Making a friend from a foe: expressing a GroEL gene from the whitefly Bemisia tabaci in the phloem of tomato plants confers resistance to tomato yellow leaf curl virus
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Some (perhaps all) plant viruses transmitted in a circulative manner by their insect vectors avoid destruction in the haemolymph by interacting with GroEL homologues, ensuring transmission. We have previously shown that the phloem-limited begomovirus tomato yellow leaf curl virus (TYLCV) interacts in vivo and in vitro with GroEL produced by the whitefly vector Bemisia tabaci. In this study, we have exploited this phenomenon to generate transgenic tomato plants expressing the whitefly GroEL in their phloem. We postulated that following inoculation, TYLCV particles will be trapped by GroEL in the plant phloem, thereby inhibiting virus replication and movement, thereby rendering the plants resistant. A whitefly GroEL gene was cloned in an Agrobacterium vector under the control of an Arabidopsis phloem-specific promoter, which was used to transform two tomato genotypes. During three consecutive generations, plants expressing GroEL exhibited mild or no disease symptoms upon whitefly-mediated inoculation of TYLCV. In vitro assays indicated that the sap of resistant plants contained GroEL-TYLCV complexes. Infected resistant plants served as virus source for whitefly-mediated transmission as effectively as infected non-transgenic tomato. Non-transgenic susceptible tomato plants grafted on resistant GroEL-transgenic scions remained susceptible, although GroEL translocated into the grafted plant and GroELTYLCV complexes were detected in the grafted tissues.
- Faculty of Science