Where the baculoviruses lead, the caterpillars follow baculovirus-induced alterations in caterpillar behaviour

Gasque, Simone N.; Oers, Monique M. van; Ros, Vera I.D.


Baculoviruses are well-known for altering the behaviour of their caterpillar hosts by inducing hyperactivity (enhanced locomotion) and/or tree-top disease (climbing to elevated positions before death). These features, along with the genomic small size of baculoviruses compared to non-viral parasites and the at hand techniques for producing mutants, imply that baculoviruses are excellent tools for unravelling the molecular mechanisms underlying parasitic alteration of host behaviour. Baculoviruses can be easily mutated, allowing an optimal experimental setup in comparative studies, where for instance host gene expression can be compared between insects infected with wild-type viruses or with mutant viruses lacking genes involved in behavioural manipulation. Recent studies have revealed the first insight into the underlying molecular pathways that lead to the typical behaviour of baculovirus-infected caterpillars and into the role of light therein. Since host behaviour in general is mediated through the host's central nervous system (CNS), a promising future step will be to study how baculoviruses regulate the neuronal activity of the host.