Title page for ETD etd-04252006-145220

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Flagg, Jeannine K.
Author's Email Address jkflagg@vt.edu
URN etd-04252006-145220
Title Cross-Species Translocation of mRNA from Host Plants into the Parasitic Plant Dodder
Degree Master of Science
Department Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Westwood, James H. Committee Chair
Gillaspy, Glenda E. Committee Member
Tu, Zhijian Jake Committee Member
  • pumpkin
  • phloem-mobile mRNA
  • tomato
  • Cusucuta pentagona
Date of Defense 2006-04-11
Availability unrestricted
Dodders (Cuscuta spp.) are parasitic plants that live by tapping into the vascular tissue of a host plant. Contents of the host phloem translocate readily into the parasite, and shared plasmodesmata have been documented between host cortical cells and dodder searching hyphae. Dodder is known to transmit viruses from one host to another, which is consistent with viral ability to traverse plasmodesmata (PD) with the aid of movement proteins (MPs). Plant endogenous mRNAs may also associate with specific proteins to pass through PD and traffic long distances in the phloem, a process that appears to play a role in coordination of development. We have evaluated the hypothesis that dodder is able to accumulate host phloem-mobile mRNAs by assaying lespedeza dodder (C. pentagona) for the presence of host transcripts. Reverse transcriptase PCR (RT-PCR) and tomato microarrays were used to probe RNA from dodder parasitizing tomato. Transcripts from four tomato genes were detected in dodder grown on tomato, but were not detected in control dodder grown on other hosts. Notable among these was LeGAI, a transcript previously shown to be phloem translocated. In addition, RT-PCR of RNA from dodder grown on pumpkin detected three mobile pumpkin mRNAs (CmNACP, CmSUTP1, and CmWRKYP). These results imply the existence of an extraordinary situation in which mobile mRNAs move from one plant into another, and raise questions about the role of this phenomenon in plant development and parasite pathogenicity.
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