Location: Subtropical Plant Pathology Research
Project Number: 6034-22000-045-021-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement
Start Date: Jul 1, 2022
End Date: Jun 30, 2027
Test various constructs for effects on blocking transmission and acquisition of orthotospoviruses in host plants.
Previous work has demonstrated that a protein on the surface of tomato spotted wilt virus binds to a thrips gut receptor to facilitate virus entry and replication. It is also known that the specificity of Bt toxin depends on targeting Bt to an insect gut receptor by a specific protein. We are using standard molecular techniques to produce Bt that contains the virus surface protein in place of its native targeting protein. The rationale is that the Bt fusion will bind to thrips guts (and only thrips guts because the virus is not transmitted by any other insect) and create a specific (no harm to beneficial insects), benign (years of use of Bt have shown it to be safe) and effective pesticide. A robust transmission assay will be used to experimentally evaluate Bt fusions for control of thrips and orthotospoviruses. A thrips-specific Bt was recently expressed in cotton and this may offer a second approach for thrips control in ornamentals.