Tree-top disease

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Master thesis award for Yue Han

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19 december 2014

Friday December 19 Yue Han will receive the Uyttenboogaart-Eliasen Master thesis award for the best MSc thesis in Entomology in the Netherlands. His thesis ‘Exploring the roles of SeMNPV egt and ptp2 in behavioral manipulation and apoptosis’ was supervised by Stineke van Houte and Monique van Oers of the Laboratory of Virology at Wageningen University.

The award ceremony will take place during the yearly Entomology Day of the Netherlands Entomological Society (NEV). Han’s MSc research focussed on how baculoviruses change the behaviour of their caterpillar host, the beet armyworm (Spodoptera exigua). Virus-infected caterpillars climb to the top of plants, where they die (‘tree-top disease’). It is hypothesized that this increases spread of viruses over a larger area. Han demonstrated that a specific viral gene, egt, is involved in the climbing behaviour. Caterpillars infected with a mutant virus, lacking the egt gene, did not climb to elevated positions prior to death. Moreover, these caterpillars died at an earlier time point. Han also demonstrated that the viral ptp2 gene induces apoptosis (programmed cell death) in host cells. When this cell death would occur specifically in host immune cells, this would contribute to enhanced virus replication. The obtained results increase our knowledge on parasitic manipulation and on the specific interaction between baculoviruses and their caterpillar hosts. Han is continuing his research as a PhD student at the Laboratory of Virology, under supervision of Vera Ros and Monique van Oers.