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Front Physiol. 2017 Mar 16;8:146. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2017.00146. eCollection 2017.

Odor, Not Performance, Dictates Bemisia tabaci's Selection between Healthy and Virus Infected Plants.

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College of Plant Protection, Hunan Agricultural UniversityChangsha, China; Department of Plant Protection, Institute of Vegetables and Flowers, Chinese Academy of Agricultural SciencesBeijing, China.
Institute of Insect Sciences, College of Agriculture, Yangtze University Jingzhou, China.
Department of Plant Protection, Institute of Vegetables and Flowers, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences Beijing, China.
Department of Entomology, University of Kentucky Lexington, KY, USA.


Although, insect herbivores are generally thought to select hosts that favor the fitness of their progeny, this "mother-knows-best" hypothesis may be challenged by the presence of a plant virus. Our previous study showed that the whitefly, Bemisia tabaci, the obligate vector for transmitting Tomato yellow leaf curl virus (TYLCV), preferred to settle and oviposit on TYLCV-infected rather than healthy host plant, Datura stramonium. The performances of B. tabaci larvae and adults were indeed improved on virus-infected D. stramonium, which is consistent with "mother-knows-best" hypothesis. In this study, B. tabaci Q displayed the same preference to settle and oviposit on Tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV)-infected host plants, D. stramonium and Capsicum annuum, respectively. As a non-vector of TSWV, however, insect performance was impaired since adult body size, longevity, survival, and fecundity were reduced in TSWV infected D. stramonium. This appears to be an odor-mediated behavior, as plant volatile profiles are modified by viral infection. Infected plants have reduced quantities of o-xylene and α-pinene, and increased levels of phenol and 2-ethyl-1-hexanol in their headspace. Subsequent behavior experiments showed that o-xylene and α-pinene are repellant, while phenol and 2-ethyl-1-hexanol are attractive. This indicates that the preference of B. tabaci for virus-infected plants is modulated by the dynamic changes in the volatile profiles rather than the subsequent performances on virus-infected plants.


host preference; mother-knows-best; non-vector insects; performance; plant virus; volatiles

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