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Open Access Research article

Transcriptome analysis and comparison reveal divergence between two invasive whitefly cryptic species

Xiao-Wei Wang*, Jun-Bo Luan, Jun-Min Li, Yun-Lin Su, Jun Xia and Shu-Sheng Liu*

Author Affiliations

Ministry of Agriculture Key Laboratory of Agricultural Entomology, Institute of Insect Sciences, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310029, China

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BMC Genomics 2011, 12:458  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-12-458

Published: 22 September 2011



Invasive species are valuable model systems for examining the evolutionary processes and molecular mechanisms associated with their specific characteristics by comparison with closely related species. Over the past 20 years, two species of the whitefly Bemisia tabaci species complex, Middle East-Asia Minor 1 (MEAM1) and Mediterranean (MED), have both spread from their origin Middle East/Mediterranean to many countries despite their apparent differences in many life history parameters. Previously, we have sequenced the transcriptome of MED. In this study, we sequenced the transcriptome of MEAM1 and took a comparative genomic approach to investigate the transcriptome evolution and the genetic factors underlying the differences between MEAM1 and MED.


Using Illumina sequencing technology, we generated 17 million sequencing reads for MEAM1. These reads were assembled into 57,741 unique sequences and 15,922 sequences were annotated with an E-value above 10-5. Compared with the MED transcriptome, we identified 3,585 pairs of high quality orthologous genes and inferred their sequence divergences. The average differences in coding, 5' untranslated and 3' untranslated region were 0.83%, 1.66% and 1.43%, respectively. The level of sequence divergence provides additional support to the proposition that MEAM1 and MED are two species. Based on the ratio of nonsynonymous and synonymous substitutions, we identified 24 sequences that have evolved in response to positive selection. Many of those genes are predicted to be involved in metabolism and insecticide resistance which might contribute to the divergence of the two whitefly species.


Our data present a comprehensive sequence comparison between the two invasive whitefly species. This study will provide a road map for future investigations on the molecular mechanisms underlying their biological differences.