Genetic variability of the tomato leaf miner (Tuta absoluta Meyrick; Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae), in Tunisia, inferred from RAPD-PCR

Asma Bettaïbi1, Maha Mezghani-Khemakhem1, Dhia Bouktila1*, Hanem Makni1, Mohamed Makni1

The tomato leaf miner Tuta absoluta Meyrick has invaded tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) crop in Tunisia since 2008 and is representing today a major threat to the production of this crop. In this study, we used the Randomly Amplified Polymorphic DNA-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RAPD-PCR) technology to assess the genetic variability within and among seven populations of T. absoluta, collected on tomato from different regions in Tunisia. Using five RAPD-PCR primers and 108 individuals, 140 polymorphic fragments were recorded. From 335 different RAPD phenotypes generated, 71 were redundant and 264 unique to a specific population. The genetic structure of T. absoluta was investigated using analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA), genetic distances (Fst) and multidimensional scaling (MDS). We detected a high genetic diversity within and among populations in conjunction with a significant differentiation between populations, suggesting that different founder genotypes would have been responsible of the introduction of T. absoluta in Tunisia. The presence of overlapping phenotypes probably indicates migration events between populations, mainly through infested plant material carried by humans.

Keywords: Invasive species, molecular markers, insect populations, gene flow.
1University of Tunis El-Manar, Faculty of Sciences of Tunis, University Campus 2092 El-Manar, Tunis, Tunisia. *Corresponding author (dhia_bouktila2000@yahoo.fr).