Judith K Brown
Professor, BIO5 Institute
Professor, Entomology / Insect Science - GIDP
Professor, Plant Science
Regents Professor, Plant Sciences
Research Associate Professor, Entomology
Primary Department
(520) 621-1402
Work Summary
Unravel the phylodynamics and transmission-specific determinants of emerging plant virus/fastidious bacteria-insect vector complexes, and translate new knowledge to abate pathogen spread in food systems.
Research Interest
Judith Brown, PhD, and her research interests include the molecular epidemiology of whitefly-transmitted geminiviruses (Begomoviruses, Family: Geminiviridae), the basis for virus-vector specificity and the transmission pathway, and the biotic and genetic variation between populations of the whitefly vector, B. tabaci, that influence the molecular epidemiology and evolution of begomoviruses. Keywords: Plant viral genomics, emergent virus phylodynamics, functional genomics of insect-pathogen interactions


Sabanadzovic, S., Valverde, R. A., Brown, J. K., Martin, R. R., & Tzanetakis, I. E. (2009). Southern tomato virus: The link between the families Totiviridae and Partitiviridae. Virus Research, 140(1-2), 130-137.

PMID: 19118586;Abstract:

A dsRNA virus with a genome of 3.5 kb was isolated from field and greenhouse-grown tomato plants of different cultivars and geographic locations in North America. Cloning and sequencing of the viral genome showed the presence of two partially overlapping open reading frames (ORFs), and a genomic organization resembling members of the family Totiviridae that comprises fungal and protozoan viruses, but not plant viruses. The 5′-proximal ORF codes for a 377 amino acid-long protein of unknown function, whereas the product of ORF2 contains typical motifs of an RNA-dependant RNA-polymerase and is likely expressed by a +1 ribosomal frame shift. Despite the similarity in the genome organization with members of the family Totiviridae, this virus shared very limited sequence homology with known totiviruses or with other viruses. Repeated attempts to detect the presence of an endophytic fungus as the possible host of the virus failed, supporting its phytoviral nature. The virus was efficiently transmitted by seed but not mechanically and/or by grafting. Phylogenetic analyses revealed that this virus, for which the name Southern tomato virus (STV) is proposed, belongs to a partitivirus-like lineage and represents a species of a new taxon of plant viruses. © 2008 Elsevier B.V.

Frohlich, D. R., Torres-Jerez, I., Bedford, I. D., Markham, P. G., & Brown, J. K. (1999). A phylogeographical analysis of the Bemisia tabaci species complex based on mitochondrial DNA markers. Molecular Ecology, 8(10), 1683-1691.


Mitochondrial 16S (~550 bp) and cytochrome oxidase I (COI) (~700 bp) sequences were utilized as markers to reconstruct a phylogeography for representative populations or biotypes of Bemisia tabaci. 16S sequences exhibited less divergence than COI sequences. Of the 429 characters examined for COI sequences, 185 sites were invariant, 244 were variable and 108 were informative. COI sequence identities yielded distances ranging from less than 1% to greater than 17%. Whitefly 16S sequences of 456 characters were analysed which consisted of 298 invariant sites, 158 variable sites and 53 informative sites. Phylogenetic analyses conducted by maximum parsimony, maximum-likelihood and neighbour-joining methods yielded almost identical phylogenetic reconstructions of trees that separated whiteflies based on geographical origin. The 16S and COI sequence data indicate that the B-biotype originated in the Old World (Europe, Asia and Africa) and is most closely related to B-like variants from Israel and Yemen, with the next closest relative being a biotype from Sudan. These data confirm the biochemical, genetic and behavioural polymorphisms described previously for B. tabaci. The consideration of all global variants of B. tabaci as a highly cryptic group of sibling species is argued.

Leshkowitz, D., Gazit, S., Reuveni, E., Ghanim, M., Czosnek, H., McKenzie, C., Shatters Jr., R. L., & Brown, J. K. (2006). Whitefly (Bemisia tabaci) genome project: Analysis of sequenced clones from egg, instar, and adult (viruliferous and non-viruliferous) cDNA libraries. BMC Genomics, 7.

PMID: 16608516;PMCID: PMC1488848;Abstract:

Background: The past three decades have witnessed a dramatic increase in interest in the whitefly Bemisia tabaci, owing to its nature as a taxonomically cryptic species, the damage it causes to a large number of herbaceous plants because of its specialized feeding in the phloem, and to its ability to serve as a vector of plant viruses. Among the most important plant viruses to be transmitted by B. tabaci are those in the genus Begomovirus (family, Geminiviridae). Surprisingly, little is known about the genome of this whitefly. The haploid genome size for male B. tabaci has been estimated to be approximately one billion bp by flow cytometry analysis, about five times the size of the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster. The genes involved in whitefly development, in host range plasticity, and in begomovirus vector specificity and competency, are unknown. Results: To address this general shortage of genomic sequence information, we have constructed three cDNA libraries from non-viruliferous whiteflies (eggs, immature instars, and adults) and two from adult insects that fed on tomato plants infected by two geminiviruses: Tomato yellow leaf curl virus (TYLCV) and Tomato mottle virus (ToMoV). In total, the sequence of 18,976 clones was determined. After quality control, and removal of 5,542 clones of mitochondrial origin 9,110 sequences remained which included 3,843 singletons and 1,017 contigs. Comparisons with public databases indicated that the libraries contained genes involved in cellular and developmental processes. In addition, approximately 1,000 bases aligned with the genome of the B. tabaci endosymbiotic bacterium Candidatus Portiera aleyrodidarum, originating primarily from the egg and instar libraries. Apart from the mitochondrial sequences, the longest and most abundant sequence encodes vitellogenin, which originated from whitefly adult libraries, indicating that much of the gene expression in this insect is directed toward the production of eggs. Conclusion: This is the first functional genomics project involving a hemipteran (Homopteran) insect from the subtropics/tropics. The B. tabaci sequence database now provides an important tool to initiate identification of whitefly genes involved in development, behaviour, and B. tabaci-mediated begomovirus transmission. © 2006 Leshkowitz et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

Brown, J. K., & Czosnek, H. (2002). Whitefly transmission of plant viruses. Advances in Botanical Research, 36, 65-76,IN1-IN2,77-100.
Brown, J. K. (2014). Establishment of three new genera in the family Geminiviridae: Becurtovirus, Eragrovirus and Turncurtovirus. Arch. Virol. (accepted).. Archives of Virology, 159, 2193-2203.

Varsani, A., Navas-Castillo, J., Moriones, E., Hernández-Zepeda, C., Idris, A.M., Brown, J.K., Zerbini, F. M., Martin, D.P. 2014. Establishment of three new genera in the family Geminiviridae: Becurtovirus, Eragrovirus and Turncurtovirus. Arch. Virol. 159: 2193-2203.