Stable Introduction of Plant-Virus-Inhibiting Wolbachia into Planthoppers for Rice Protection

J. T. Gong, Y. Li, T. P. Li, Y. Liang, L. Hu, D. Zhang, C. Y. Zhou, C. Yang, X. Zhang, S. S. Zha, X. Z. Duan, L. A. Baton, X. Y. Hong, A. A. Hoffmann and Z. Xi,  Current Biology,  30:4837-4845.e5. 2020.

Progress has been made in developing the maternally inherited endosymbiotic bacterium Wolbachia as a tool for protecting humans from mosquito-borne diseases. In contrast, Wolbachia-based approaches have not yet been developed for the protection of plants from insect pests and their associated diseases, with a major challenge being the establishment of artificial Wolbachia infections expressing desired characteristics in the hemipterans that transmit the majority of plant viruses. Here, we report stable introduction of Wolbachia into the brown planthopper, Nilaparvata lugens, the most destructive rice pest that annually destroys millions of hectares of staple crops. The Wolbachia strain wStri from the small brown planthopper, Laodelphax striatellus, was transferred to this new host, where it showed high levels of cytoplasmic incompatibility, enabling rapid invasion of laboratory populations. Furthermore, wStri inhibited infection and transmission of Rice ragged stunt virus and mitigated virus-induced symptoms in rice plants, opening up the development of Wolbachia-based strategies against major agricultural pests and their transmitted pathogen

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