Naturally occurring insect viruses can modify the behaviour of infected insects and thereby modulate virus transmission. Modifications of the virus genome could alter these behavioural effects. We studied the distance moved and the position of virus-killed cadavers of fourth instars of Helicoverpa armigera (Hübner) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) infected with a wild-type genotype of H. armigera nucleopolyhedrovirus (HaSNPV) or with one of two recombinant genotypes of this virus on cotton plants. The behavioural effects of virus infection were examined both in larvae infected with a single virus genotype, and in larvae challenged with mixtures of the wild-type and one of the recombinant viruses. An egt-negative virus variant caused more rapid death and lower virus yield in fourth instars, but egt-deletion did not produce consistent behavioural effects over three experiments, two under controlled glasshouse conditions and one in field cages. A recombinant virus containing the AaIT-(. Androctonus australis Hector) insect-selective toxin gene, which expresses a neurotoxin derived from a scorpion, caused faster death and cadavers were found lower down the plant than insects infected with unmodified virus. Larvae that died from mixed infections of the AaIT-expressing recombinant and the wild-type virus died at positions significantly lower, compared to infection with the pure wild-type viral strain. The results indicate that transmission of egt-negative variants of HaSNPV are likely to be affected by lower virus yield, but not by behavioural effects of egt gene deletion. By contrast, the AaIT recombinant will produce lower virus yields as well as modified behaviour, which together can contribute to reduced virus transmission under field conditions. In addition, larvae infected with both the wild-type virus and the toxin recombinant behaved as larvae infected with the toxin recombinant only, which might be a positive factor for the risk assessment of such toxin recombinants in the environment.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Insect Science