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Disentangling the multitrophic interactions of the supervector Bemisia tabaci to potentially use its symbiotic communities to reduce plants viral-vectored diseases.

Project description

Preventing plant diseases by vector modification strategies

The rising global population puts constant pressure on food production and intensive agricultural practices. Alongside the injudicious use of insecticides, this has modified agrarian ecosystems, causing more plant vector-borne viral diseases than ever before. The EU-funded GuardSym project will focus on the whitefly Bemisia tabaci as a vector to investigate its multitrophic interactions with its bacterial symbionts, vectored virus, and host plants. Scientists will employ a multidisciplinary approach that combines insect and plant physiology, virology, and high-throughput sequencing to identify symbionts that confer virus-resistance to their whitefly host. The project will form the basis for the development of population modification strategies where natural populations are replaced with virus-resistant ones that can no longer cause plant disease.


Agriculture is facing constant pressure to increase food production to fulfill human population demands. This has been accomplished by the use of intensive agricultural techniques. The increase of global temperatures together with intensive techniques like worldwide movements of plant material, use of monocultures, and abuse on insecticides have modified the trophic chains in agricultural systems. As a consequence, there is an unprecedented increase in emergent plant viral diseases in the last decades. Most of these viruses require an insect vector for their transmission. Unfortunately, some vector insects have been favored by intensive agriculture. Indeed, the whitefly Bemisia tabaci has become a worldwide supervector and is the cause of the global emergence of begomoviruses and criniviruses. This whitefly has developed resistance to many insecticides and developing new control techniques is a must. Recently, a population modification strategy has been applied to mosquitoes, displacing natural populations and replacing them with virus-resistant ones that are no longer able to transmit human diseases. This success has been achieved using Wolbachia, a bacterial symbiont present in many insects, that can confer virus-resistance phenotypes to its host. Interestingly, B. tabaci presents a rich bacterial symbiotic community, including Wolbachia, that can be naturally manipulated through hybridization. This offers the unique opportunity to unravel the multitrophic interactions that occur between B. tabaci, its symbionts, the vectored virus, and the plant. Using integrative frameworks to study the insect and the plant physiology, the virus transmission, the symbionts dynamics, and the cross-talks between them (their transcriptomes) can lead to the discovery of new symbiotic virus-resistant phenotypes in B. tabaci. If this is achieved, it will be a keystone to develop further population modification strategies to spread symbionts conferred virus-resistances.



Net EU contribution
€ 196 707,84
75794 Paris

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Ile-de-France Ile-de-France Paris
Activity type
Research Organisations
Total cost
€ 196 707,84