Research Fellows Directory
Miss Adi Kliot
John Innes Centre
This research focuses on a bacterium called phytoplasma, a vector-borne plant disease (VBD) that is transmitted from plant to plant by an insect (also known as 'the vector'). VBDs are a grave agricultural problem that can cause devastating losses and bring families in developing countries to danger of starvation. As well, globally, prevention of VBDs in the majority of economically important crops is almost entirely dependent on the use of insecticides, which are harmful to the environment, expensive, and due to the evolution of insecticide resistance, are losing effectiveness to control insect pests at an alarming rate. Whereas it may be justified to limit insecticide use, there are currently no cost-effective alternatives to control VBDs and their insect vectors. Hence, my research is focused on gaining a better understanding of how VBDs are transmitted by their insect vectors. This knowledge will be useful towards finding new ways for controlling VBDs.
So far, research has mostly focused on the disease progression in the plant host, and studies of how VBDs interact with insect vectors are rare. Given that, so far, the control of insect vectors has been most effective at restricting VBD spread, my goal is to use knowledge of VBD interaction with insect vectors to identify targets within the insect vectors that may then be used for the development of new insecticides and prevention of VBD transmission. To do this, I use virulence factors (effectors) that phytoplasma deposit into the insect vectors and that are likely to interact with proteins of the insect vector. The past few months, I have optimized laboratory procedures and generated genomics resources for the insect vector of phytoplasma. So far, I found that one phytoplasma effector may interact with ±16 different insect proteins. My future goal is to investigate the functions of these 16 insect proteins further and also to identify interactors of 7 other phytoplasma effectors inside the insect vector.