plants from damage by root-feeding insects. Virus-infected plants emit a volatile blend that repels herbivorous insects, possibly leading to ecological benefits for virus infected plants. Such indirect benefits qualify viruses as excellent candidates for plant vaccination against insect herbivores.
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