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Suspicious Virus Makes Rare Cross-Kingdom Leap From Plants to Honeybees

RATE THIS! +23
Posted in Science on 2nd Feb, 2014 01:56 AM by AlexMuller

When HIV jumped from chimpanzees to humans sometime in the early 1900s, it crossed a gulf spanning several million years of evolution. But tobacco ringspot virus, scientists announced last week, has made a jump that defies credulity. It has crossed a yawning chasm ~1.6 billion years wide.

 
And this is likely bad news for its new host, the honeybee, matchmaker of crops and bringer of honey.  These are two services for which humans are both eternally indebted, and, in the case of the former, possibly unable to live without. Bees pollinate the majority of our fruit and nut crops and many vegetables, some 90 all told, without which humanity would be nutritionally impoverished.
 
Yet shortages are a possibility we are confronting, as bee populations in America have declined in recent years for reasons that seem to be both diverse and elusive. Colony collapse disorder, as whatever it is is called, was first reported in 2006 and has spread globally. Many viruses, parasites, and pesticides have been implicated, but no smoking gun has emerged.
 
As scientists were studying the possible role of pollen in spreading known bee viruses, a team of scientists from the United States and China began screening bees and pollen for viruses of all sorts. To their surprise, as they reported Jan. 21 in the journal mBio, they discovered a common plant virus, tobacco ringspot virus, had seemingly infested honeybees. Was it merely a transient visitor? Or had it made itself at home in a place inconceivably different from its usual digs?
 
Their first clue was the virus’s genome. Tobacco ringspot virus is an RNA virus. Though DNA acts as a stable repository of instructions for building proteins, RNA is how that information is transmitted to the part of the cell that manufactures them. It is transient by nature, and recycled after a short time. As a result, RNA polymerase, the enzyme that makes RNA by copying DNA, is not as careful as DNA polymerase, the enzyme that replicates it.
 
It lacks a key proofreading mechanism that DNA polymerase has (3′->5′ proofreading), and as a result, is more likely to make mistakes called mutations. In humans, that is not a problem, because the life of an individual strand of RNA is brief and any mistakes end with its destruction.

Tags: beesvirustobaccotobacco ringspot viruspollination

Read original article » Back to category

Comments

Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-02-02
+2
Indeed, it is when viruses cross from one species to another that they become so dangerous - and bees are already in big trouble. Bad news
2 Replies
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-02-02
+1
This example is not a common one. It is not happening frequently that plant viruses can infect insects that usually just carry them Reply
Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-02-02
+2
Interestingly, there is some evidence that this virus could contribute to colony collapse. More research is however needed. Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-02-02
+2
It is important to take steps towards identifying the reasons for the recent global decline of bees; this is a dangerous trend that has baffled many experts worldwide.
4 Replies
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-02-02
+1
It would be important to find the balance between protecting plants by using pesticides and the effect on other life including bees. Researchers have more to do in this direction Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-02-02
+0
I agree. It will be essential to understand the full impact of pesticides and conducting such studies needs to be a priority for scientists and governments Reply
Reply


 

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