Airborne host–plant manipulation by whiteflies via an inducible blend of plant volatiles

Peng Jun Zhang, Jia Ning Wei, Chan Zhao, Ya Fen Zhang, Chuan You Li, Shu Sheng Liu, Marcel Dicke, Xiao Ping Yu*, Ted C.J. Turlings

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


The whitefly Bemisia tabaci is one of the world’s most important invasive crop pests, possibly because it manipulates plant defense signaling. Upon infestation by whiteflies, plants mobilize salicylic acid (SA)-dependent defenses, which mainly target pathogens. In contrast, jasmonic acid (JA)-dependent defenses are gradually suppressed in whitefly-infested plants. The down-regulation of JA defenses make plants more susceptible to insects, including whiteflies. Here, we report that this host–plant manipulation extends to neighboring plants via airborne signals. Plants respond to insect attack with the release of a blend of inducible volatiles. Perception of these volatiles by neighboring plants usually primes them to prepare for an imminent attack. Here, however, we show that whitefly-induced tomato plant volatiles prime SA-dependent defenses and suppress JA-dependent defenses, thus rendering neighboring tomato plants more susceptible to whiteflies. Experiments with volatiles from caterpillar-damaged and pathogen-infected plants, as well as with synthetic volatiles, confirm that whiteflies modify the quality of neighboring plants for their offspring via whitefly-inducible plant volatiles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7387-7396
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 9 Apr 2019


  • Herbivore-induced plant volatiles
  • Jasmonic acid
  • Salicylic acid
  • Tomato
  • Whiteflies

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