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Plant Physiol. 2009 Oct;151(2):925-35. doi: 10.1104/pp.109.142661. Epub 2009 Aug 19.

The role of specific tomato volatiles in tomato-whitefly interaction.

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  • 1Keygene, 6700 AE Wageningen, The Netherlands.


Bemisia tabaci (whitefly) infestations and the subsequent transfer of viruses are the cause of severe losses in crop production and horticultural practice. To improve biological control of B. tabaci, we investigated repellent properties of plant-produced semiochemicals. The mix of headspace volatiles, collected from naturally repellent wild tomato accessions, influenced B. tabaci initial choice behavior, indicating a role for plant semiochemicals in locating host plants. A collection of wild tomato accessions and introgression lines (Solanum pennellii LA716 x Solanum lycopersicum 'Moneyberg') were extensively screened for attractiveness to B. tabaci, and their headspace profiles were determined by means of gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Correlation analysis revealed that several terpenoids were putatively involved in tomato-whitefly interactions. Several of these candidate compounds conferred repellence to otherwise attractive tomato plants when applied to the plant's branches on paper cards. The sesquiterpenes zingiberene and curcumene and the monoterpenes p-cymene, alpha-terpinene, and alpha-phellandrene had the strongest effects in free-choice bioassays. These terpenes also elicited a response of receptors on the insect's antennae as determined by electroantennography. Conversely, the monoterpene beta-myrcene showed no activity in both assays. B. tabaci apparently uses, besides visual cues, specific plant volatile cues for the initial selection of a host. Altering whitefly choice behavior by manipulation of the terpenoid composition of the host headspace may therefore be feasible.

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