Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

RNA interference-mediated tolerance to whitefly (Bemisia tabaci) in genetically engineered tomato.

Abstract

Whitefly (Bemisia tabaci) is a polyphagous insect that causes huge damage in several horticultural crops, including tomato, by sucking nutrients from the phloem and transmitting viruses. Whiteflies are particularly difficult to manage and the use of chemicals remains the common practice, which causes the development of insecticidal resistance. Thus, there is considerable interest in the introduction of resistance to whitefly by classical and molecular breeding. Here, we explored the concept of using an RNA interference construct to silence a v-ATPase gene in whiteflies interacting with transgenic tomato plants that express siRNA molecules corresponding to a fragment from the B. tabaci vATPase. PCR analyses revealed the presence of both ΔATPase and nptII transgenes in all transgenic lines. siRNA expressing lines were challenged against whitefly and revealed a mortality rate of 57.1% in transgenic line 4.4.1, while in the control the mortality was 7.6%. Mortality of 2nd instar nymphs was higher on the transgenic plants and the development of 3rd instar nymphs was slightly longer than on the control plants. Although the attraction of insects was not significantly different between treatments, the number of eggs laid by the insects on the transgenic plants was significantly lower, compared to the controls. RT-qPCR revealed a decreased expression level of endogenous v-ATPase gene in whiteflies feeding on transgenic plants. No unexpected effect was observed on the non-target insects Myzus persicae or Tuta absoluta. Results presented here may form the foundation for the generation of elite tomato varieties resistant to whitefly, a devastating insect pest.