Insights into the transcriptomics of polyphagy: Bemisia tabaci adaptability to phenylpropanoids involves coordinated expression of defense and metabolic genes

Michal Alon, Moshe Elbaz, Michal Moyal Ben-Zvi, Ester Feldmesser, Alexander Vainstein, Shai Morin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


The whitefly Bemisia tabaci is a major generalist agricultural pest of field and horticultural crops world-wide. Despite its importance, the molecular bases of defense mechanisms in B. tabaci against major plant secondary defense compounds, such as the phenylpropanoids, remain unknown. Our experimental system utilized transgenic Nicotiana tabacum plants constitutively expressing the PAP1/AtMYB75 transcription factor which activates relatively specifically the phenylpropanoid/flavonoids biosynthetic pathway. Our study used suppression subtractive hybridization (SSH) and cDNA microarray approaches to compare gene expression between B. tabaci adults subjected to wild-type or transgenic plants for 6 h. A total of 2880 clones from the SSH libraries were sequenced. Both the SSH and cDNA microarray analyses indicated a complex interaction between B. tabaci and secondary defense metabolites produced by the phenylproapnoids/flavonoids pathway, involving enhanced expression of detoxification, immunity, oxidative stress and general stress related genes as well as general metabolism and ribosomal genes. Quantitative real-time PCR revealed significant changes in the expression of several of these genes in response to feeding on artificial diet containing the flavonoids quercetin. The elevated transcriptional activity was not accompanied by reduced reproductive performance, indicating high adaptability of B. tabaci to this large group of plant secondary defense metabolites.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)251-263
Number of pages13
JournalInsect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors wish to thank Amit Yigal-Broner for her help in microarray construction, Anat Moshayov for advising on SSH library construction, Irit Orr and Shifra Ben-Dor from the Department of Biological Services, Weizmann Institute of Science, and Tamar Kahan from the Bioinformatics unit of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, for their help in the analyses of un-annotated sequences and Ido Carmel for his help in the trimming off the vector and primer sequences of the SSH clones. This work was supported by the Israel Science Foundation grants 971/04 and 848/08 to SM.


  • Adaptability
  • Bemisia tabaci
  • Defense genes
  • Phenylpropanoid/flavonoids biosynthetic pathway
  • Polyphagy
  • Suppression subtractive hybridization libraries


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