Frontiers in Plant Science | 2021
Spotlight on the Roles of Whitefly Effectors in Insect–Plant Interactions
The Bemisia tabaci species complex (whitefly) causes enormous agricultural losses. These phloem-feeding insects induce feeding damage and transmit a wide range of dangerous plant viruses. Whiteflies colonize a broad range of plant species that appear to be poorly defended against these insects. Substantial research has begun to unravel how phloem feeders modulate plant processes, such as defense pathways, and the central roles of effector proteins, which are deposited into the plant along with the saliva during feeding. Here, we review the current literature on whitefly effectors in light of what is known about the effectors of phloem-feeding insects in general. Further analysis of these effectors may improve our understanding of how these insects establish compatible interactions with plants, whereas the subsequent identification of plant defense processes could lead to improved crop resistance to insects. We focus on the core concepts that define the effectors of phloem-feeding insects, such as the criteria used to identify candidate effectors in sequence-mining pipelines and screens used to analyze the potential roles of these effectors and their targets in planta. We discuss aspects of whitefly effector research that require further exploration, including where effectors localize when injected into plant tissues, whether the effectors target plant processes beyond defense pathways, and the properties of effectors in other insect excretions such as honeydew. Finally, we provide an overview of open issues and how they might be addressed.