Scientists aim to engineer genetic defense system against deadly grapevine disease

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Image Credit: Victoria University of Wellington

A new discovery by Washington State University scientists could help grape growers roll back a devastating virus that withers vines and shrivels harvests.

Named for how it curls the leaves of infected plants, grapevine leafroll disease costs growers millions of dollars in lost vines and productivity. Until now, no one has been able to replicate one of the main culprits behind the disease, a virus called grapevine leafroll-associated virus 3 — leafroll 3, for short.

For the first time, researchers in WSU’s Department of Plant Pathology have found a way to clone leafroll 3, opening the door for experiments and treatments to protect valuable Washington vineyards.

The …. team is now working to see if they can infect a grapevine with the virus. Once the team understands how the virus and its genes create symptoms of disease, they can create defenses against them, such as an inoculant, or make a designer virus to deliver genes that help plants resist disease.

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“It’s a test tube copy of the virus,” said WSU researcher Naidu Rayapati. “Now, we can use reverse genetics — working backwards by seeing how it expresses its genes physically — to find out how it works.”

Read full, original article: WSU Scientists Clone Virus To Help Stop Overwhelming Grape Disease

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