Plant-mediated interactions between herbivorous arthropods and pathogens transmitted by herbivores are important determinants of the population dynamics of both types of organisms in the field. The role of plant defence in mediating these types of tripartite interactions have been recognized but rarely examined especially at the physiological and molecular levels. Our previous work shows that a worldwide invasive whitefly can establish mutualism with the begomovirus Tomato yellow leaf curl China virus (TYLCCNV) via crop plants. Here, we show that TYLCCNV and betasatellite co-infection suppresses jasmonic acid defences in the plant. Impairing or enhancing defences mediated by jasmonic acid in the plant enhances or depresses the performance of the whitefly. We further demonstrate that the pathogenicity factor βC1 encoded in the betasatellite is responsible for the initiation of suppression on plant defences and contributes to the realization of the virus–vector mutualism. By integrating ecological, mechanistic and molecular approaches, our study reveals a major mechanism of the plant-mediated mutualism between a virus and its vector. As the test plant is an important economic crop, the results also have substantial implications for developing novel strategies for management of crop viruses and the insect vectors associated with them.