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"Searching for the missing links: Connecting Polerovirus structural biology to function" - Mariko Alexander

Wednesday, February 6, 2019 at 12:20pm

Plant Science Building, 404

Mariko Alexander 

Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology Section, Cornell University

Mariko Alexander is a graduate student in the Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science. She has won numerous awards, most recently the USDA-NIFA Pre-Doctoral Fellowship in December 2017. 

Research Focus

I am broadly interested in the complex molecular interactions between agricultural pathogens and their hosts, and in application of this knowledge to create environmentally and economically sustainable solutions for crop disease.  My current research centers on host-virus protein interactions that occur during infection of plants with viruses in the family Luteoviridae.  I am particularly interested in the molecular mechanisms underlying restriction of these viruses to phloem tissue, which is believed to be an adaptation facilitating transmission by sap-feeding aphids.

Abstract: Viruses in the genus Polerovirus cause economically important diseases on crops worldwide, including yellow dwarf diseases of cereals, net necrosis of potato, and many others. Unlike many other plant viruses, poleroviruses are transmitted exclusively by aphids, and are restricted to phloem cells during natural infections. Through decades of research, characterization of synthetic mutants has pinpointed amino acids in the capsid proteins which are important for virion assembly, aphid transmission, phloem restriction, and systemic movement. However, the paucity of information about polerovirus structural biology and host-virus/host-aphid interactions has hindered our ability to understand how these specific mutations result in loss of function. Using Protein Interaction Reporter (PIR) technology, a type of cross-linking proteomics, we generated what are currently the only structural measurements of polerovirus capsid proteins, and used these to make predictions about capsid structure. Additionally, we demonstrated that PIR technology can be used to identify functionally relevant, direct interactions between polerovirus and host proteins.

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Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology, Sustainability


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Tara Reed

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Mariko Alexander

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Cornell University

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