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Queens Anniversary Prizes 2015

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Dr Sophie Bouvaine

Plant Molecular Biologist/Virologist
BSc, MSc, PhD
Agriculture, Health and Environment Department
Natural Resources Institute


Dr Sophie Bouvaine graduated from the University of York with a PhD, in which she studied the transmission of a major cereal disease by aphids. This project was co-supervised by Neil Boonham from the Food and Environment Research Agency. Dr Bouvaine then undertook a postdoctoral position at Cornell University (USA) with Professor Angela E. Douglas, where she became interested in the physiology of insects pests. She led a research project aimed at understanding the sterol metabolism of major disease-transmitting insect. This project was with the collaboration of Dr Spencer Behmer from Texas A&M (USA). The research produced valuable results in the understanding of how insects deal with a diet poor in sterol and was published in a peer-reviewed journal. In the same institution, Dr Bouvaine was able to investigate the sap sucking insects' symbiosis and its shared metabolism. This led to one of the first accounts of a shared metabolic pathway between an insect and a bacterium and was published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology. Dr Bouvaine is now a research fellow at NRI and, during that last few months, has been investigating the transcriptome of cassava in order to find resistance genes for Cassava Brown Streak Virus. In addition, she is working on the insect vector of the disease and, by studying its symbiosis, she aims to find an innovative solution to disrupt the transmission of this devastating virus.

Research/Scholarly Interests

The aim of Dr Bouvaine's research is to use new molecular technologies to develop tools for the protection of important staple crops such as cassava. Her research specifically aims at deciphering the intricate mechanisms by which insect pests transmit plant-pathogenic pathogens so that this knowledge can be applied to find innovative solutions for protecting crops and hence improving the lives of people.

Current and Previous Funded Research Projects

Dr Bouvaine's current project involves the use of endosymbiotic bacteria as a novel biocontrol agent for crop pests and diseases. The aim is to exploit virulent strains of the endosymbiotic bacteria, Wolbachia, as a novel biocontrol agent for controlling the harmful insect pest, whitefly, in order to protect African cassava from destructive whitefly-transmitted plant viruses. The whitefly, Bemisia tabaci, is one of the most devastating agricultural pests for poor farmers over the last three decades owing to its wide geographic spread, the diverse ways that it damages crops, its capacity to develop resistance to insecticides, and, perhaps most significantly, its ability to transmit over 110 plant viruses that cause devastating crop disease pandemics worldwide. Amongst the most important of these viruses of recent times, cassava brown streak viruses (CBSVs), which cause cassava brown streak disease (CBSD), threaten the food security of over 40 million cassava-dependent poor in eastern Africa because the disease causes complete rotting of infected tubers. The lack of disease-resistant varieties and alternative whitefly control options such as insecticides (either unavailable or too expensive for many African farmers) leaves producers completely vulnerable to the damages caused by whitefly-transmitted CBSV.

Responsibilities within the University

  • Research

Selected Publications

Recent Conference Presentations

  • 2012 Bouvaine, S., Douglas, A.E, Behmer, S. Sterol nutrition of sap feeding insects. Entomology symposium, Cornell University, NY, USA
  • 2011 Bouvaine, S., Douglas, A.E, Behmer, S. Aphids and sterol nutrition: towards development of new generation of aphid resistant crops. Annual Meeting of the Entomological Society of America, Reno, NV, USA.
  • 2008 Bouvaine, S., Douglas, A, Boonham, N. Investigating the role of the GroEL chaperonin in the transmission of the Barley Yellow Dwarf Viruses by aphids. The Aphid Day, Cornell University, USA.
  • 2008 Bouvaine, S., Douglas, A., Boonham, N. Transmission of Barley Yellow Dwarf Viruses by aphids: impact of the primary symbiont Buchnera. British Society of Plant Pathology Presidential Meeting: Cereal Pathosystems, London, United Kingdom.
  • 2007 Bouvaine, S. Development of monoclonal anti-GroEL antibodies to study the relationship between the quantity of GroEL released in the aphid haemolymph and its BYDV vector ability. Aphid Special Interest Group Meeting of the Royal Entomological Society, Birmingham, United Kingdom.

External Recognition

  • Former member of Royal entomological society
  • Former member of British society for plant pathology
  • Member of Entomological society of America

Contact Information

Dr Sophie Bouvaine

Natural Resources Institute

University of Greenwich

Central Avenue, Chatham Maritime, Kent ME4 4TB, United Kingdom.

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