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New discovery sheds light on how melon crops resist cucumber mosaic virus (CMV)

Image of transvacuolars strands. Credit: CRAG

IRTA researchers at CRAG discover that the intracellular localization of a specific protein plays a critical role in melon’s resistance to CMV

The virus is responsible for the major disease in important crops like cucumbers, tomatoes and melons causing great economic losses all over the world

This discovery could lead to new strategies to make melon plants resistant to CMV

A new study led by Ana Montserrat Martín-Hernández, IRTA researcher at CRAG, has identified a protein that could make melons resistant to cucumber mosaic virus (CMV). This pathogen can infect over 1,200 plant species, including important crops like cucumbers and melons, and has been a persistent problem for farmers worldwide. In this work published in Plant Physiology, IRTAresearchers at CRAG have found that mutations in a gene called CmVPS41 can control the resistance to CMV in the plant Nicotiana benthamiana.

CmVPS41 protein is responsible for transporting proteins throughout the plant cell to the vacuole, an organelle in plant cells filled with water containing inorganic and organic molecules . By examining the protein’s behaviour in both susceptible and resistant melon varieties, the researchers found that in the resistant types CmVPS41 was uniformly distributed throughout the cytoplasm and nucleus. The team led by Martín-Hernández found also that  CMV susceptible varieties had transvacuolar strands, which are thin tubular structures that allow material to pass through the vacuole membrane, while resistant varieties did not. Such discovery can be key to understanding how the virus infects the susceptible variety and how the resistant variety resists the infection.

This suggests that the distribution of CmVPS41 may include structures that facilitate CMV infection, and that the re-localization of CmVPS41 during viral infection could be an important target for future strategies to confer resistance in breeding programs.

“This study’s findings provide valuable insights into the molecular mechanisms of melon virus resistance and could lead to the development of new disease-resistant crop varieties. With the global population continuing to grow, the need for sustainable agriculture practices has never been more important. This research is a promising step towards ensuring food security and sustainability for future generations”, says the leader of the research Ana Montserrat Martín-Hernández.

Video of transvacuolar strands. Credit: CRAG

Since CmVPS41 plays a significant role in melon resistance to CMV, further research will be conducted to uncover the protein’s specific mechanism of action. By identifying the role of this regulator in cell trafficking, scientists can work towards developing new strategies to prevent the virus from spreading. This research also opens up new avenues for exploring the interactions between viral proteins and host cells, which could have implications for fighting against other plant viruses in the future.