Geminiviruses are important pests for tropical and subtropical crops such as cotton, beans, cassava, corn, peppers, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, sugar beets but also increasingly for temperate plants (e.g., barley, oats, wheat, and sugar beets).
The mechanisms of propagation of these DNA viruses within plant tissues, their propagation strategies and their transmission by insects are being explored using genetic engineering techniques. In addition to the basic elucidation of the viral "life cycle" an early diagnosis of geminiviruses, the production of artificial resistance in crops and the study of natural resistance in wild plants will be achieved. Different molecular biological techniques are used for this:
- Generation of transgenic plants by Agrobacterium-Mediated gene transfer
- Biochemical analysis of individual virus proteins
- Fluorescence labeling of viral proteins using Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) in combination with Confocal Laser Scanning Microscopy
- (Transmission-)electron microscopy
- Mutational analysis
- DNA transfer into plants with the help of a particle gun (Biolistics)
- Bioinformatics for phylogeny
Another area of research is mixed infection of geminiviruses with other types of plant viruses, as they often occur in agriculture, as well as in wild plants. It investigates how the viruses mutually influence each other molecularly, which consequences this has for their spread in the plant tissue and which epidemiological consequences can result.
These molecular-virology projects are primarily carried out in DFG and EU / ERA-PG projects with a variety of national and international collaborations, including with partners in research institutions and companies in Australia, Brazil, France, India, Israel, Italy, Palestine, Spain and South Africa.