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Whitefly-transmitted viruses induce contrasting changes in vector behavior and plant volatile emissions

Alberto Fereres: CSIC

<div>Virus infection frequently modifies plant physiology, leading to changes in behaviour and performance of their insect vectors in a way that transmission is enhanced, although this may not always be the case. Here, we investigated Bemisia tabaci response to tomato plants infected by Tomato chlorosis virus (ToCV), a non-circulative-transmitted crinivirus, and Tomato severe rugose virus (ToSRV), a circulative-transmitted begomovirus. Moreover, we examined the role of visual and olfactory cues in host plant selection by both viruliferous and non-viruliferous whiteflies. Visual cues alone were assessed as targets for whitefly landing by placing leaves underneath a Plexiglas plate. Thereafter, we tested the whitefly response to volatiles using an active air-flow Y-tube olfactometer, and chemically characterized the blends using gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry. Visual stimuli tests showed that whiteflies, irrespective of their infectious status, always preferred to land on virus-infected leaves. ToSRV-infection promoted a sharp decline in the concentration of some tomato volatiles, while an increase in the emission of some terpenes after ToCV infection was found. ToSRV-viruliferous whiteflies preferred volatiles emitted from mock-inoculated plants, a conducive behaviour to enhance virus spread, while volatiles from ToCV-infected plants were avoided by non-viruliferous whiteflies, a behaviour that is likely detrimental to the secondary spread of the virus.</div>