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PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e54484. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0054484. Epub 2013 Jan 24.

Thrips tabaci population genetic structure and polyploidy in relation to competency as a vector of tomato spotted wilt virus.

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  • 1Department of Entomology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, United States of America.


Knowledge of population-level genetic differences can help explain variation among populations of insect vectors in their role in the epidemiology of specific viruses. Variation in competency to transmit Tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) that exists among populations of Thrips tabaci has been associated with the presence of cryptic species that exhibit different modes of reproduction and host ranges. However, recent findings suggest that vector competency of T. tabaci at any given location depends on the thrips and virus populations that are present. This study characterizes the population genetic structure of T. tabaci collected from four locations in North Carolina and examines the relationship between population genetic structure and variation in TSWV transmission by T. tabaci. Mitochondrial COI sequence analysis revealed the presence of two genetically distinct groups with one characterized by thelytokous, parthenogenetic reproduction and the other by arrhenotokous, sexual reproduction. Using a set of 11 microsatellite markers that we developed to investigate T. tabaci population genetic structure, we identified 17 clonal groups and found significant genetic structuring among the four NC populations that corresponded to the geographic locations where the populations were collected. Application of microsatellite markers also led to the discovery of polyploidy in this species. All four populations contained tetraploid individuals, and three contained both diploid and tetraploid individuals. Analysis of variation in transmission ofTSWV among isofemale lines initiated with individuals used in this study revealed that 'clone assignment,' 'virus isolate' and their interaction significantly influenced vector competency. These results highlight the importance of interactions between specific T. tabaci clonal types and specific TSWV isolates underlying transmission of TSWV by T. tabaci.

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