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PLoS One. 2012;7(6):e39303. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0039303. Epub 2012 Jun 20.

Transcriptomic analysis of the salivary glands of an invasive whitefly.

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Ministry of Agriculture Key Laboratory of Agricultural Entomology, Institute of Insect Sciences, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China.



Some species of the whitefly Bemisia tabaci complex cause tremendous losses to crops worldwide through feeding directly and virus transmission indirectly. The primary salivary glands of whiteflies are critical for their feeding and virus transmission. However, partly due to their tiny size, research on whitefly salivary glands is limited and our knowledge on these glands is scarce.


We sequenced the transcriptome of the primary salivary glands of the Mediterranean species of B. tabaci complex using an effective cDNA amplification method in combination with short read sequencing (Illumina). In a single run, we obtained 13,615 unigenes. The quantity of the unigenes obtained from the salivary glands of the whitefly is at least four folds of the salivary gland genes from other plant-sucking insects. To reveal the functions of the primary glands, sequence similarity search and comparisons with the whole transcriptome of the whitefly were performed. The results demonstrated that the genes related to metabolism and transport were significantly enriched in the primary salivary glands. Furthermore, we found that a number of highly expressed genes in the salivary glands might be involved in secretory protein processing, secretion and virus transmission. To identify potential proteins of whitefly saliva, the translated unigenes were put into secretory protein prediction. Finally, 295 genes were predicted to encode secretory proteins and some of them might play important roles in whitefly feeding.


The combined method of cDNA amplification, Illumina sequencing and de novo assembly is suitable for transcriptomic analysis of tiny organs in insects. Through analysis of the transcriptome, genomic features of the primary salivary glands were dissected and biologically important proteins, especially secreted proteins, were predicted. Our findings provide substantial sequence information for the primary salivary glands of whiteflies and will be the basis for future studies on whitefly-plant interactions and virus transmission.

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