Adi Kliot (sample preparation) and Eva Wegel (imaging), John Innes Centre
Optical section through an Aster Leafhopper nymph Macrosteles quadrilineatus. The leafhopper is infected with a phytoplasma bacterium that causes a disease in plants called Aster Yellows Witches' Broom. The leafhopper is therefore a vector for this bacterium, transmitting it from one plant to another as it feeds, causing susceptible plants to display symptoms of Aster Yellows Witches' Broom disease. The Magenta colour in the image shows the bacterium membrane and the green colour shows the presence of a protein secreted by the bacterium. Scientists at the John Innes Centre are investigating the role of phytoplasma proteins in manipulating both plants and insects into working for the phytoplasma, in the hopes of disrupting it and stopping phytoplasma spread.
Bacterial plant diseases are causing billions in damages to crops worldwide and outbreaks can completely eradicate local industries, recent examples include the orange industry in Florida, olive orchards in Italy and lime industries in both south America and Oman.