Tuesday, March 30, 2021

A plant gene may have helped whiteflies become a major pest


In this article written by Jonathan Lambert, a gene has been found to let insects neutralize the toxins found in plants commonly used for defense. This gene was first found 35-80 million years ago when a whitefly landed on a plant and somehow the gene made its way to the whiteflies genome. The gene then allowed the whiteflies to feed on flora. Ten or 20 years ago, many scientists thought that gene swapping wasn't possible and that a gene had to overcome many barriers in order to move from plant to insect. Now, we know that gene swapping is common and can occasionally happen between a plant and insect. This process is known as a horizontal gene transfer.

Researchers were able to determine that the gene is BtPMaT1. They think that this gene either came from a common ancestor of both plants and insects or that whiteflies somehow acquired the gene from plants. A study was done where RNA was inserted into tomato plants and they were later ingested by whiteflies. The RNA was made to disable the BtPMaT1 gene and after a week of feeding on altered plants 2,5000 whiteflies were dead. These effects suggest that the BtPMaT1 plays an important role in helping whiteflies go through plant defenses. 

I think that its crazy that whiteflies somehow acquired this gene from plants and can know use it to get through plant defenses. I hope more research is done on other insects or animals to see if maybe they have the gene as well. I also really liked how the study showed just how important the gene has become to whiteflies. I have also attached an article that looks at the genes more closely.




No comments:

Post a Comment