The brown planthopper (BPH), Nilaparvata lugens, is an important pest that affects rice (Oryza sativa) production in Asia. The flavone tricin (5,7,4′-trihydroxy-3′,5′-dimethoxy flavone) is a valuable secondary metabolite commonly found in rice plants that can defend rice plants against infestation by BPH. BPH damage can reduce the metabolic level of tricin in rice. Our preliminary transcriptome research results showed that BPH salivary protein 7 (NlSP7), is highly responsive to tricin stimuli. However, the function of NlSP7 in mediating the interaction between the rice plant and the BPH is unknown. In this study, we cloned the NlSP7 gene in N. lugens and found that its mRNA level was greater in the presence of high tricin content than low tricin content, regardless of whether the BPHs were fed a rice plant diet or an artificial diet containing 100 mg/L tricin. Knocking down NlSP7 resulted in BPH individuals spending more time in the non-penetration and pathway phase, and less time feeding on the phloem of rice plants. These changes decreased BPH food intake, feeding behavior, and fitness, as well as the tricin content of the rice plants. These findings demonstrate that the salivary protein 7 of BPH functions as an effector for tricin metabolism in rice.
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