The association between tomato yellow leaf curl geminivirus (TYLCV, Israeli isolate) and its insect vector, the whitefly Bemisia tabaci, was investigated. Insects that emerged during a 24 h period were caged with TYLCV-infected plants for a 48 h acquisition access period, then with egg-plants--a TYLCV non-host--for the rest of their lives. While TYLCV DNA was associated with the whiteflies during their entire adult life, the amount of capsid protein rapidly decreased and was not detectable in the insect after approximately 12 days of age. The ability of the infected whiteflies to transmit TYLCV to tomato test plants steadily decreased with age but did not disappear completely. Transmission by viruliferous insects decreased from 100% to 10-20% during their adult lifetime, compared with a decrease from 100% to 50% for non-viruliferous insects. The association of TYLCV with adult B. tabaci led to a reduction of 17-23% in their life expectancy compared with insects that had not acquired the virus, and to a 40-50% decrease in the mean number of eggs laid. These results suggest that TYLCV has some features reminiscent of an insect pathogen.


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