We’re all hosts on a viral planet

About 1986, I was a MSc graduate student working on Verticillium (that’s a fungus) in tomatoes), published a couple of peer-revived papers, and then became the editor of the student newspaper (circ 25,000) after writing a science column about cats for a year because they were the first warm-blooded pets I had ever had.

I think my friend Mary knows what I’m talking about.

I also spent a lot of time looking through the electron microscope, which was also a great place to have sex.

I had a lot of sex there.

Researchers in the Agriculturpal Research Service (ARS) Electron and Confocal Microscopy Unit can magnify a cell’s internal structures to 200,000 times their size, flash freeze mites in liquid nitrogen to create striking “snapshots” as they feed, and create color-enhanced images that show a virus infecting its host. The resulting images help scientists determine how agricultural pests and pathogens feed, reproduce, respond to threats, and survive.

A sampling of the unit’s digital photo album shows the eclectic nature of its efforts.

The team also has a unique 3D printing capability that allows them to transform the images they create into hand-size 3D models that are the most structurally accurate models of mites and other organisms currently available. The researchers hope that one day they will be able to upload the 3D files to an online database so that anyone with a 3D printer can reproduce them to use as instructional aids, in research, or for scientific outreach.

How to publish a scientific paper (not)

Apparently I’ve published another peer-reviewed paper.

In 2011.

wayne's.world.notBased on some research I did in 1986.

My undergraduate degree is in molecular biology and genetics from the University of Guelph (like Chapman), and in the summer between third and fourth year I worked in a lab and met a girl.

That girl was a veterinary student, and I wanted to hang around, so we moved in together, started a family and I started a MSc.

I spent a lot of time with tomato plants.

And our efforts at gene sequencing were slow and labor-intensive.

I eventually quit the MSc and became editor of the school paper.

And eventually I went back to Guelph and did a PhD.

My contribution was probably minimal, I’m grateful to Dr. Robb for paying me, but when I publish a paper, I make sure all authors have a chance to review it and offer their edits.

Vascular coating: a barrier to colonization by the pathogen in Verticillium wilt of tomato

Canadian Journal of Botany (Impact Factor: 1.4). 02/2011; 67(2):600-607. DOI: 10.1139/b89-082

Jane Robb, Douglas A. Powell, P. F. S. Street



Massive infusion of conidia of Verticillium albo-atrum.

Reinke & Berthier induced synchronous secretion of vascular coating in the petiolar xylem vessels of resistant and susceptible tomato near-isolines. More coating formed earlier in resistant than in susceptible plants. In the susceptible plants secretion was delayed in colonized trapping site vessels, but initiated in surrounding uncolonized ones. Controls were infused with water. Samples were quantified by light microscope assay techniques at 18, 48, and 120 h postinoculation for the following parameters: (i) delayed coating effect, (ii) overall coating capacity, and (iii) ability of fungus to “escape” laterally from trapping site vessels. The results showed that susceptibility to Verticillium was absolutely correlated with the presence of the delayed coating effect in the plant and increased ability of the fungus to spread laterally. Treatment of inoculated resistant plants with an inhibitor of coating secretion resulted in conversion to the susceptible phenotype. The progeny of a genetic backcross for the dominant (Ve) and recessive (ve) alleles at the Ve locus (Velve × velve) were assayed for the same parameters as well as for disease resistance based on symptom expression. The results confirmed the previous observations and suggested that in tomato the delayed phenotype is recessive. The data strongly supports two hypotheses: (i) coating forms a barrier against fungal penetration and (ii) the timing of the coating response in trapping site vessels results, directly or indirectly, from expression of the Ve gene.