Words nearby whitefly
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Such a drastic effect suggests this gene plays an important role in helping whiteflies bypass plant defenses, Turlings says.
Once ingested by whiteflies, the RNA was designed to disable their BtPMaT1 gene.
“The lives of whiteflies and their plant hosts are closely intertwined,” says Shannon Soucy, an evolutionary microbiologist at Dartmouth College who wasn’t involved in the research.
There are so many barriers a gene must overcome to move from a plant to an insect, but this study clearly shows that it happened, and that the gene provides a benefit to whiteflies.
How exactly a plant BtPMaT1 wound up in whiteflies remains a mystery.