Kelli Hoover: Lead Author of Highly Acclaimed 'A Gene for an Extended Phenotype,' Published in Science
Sept. 16, 2011
Kelli Hoover (front center) is the lead author of a Science paper that is receiving international acclaim. Hoover, who received her doctorate from the UC Davis Department of Entomology in 1997, is shown here at UC Davis with (from left) major professor Sean Duffey (1943-1997), Billy McCutchen and Bryony Bonning. (Courtesy Photo)
DAVIS--Kelli Hoover, a professor at Pennsylvania State University who received her doctorate in entomology at UC Davis in 1997, is the lead author of a newly published and highly acclaimed research piece, “A Gene for an Extended Phenotype,” in Science.
"Manipulation of host behavior by parasites and pathogens has been widely observed, but the basis for these behaviors has remained elusive. Gypsy moths infected by a baculovirus climb to the top of trees to die, liquefy, and 'rain' virus on the foliage below to infect new hosts. The viral gene that manipulates climbing behavior of the host was identified, providing evidence of a genetic basis for the extended phenotype."
The paper, published Sept. 9, has been selected for the Faculty of 1000 (F1000), which places her work in its library of the top 2 percent of published articles in biology and medicine. The service is widely used to find significant new research articles, and the inclusion of Hoover's article "should significantly increase its visibility," a spokesperson said. The Faculty of 1000 includes 5 Nobel prize winners, 81 fellows of The Royal Society, 12 Lasker Award winners, 136 members of National Academy of Sciences and 97 members of the Institute of Medicine.
Kelli Hoover today
Wrote Gabriele Sorci, a member of the Faculty of 1000 in her evaluation: "This is a fascinating article which identifies a viral gene as the determinant of a caterpillar behavior that enhances the transmission of the virus to other hosts. Parasites that manipulate host behavior to increase their transmission rate have been known about for a long time. They have been suggested to be one of the best examples of the extended phenotype: a trait expressed in one organism which has effects on the phenotype of another organism. Here, Hoover and colleagues have identified the gene responsible for this extended phenotype in a baculovirus/moth system. Baculovirus-infected caterpillars of the gypsy moth have a particular behavior. They climb to the top of trees where they die, and infective viruses are released and dispersed by rain. Using an elegant experiment, the authors have shown that the viral gene egt induces the host behavior. Viral recombinants with disrupted egt were not able to manipulate host behavior, whereas wild-types did. In addition, if egt is reinserted into the viral genome, infected caterpillars re-express the manipulated behavior."
Bruce Hammock served as one of Kelli Hoover's major professors.
"This experiment, therefore, provides very strong evidence in support to the idea that hosts can behave as an extended phenotype of manipulative parasite," Sorci wrote.
Co-authors of the Sept. 9th research article are Michael Grove, Matthew Gardner, David Hughes, James McNeil and James Slavicek.
Hoover is a member of the Center for Chemical Ecology at Penn State. At her lab, The Invasive Species Research Lab, "we study mechanisms of resistance in the gypsy moth to its host specific baculovirus, pheromones and gut symbionts of the Asian longhorned beetle, biological control of hemlock woolly adelgid, and methods to prevent movement of invasive species around the world."
Hoover studied with major professors Sean Duffey (1943-1997), professor and vice chair of the department until his unexpected death from a medical illness in May 1997; and Bruce Hammock, a distinguished professor of entomology.
She received her bachelor’s degree at UC Berkeley in 1979 and her master’s at San Jose University in 1992 before enrolling in the graduate program at UC Davis.
--Kathy Keatley Garvey
UC Davis Department of Entomology