Differences in gene expression in whitefly across different virus infections

Cucurbit yellow stunting disorder virus (CYSDV; genus Crinivirus, Closteroviridae) is transmitted in a semipersistent manner by the whitefly, Bemisia tabaci, and is efficiently transmitted by the widely prevalent B. tabaci cryptic species, MEAM1. In this study, the transcriptome profiles of B. tabaci MEAM1, after 24 h, 72 h and 7 days of acquisition feeding on melon plants infected with CYSDV (CYSDV-whiteflies) were compared with those fed on virus-free melon, using RNA-Seq technology.

We also compared transcriptome profiles with whiteflies fed on tomato plants separately infected with Tomato chlorosis virus (ToCV), a crinivirus closely related to CYSDV, and Tomato yellow leaf curl virus (TYLCV), a member of the genus Begomovirus, which has a distinctly different mode of transmission and their respective virus-free controls, to find common gene expression changes among viruliferous whiteflies feeding on different host plants infected with distinct (TYLCV) and related (CYSDV and ToCV) viruses.

A total of 275 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) were identified in CYSDV-whiteflies, with 3 DEGs at 24 h, 221 DEGs at 72 h, and 51 DEGs at 7 days of virus acquisition. Changes in genes encoding orphan genes (54 genes), phosphatidylethanolamine-binding proteins (PEBP) (20 genes), and AAA-ATPase domain containing proteins (10 genes) were associated with the 72 h time point. Several more orphan genes (20 genes) were differentially expressed at 7 days.

A total of 59 common DEGs were found between CYSDV-whiteflies and ToCV-whiteflies, which included 20 orphan genes and 6 lysosomal genes. A comparison of DEGs across the three different virus-host systems revealed 14 common DEGs, among which, eight showed similar and significant up-regulation in CYSDV-whiteflies at 72 h and TYLCV-whiteflies at 24 h, while down-regulation of the same genes was observed in ToCV-whiteflies at 72 h.

Dynamic gene expression changes occurred in CYSDV-whiteflies after 72 h feeding, with decreased gene expression changes associated with 7 days of CYSDV acquisition. Similarities in gene expression changes among CYSDV-whiteflies, ToCV-whiteflies and TYLCV-whiteflies suggest the possible involvement of common genes or pathways for virus acquisition and transmission by whiteflies, even for viruses with distinctly different modes of transmission.

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