Unravelling the genetic diversity among cassava Bemisia tabaci whiteflies using NextRAD Sequencing

Bemisia tabaci threatens production of cassava in Africa through vectoring viruses that cause cassava mosaic disease (CMD) and cassava brown streak disease (CBSD). B. tabaci sampled from cassava in eight countries in Africa were genotyped using NextRAD sequencing, and their phylogeny and population genetics were investigated using the resultant single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers. SNP marker data and short sequences of mitochondrial DNA cytochrome oxidase I (mtCOI) obtained from the same insect were compared. Eight genetically distinct groups were identified based on mtCOI, whereas phylogenetic analysis using SNPs identified six major groups, which were further confirmed by PCA and multidimensional analyses. STRUCTURE analysis identified four ancestral B. tabaci populations that have contributed alleles to the six SNP-based groups. Significant gene flows were detected between several of the six SNP-based groups. Evidence of gene flow was strongest for SNP-based groups occurring in central Africa. Comparison of the mtCOI and SNP identities of sampled insects provided a strong indication that hybrid populations are emerging in parts of Africa recently affected by the severe CMD pandemic. This study reveals that mtCOI is not an effective marker at distinguishing cassava-colonizing B. tabaci haplogroups, and that more robust SNP-based multilocus markers should be developed. Significant gene flows between populations could lead to the emergence of haplogroups that might alter the dynamics of cassava virus spread and disease severity in Africa. Continuous monitoring of genetic compositions of whitefly populations should be an essential component in efforts to combat cassava viruses in Africa.