A metabolomics characterisation of natural variation in the resistance of cassava to whitefly

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Background: Cassava whitefly outbreaks were initially reported in East and Central Africa cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) growing regions in the 1990’s and have now spread to other geographical locations, becoming a global pest severely affecting farmers and smallholder income. Whiteflies impact plant yield via feeding and vectoring cassava mosaic and brown streak viruses, making roots unsuitable for food or trading. Deployment of virus resistant varieties has had little impact on whitefly populations and therefore development of whitefly resistant varieties is also necessary as part of integrated pest management strategies. Suitable sources of whitefly resistance exist in germplasm collections that require further characterization to facilitate and assist breeding programs.
Results: In the present work, a hierarchical metabolomics approach has been employed to investigate the underlying biochemical mechanisms associated with whitefly resistance by comparing two naturally occurring accessions of cassava, one susceptible and one resistant to whitefly. Quantitative differences between genotypes detected at pre-infestation stages were consistently observed at each time point throughout the course of the whitefly infestation. This prevalent differential feature suggests that inherent genotypic differences override the response induced by the presence of whitefly and that they are directly linked with the phenotype observed. The most significant quantitative changes relating to whitefly susceptibility were linked to the phenylpropanoid super-pathway and its linked sub-pathways: monolignol, flavonoid and lignan biosynthesis. These findings suggest that the lignification process in the susceptible variety is less active, as the susceptible accession deposits less lignin and accumulates monolignol intermediates and derivatives thereof, differences that are maintained during the time-course of the infestation.
Conclusions: Resistance mechanism associated to the cassava whitefly-resistant accession ECU72 is an antixenosis strategy based on reinforcement of cell walls. Both resistant and susceptible accessions respond differently to whitefly attack at biochemical level, but the inherent metabolic differences are directly linked to the resistance phenotype rather than an induced response in the plant.
Original languageEnglish
Article number518
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalBMC Biology
Publication statusPublished - 27 Nov 2019

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