Odor, not performance, dictates Bemisia tabaci's selection between healthy and virus infected plants

Gong Chen, Qi Su, Xiaobin Shi, Xin Liu, Zhengke Peng, Huixin Zheng, Wen Xie, Baoyun Xu, Shaoli Wang, Qingjun Wu, Xuguo Zhou, Youjun Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


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 a-pinene, and increased levels of phenol and 2-ethyl-1-hexanol in their headspace. Subsequent behavior experiments showed that o-xylene and a-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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number146
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Issue numberMAR
StatePublished - Mar 16 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Chen, Su, Shi, Liu, Peng, Zheng, Xie, Xu, Wang, Wu, Zhou and Zhang.


  • Host preference
  • Mother-knows-best
  • Non-vector insects
  • Performance
  • Plant virus
  • Volatiles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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