SEP 08, 2016 12:00 PM PDT

Plant Viruses: Everywhere and Often Mutualistic

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  • Professor, Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology and Biology, Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics, W229A Millennium Science Complex, Pennsylvania State University
      Dr. Roossinck received a PhD in 1986 from the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Microbiology and Immunology, studying Hepatitis B virus, on an National Institutes of Health fellowship. Following a postdoctoral fellowship at Cornell University, where she began studying plant viruses, she moved to the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation as a principal investigator, and focused her research on plant virus evolution and ecology. After the discovery of a novel plant-fungus-virus three-way mutualistic symbiosis that allows plants to grow in geothermal soils in Yellowstone National Park her interests expanded to include viruses of fungi. Currently she is a member of the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics, and a Professor of Virus Ecology, in the Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology at the Pennsylvania State University. She and her team have been studying virus ecology and experimental evolution for 25 years using plant and fungal viruses as models, and have published a number of seminal papers in this area. She is an expert in virus diversity and biodiversity, and has done extensive work on complex interactions between beneficial viruses and their hosts that are involved in adaptation of plants and fungi to extreme environments.


     Virus Ecology is a field that is gaining momentum, fueled in part by metagenomic studies from many environments previously ignored. Biodiversity studies of plant viruses show that they are abundant in wild plants, most are new to science, and most have persistent life-styles, meaning that they maintain their infection for many generations and lack horizontal transmission.  Viruses are often mutualistic in plants, as are the viruses of the fungal endophytes that colonize plants.  These relationships are especially important in extreme environments, where viruses can be critical for the survival of plants.  New understanding about the complexity of virus-host interactions that involve plants and insects show that viruses can manipulate the activities of insects that are vectors and pollinators.  These studies are giving us a new appreciation for the importance of viruses in life on earth.

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