Pathogen-mediated interactions between insect vectors and their host plants can affect herbivore fitness and the epidemiology of plant diseases. While the role of plant quality and defense in mediating these tripartite interactions has been recognized, there are many ecologically and economically important cases where the nature of the interaction has yet to be characterized. The Bemisia tabaci (Gennadius) cryptic species Mediterranean (MED) is an important vector of tomato yellow leaf curl virus (TYLCV), and performs better on virus-infected tomato than on uninfected controls. We assessed the impact of TYLCV infection on plant quality and defense, and the direct impact of TYLCV infection on MED feeding. We found that although TYLCV infection has a minimal direct impact on MED, the virus alters the nutritional content of leaf tissue and phloem sap in a manner beneficial to MED. TYLCV infection also suppresses herbivore-induced production of plant defensive enzymes and callose deposition. The strongly positive net effect on TYLCV on MED is consistent with previously reported patterns of whitefly behavior and performance, and provides a foundation for further exploration of the molecular mechanisms responsible for these effects and the evolutionary processes that shape them.
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