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Biological Sciences



While virus-vector-host interactions have been a major focus of both basic and applied ecological research, little is known about how different levels of plant defense interact with prior herbivory to affect these relationships. We used genetically-modified strains of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) varying in the jasmonic acid (JA) plant defense pathways to explore how plant defense and prior herbivory affects a plant virus (tomato yellow leaf curl virus, ‘TYLCV’), its vector (the whitefly Bemisia tabaci MED), and the host.


Virus-free MED preferred low-JA over high-JA plants and had lower fitness on high-JA plants. Viruliferous MED preferred low-JA plants but their survival was unaffected by JA levels. While virus-free MED did not lower plant JA levels, viruliferous MED decreased both JA levels and the expression of JA-related genes. Infestation by viruliferous MED reduced plant JA levels. In preference tests, neither virus-free nor viruliferous MED discriminated among JA-varying plants previously exposed to virus-free MED. However, both virus-free and viruliferous MED preferred low-JA plant genotypes when choosing between plants that had both been previously exposed to viruliferous MED. The enhanced preference for low-JA genotypes appears linked to the volatile compound neophytadiene, which was found only in whitefly-infested plants and at concentrations inversely related to plant JA levels.


Our findings illustrate how plant defense can interact with prior herbivory to affect both a plant virus and its whitefly vector, and confirm the induction of neophytadiene by MED. The apparent attraction of MED to neophytadiene may prove useful in pest detection and management.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.