Effects of RNA interference on greenhouse whitefly (Trialeurodes vaporariorum).


Donly, C., Kaplanoglu, E., Ludba, K.K., Kolotilin, I., Menassa, R., and Scott, I.M. (2018) Effects of RNA interference on greenhouse whitefly (Trialeurodes vaporariorum). Insect Biotech Conference, St. Catharines, Ontario.


RNA interference (RNAi) is a biological process by which many eukaryotic cells respond to detrimental genetic elements such as transposons and viruses. Through this process, host cells are able to silence the expression of genes for which RNA is detected, thus suppressing the propagation of the element. RNAi can also be deployed to silence genes in specific organisms by the application of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) targeted to essential genetic loci. This approach has promise in agriculture as a means to specifically target pest insects by exposing them to dsRNA as part of crop protection strategies. We are investigating approaches for applying RNAi in the control of the agricultural pest, the greenhouse whitefly (Trialeurodes vaporariorum). Whitefly causes damage to crops by feeding on sap and by vectoring plant viruses. We first demonstrated that dsRNA targeting an essential gene in T. vaporariorum can kill the insects when delivered during normal adult feeding on leaflets supplied with the dsRNA through soaking. Our next goal was to determine whether dsRNA supplied by synthesis in the chloroplasts of the plant would have the same effect. Therefore, the plastids of tomato plants were transformed to produce the same dsRNA and feeding assays with whiteflies are now being conducted to measure gene silencing and mortality. This will reveal if a sucking insect pest such as whitefly is exposed to dsRNA present in plant plastids, and if so, whether this delivery strategy can effectively protect crop plants against this pest.

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