Plant-Insect Gene Transfer reported for the first time

The Chinese scientists have recently identified the transfer of genes from plants to insects. Usually transfer of genes happen among the same family. For instance, the genes of a human parent get transferred to his or her child. However, this is not the case in the recent discovery. Here the insect called whiteflies has incorporated a portion of DNA from plants into their genome.

About the Gene Transfer

  • The transfer of gene from one family to another is referred to as horizontal gene transfer. Here, in the recent discovery the transfer of gene is from the plant family to insect family.
  • The Chinese scientists have found that the insect whiteflies use the stolen gene to degrade common toxins in plants. Plants use these toxins to defend themselves against insects. The incorporation of the plant gene in the whiteflies allow the insects to feed on the plants safely.
  • The incorporated gene found was BtPMaT1. The whiteflies use this gene to neutralise the toxic compounds produced by the plants against them.
  • According to the scientists, the whiteflies have incorporated the gene from the plants more than 35 million years ago.
  • This is one of the main reasons why whiteflies still prevail as the major threat to agricultural crops. This is because they have built a strong defence mechanism against the plants using this gene incorporation.

Whiteflies

  • Whiteflies are one of the major agricultural pests in the world. They are capable of attacking 600 different plants all over the world. Lately, these pests have acquired incredible adaptations to circumvent plant defences.
  • Using this discovery, the Chinese scientists have now developed a strategy to counter back the super power of whiteflies. They have developed a new molecule that will interfere with the gene BtPMaT1.

Whiteflies Resistant Cotton

  • In 2020, the National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow developed a Whiteflies resistant cotton variety. Cotton is one of the worst hit crops by whiteflies in India.
  • Whiteflies are the greatest threat to agriculture in warm and tropical regions and also in green houses.

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