Plant Gene Found in Insect, Shields It from Leaf Toxins
Published:30 Mar.2021    Source:Cell Press

Millions of years ago, aphid-like insects called whiteflies incorporated a portion of DNA from plants into their genome. A Chinese research team, publishing March 25th in the journal Cell, reveals that whiteflies use this stolen gene to degrade common toxins plants use to defend themselves against insects, allowing the whitefly to feed on the plants safely.

"This seems to be the first recorded example of the horizontal gene transfer of a functional gene from a plant into an insect," says co-author Ted Turlings, a chemical ecologist and entomologist at the University of Neuchâtel, in Switzerland. "You cannot find this gene, BtPMaT1, which neutralizes toxic compounds produced by the plant, in any other insect species."