Baculovirus infection triggers a positive phototactic response in caterpillars to induce ‘tree-top’ disease

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Abstract

Many parasites manipulate host behaviour to enhance parasite transmission and survival. A fascinating example is baculoviruses, which often induce death in caterpillar hosts at elevated positions (‘tree-top’ disease). To date, little is known about the underlying processes leading to this adaptive host manipulation. Here, we show that the baculovirus Spodoptera exigua multiple nucleopolyhedrovirus (SeMNPV) triggers a positive phototactic response in S. exigua larvae prior to death and causes the caterpillars to die at elevated positions. This light-dependent climbing behaviour is specific for infected larvae, as movement of uninfected caterpillars during larval development was light-independent. We hypothesize that upon infection, SeMNPV captures a host pathway involved in phototaxis and/or light perception to induce this remarkable behavioural change.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20140680
Number of pages4
JournalBiology Letters
Volume10
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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