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TRANSCRIPTOME-BASED IN SILICO SURVEY FOR PUTATIVE EFFECTOR GENES INVOLVED IN SAP-FEEDING OF THE COCONUT SCALE INSECT, ASPIDIOTUS RIGIDUS REYNE (HEMIPTERA: DIASPIDIDAE)
Bautista MAM, Egana JMC, Cleofe MAS, Caoili BL
The coconut scale insect (CSI), Aspidiotus rigidus Reyne, is thought to be the invasive pest that caused substantial losses in the Philippine coconut industry in 2009. Efforts to control and prevent future outbreaks of this pest remain a challenge because little is known on its biology, particularly its interaction with its host plants. Effector molecules that are thought to be critical for herbivores in overcoming plant defense, for example, can be studied at the gene level to understand the CSI-coconut interaction. The CSI, however, lacks the genetic resources needed for such study. Transcriptome sequences from the CSI were therefore generated through RNA-sequencing, assembled using Trinity, and annotated. Functional annotation revealed the presence of effectors such as glucose dehydrogenases, zinc metalloproteases or metalloproteinases, calcium- and lipid-binding proteins, peroxidases, and trehalases. This study, through the identified effectors, provides the first considerable number of genetic resources for CSI which could serve as a toolbox for understanding its interaction with its host plants. Further studies on the effectors can confirm their specific functions and pave a way for the development of effective pest management practices or influence breeding for resistant coconut varieties.