The stolen plant gene in the tobacco whitefly, B. tabaci, was found to have elude its host's defences in the whitefly. The first known example of natural gene transfer from a plant to an insect enables it to neutralize a toxin to defend against insects. Whiteflies are usually vulnerable to the certain toxin destroy agricultural plants all over the world which is dangerous for the crop because they take in a sugary sap from different plants while excreting honeydew that serves as a breeding ground for mould. Additionally, whiteflies are the main reason for more than 100 pathogenic plant viruses which hinders the plants' ability to produce certain nutrients. Stolen genes are common between plants and pests and have been common for over millions of years to allow for the development of defensive or offensive strategies. For example, some insects have stolen microbial genes to extract more nutrients and fight off diseases. In the tobacco whitefly, one unknown stolen gene was found to have not evolved in other insects or microbes but evolved in plants. This gene allowed for the transfer of a defensive compound called phenolic glycosides, which keeps pests off. The gene was tested between whiteflies and tomatoes found that the flies that fed on the tomatoes died, which meant that the stolen gene worked and could be beneficial in the future for crop protection.
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